Senate votes down endorsement of Faculty Senate Machine reports

The Student Government Association Senate voted down a resolution supporting recommendations made in a Faculty Senate Task Force report intended to cause the Machine to come above ground.

The Senate rejected the resolution on Oct. 22 in a 15-29 vote with an additional three voters abstaining. The senators opposed to the resolution, though in favor of sections of it, voiced qualms over other sections.

Sen. Sean Ross believed that section 5 of the bill would have infringed upon students’ First Amendment rights. The section would have made activity within a non-registered student organization subject to the code of student conduct. Furthermore, the section requires all groups organized to affect elections to be registered with Student Affairs. Section 5 would have hindered students’ rights to peaceably assemble, Ross said.

“This would constitute a huge overreach by the administration,” Ross said. “This is a clear violation of every student’s constitutional right to assemble and freely express themselves through speech and action.”

Ross worried that the absence of a definition for “student organization” would allow politicians to exploit this technicality and extend the effects of the resolution to informal groups of friends.

Ross was also concerned with the turnaround time for registering student groups.

“Say we’re looking at a March election and three weeks away from the election I want to get a student organization together or I want to assemble politically—you’re not going to have time to register within that time period,” Ross said.

Sen. Lillian Roth voiced concerns over a section encouraging the formation of political parties. The University should not have the power to encourage or create political parties, Roth said.

Senators David Solon and Robert Pendley worried about the impact section 5 could have on organizations they belong to. Solon believed that the section could interfere with his fraternity’s ability to tailgate while Pendley was concerned that it would force organizations in the Law School to register. The Law School has 35 student organizations which, until this point have all operated unregistered.

“I understand what the purpose of it is, but in the future I’m worried about it maybe being construed to take advantage of some of these organizations that don’t necessarily need to be registered,” Pendley said.

Pendley proposed removing section 5 and passing the remainder of the bill.

Sen. Patrick Fitzgerald encouraged legislators to take the bill at face value.

“My piece of advice is to read the bill,” Fitzgerald said. “Don’t read what you think could happen in a worst case scenario of the bill; don’t read what your machine rep might say ‘this is going to happen to us, and the house is going to fall apart, and everything’s going to break.’ Read the bill for what it is. The past couple of speeches of negation have taken this completely out of context.”

The hypothetical scenarios proposed by Ross regarding the infringement of student rights were unlikely to occur in actuality, Sen. Alexandria Selman said.

To characterize the bill as administrative overreach is misleading, Sen. Rachael Hartley, author of the resolution, said.

“To characterize this as an administrative takeover is very disingenuous, and at best it reflects a misunderstanding of the report and at worst it reflects ulterior motives,” Hartley said.

The resolution was meant to target the machine, Hartley said, however, it was created to make the machine a more legitimate political party. The legislation was proposed to keep the group from engaging in activities such as voter fraud and voter intimidation.

Hartley said that one of the problems with the machine is that the group’s secrecy breeds mistrust.

“It seems like they’re doing something malicious,” Hartley said. “If they were to come above ground, it would be easier for people to work with them and trust them.”

Ross said that although he favored most of the report, the sections that he believed had the possibility to infringe upon student rights warranted the rejection of the resolution in full.

“I liked most of this report… but there were parts that would have destroyed the entire intent of the report,” Ross said.

Hartley stood by the report in full, concerned that the removal of any part of the report from the resolution would create flaws in the resolution.

“I was not willing to rewrite it,” Hartley said. “If they were to rewrite it, it would take away the value of it.”

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