GUSA Senate to reform ethics committee, urges paper-free classes

October 30, 2019

The GUSA Senate passed legislation to reform the structure of the Ethics and Oversight Committee and approved a resolution urging the university to enact paper-free academic practices at their Oct. 27 meeting.

Ethics and Oversight Committee Chair Zev Burton (SFS ’22) introduced legislation to amend the GUSA bylaws in order to reform the structure of the Ethics and Oversight Committee, which was created two years ago. According to the bylaws, the Committee is tasked with enforcing ethical standards within GUSA by investigating “credible accusations of wrongdoing” and, if necessary, bringing measures of censure or impeachment to the Senate. Currently, the Committee’s membership consists of six voting senators (including the Chair and Vice-Chair), two non-voting liaisons from the executive branch, and no non-GUSA representatives.

Burton based his legislation on a report issued this past summer by the Working Group on Reforms to the Senate Ethics and Oversight Committee. “Ethics and Oversight cannot be its best right now because we are so limited, and I know a lot of people would like to make changes,” he said.

His legislation proposed changing the makeup of the Committee by reducing the number of senators to four and adding three voting executive liaisons, three voting non-GUSA student body representatives, and one non-voting liaison from the Election Commission. The executive liaisons would be appointed by the Executive leadership, and student body representatives would be appointed by the Senate leadership, the Committee Chair, and the Committee Vice-Chair. All six appointees would then be confirmed by the full Senate before taking their seats on the Committee.

Debate centered around whether or not the legislation was justified in its proposal to reduce GUSA senators to a minority on the Ethics and Oversight Committee, with non-senators comprising six out of ten voting members.

Sen. Olivia Kleier (SFS ’22) argued that the structural reform of the Ethics and Oversight Committee was necessary in order to provide external oversight of the Senate. “At the end of the day, we should not be policing ourselves,” she said. “Adding three more student representatives and the exec. side makes [the Committee] external to a point. It makes it a joint effort to show that we’re each invested in having an objective Oversight Committee.”

Policy and Advocacy Chair Leo Arnett (SFS ’22) pushed back on arguments that the Executive could use its voting liaisons to shield itself from investigation by pointing out that the all-senator composition of the current Ethics and Oversight Committee did not result in the Senate being unduly protected. “How [the Committee] is right now, it’s already a body of senators that checks senators,” he said. “All we’re really doing is extending it to where we’re also just holding the executive accountable, in the case that they also get a vote.”

Sen. Eric Bazail Eimil (SFS ’23) opposed the legislation on the grounds that it violated the GUSA Constitution. “Implicitly, it’s an appointment of six individuals to a [Senate] committee, and then these people have the same voting power as a duly elected senator, which is against the Constitution,” he said. During the debate on the legislation, Eimil introduced an amendment to keep in place the current composition of six voting senators on the Ethics and Oversight Committee, with one non-voting Executive liaison and one non-voting student body representative. The amendment failed 8-18.

Sen. Peter Lee Hamilton (COL ’20) also introduced an amendment, which he dubbed the “Five-Five Compromise.” His amendment kept the three student body representatives proposed by Burton, while increasing the number of senators to five and decreasing the number of Executive liaisons to two, so that there would be five voting senators and five voting non-senators on the Committee. The amendment passed by voice vote.

The legislation, with Hamilton’s amendment, passed with only two opposition votes.

Sen. Leo Rassieur (COL ’23) introduced a resolution for the university to adopt sustainable, paper-free academic practices. He described the resolution as a way to advocate for a standardized paper-free policy across classes and departments. “We want to make clear what our reasoning is for wanting to make this a department or school-wide policy, because right now, it’s basically up to professors to decide whether they want to make it possible to submit things or read things without using paper,” Rassieur said.

The Senate motioned to vote on the resolution without debate, and it passed unanimously with no abstentions.

Policy and Advocacy Chair Arnett and Vice-Chair Daniela Sanchez (COL ’22) introduced legislation to recognize the formations of caucuses and working groups within the Senate. Sanchez described the legislation as a way to improve the Senate’s productivity and ability to represent student interests. “We want to acknowledge and give you guys the opportunity to have [caucuses] officially recognized by the Senate, as well as working groups within [the Policy and Advocacy Committee],” she said. “It will be more efficient if we’re effective and actually working on specifically-targeted issues with multiple hands on deck.”

Speaker Juan Martinez (COL ’20) introduced an amendment to have the Ways and Means Committee maintain a list of officially-recognized caucuses and working groups within the Senate. The amendment passed by voice vote.

The legislation, with Martinez’s amendment, passed unanimously with no abstentions.

The Senate will meet next on Nov. 3 at 5 p.m. in Healy 106.

Darren Jian
Darren is the executive editor for resources, diversity, and inclusion and a senior in the College studying government and math. Some things he likes are flea markets, indie rock concerts, and student debt cancellation.

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