Student Council to create public voting record of representatives

Bill tabled that would require elected representatives to hold office hours

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Student Council passed a bill at its weekly general body meeting Tuesday night to establish public voting records for student representatives to hold them accountable and make them more accessible to the general public. 

Avery Gagne, a first-year College student and a Student Council representative, introduced the bill during the legislative session. He argued for detailed voting records on proposed legislation to increase transparency within student government. 

“It is incredibly important when it comes to the credibility and accountability of Student Council as an organization,” Gagne said.  “The intention of us being here, and the reason why we’re here, is to represent the wishes of the people that elected us ... if they have no way by which they can know how we’re voting, then there is no way by which they can hold us accountable.”

The voting records would include clarifications regarding the voting process — including abstention and abstention by proxy — to help the student body understand each representative’s position on an issue. 

Abstention occurs when a student chooses not to vote on a bill, and abstention by proxy takes place when a representative sends a student to the general body meeting on their behalf, but cannot vote. 

Kyle Collins, a graduate Commerce student and a Student Council representative, expressed his concern that the voting records would not be accompanied by sufficient context surrounding a decision. 

“The context in which these votes take place may or may not be transmitted when voting record takes place,” Collins said. “I would just be worried about what might happen if someone sees you voted one way without the full context associated with that.”

In response to the concern, Gagne asserted that providing voting records is only a part of providing students greater awareness of Student Council, but is immediately necessary.  

“I think this is really a first step,” Gagne said. “However, as it currently stands, there’s no way by which constituents can know which way one voted in the first place.” 

The bill passed unanimously with four abstentions. 

Along with his bill to provide public voting records, Gagne introduced a bill that would require representatives to hold weekly office hours. Gagne said the office hours would give students a chance to express concerns to their representatives and allow Student Council members to better serve students. 

“This institutes just one hour per week,” Gagne said. “That would be just one hour where you’re available to just talk with a constituent who wants to talk with you about an issue … This is just to increase communication between us, the representative body, and the students we’re representing.’

MacLane Taggart, a Law student and Deputy Treasurer for the school’s Student Bar Association, questioned whether the proposed bill would be effective for graduate school students, given their experiences with student government. 

“I know that the law school has its own student government — the Student Bar Association,” Taggart said. “I also know that Darden has its own student government, so representatives coming from North Grounds serve a very different role than the rest of the representatives in this body. Having spoken to previous representatives of the law school, who at times voluntarily had office hours, they were always ineffective and a waste of time.”

Ian Ware, a third-year College student and a Student Council representative, questioned how the weekly office hours would be enforced and what level of punishment representatives who failed to host office hours would receive. 

“I am not trying to make a new process by which we remove representatives,” Gagne said in response to the question. “This is so we can at least [have] some contact between representatives and students.” 

While the bill would provide students with an additional method to connect with their representatives, fourth-year College student and Student Council President Sarah Kenny, drew on her experience with Student Council to express her concerns with the bill. 

“In my entire time at Student Council, every chair of the Representative Body has advocated for office hours, and they have never happened or been enforced and so hearing the debate this evening, I would encourage tabling,” Kenny said. “We should come up with a more codified accountability mechanism, because I would hate to see this become the fourth failed attempt to get representatives to sit in an office and wait for people to come knock on their door.” 

The bill was unanimously tabled and will be addressed in the upcoming General Body meeting next Tuesday at 6:30pm in the Newcomb South Meeting Room. 

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