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USG says ‘yes’ to publishing senators’ individual votes

Canela Lopez, News Editor Lauren Gaines

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After four weeks of discussion, Undergraduate Student Government passed legislation during its senate meeting on on Tuesday Oct. 4. to publish senators’ votes with their names attached on the USG website. Supporters of the bill said it promotes transparency and trust between USG and the general student body.

The bill, which passed with a majority vote (18-15-0)*, addressed voter anonymity. Debate began last semester after USG transitioned from a system where senators simply raised their placards to electronic voting with clickers.

Discussion between senators began after some preferred publishing individual senator votes and others advocated publishing voting results by school. 

The legislation USG161004, authored by USG Vice President for Student Organizations Trace Hancock and President Autumn Gibbons, called for an immediate vote. This legislation, if passed, would publish individual names and votes on the website.

According to Gibbons, the USG executive board decided to draft the legislation on Monday night before senate to settle the weeks-long debate.

“We found that when we bring something to open forum and solutions, it’s just a back and forth of opinion, there’s no tangible outcome,” Gibbons said. “So this resolution provides an opportunity to one, stay in our procedure and stay in a set structure of speaking that allows for all opinions to be heard but in a set manner.”

Vice President of Student Life Rebecca Lederkramer added that another reason for the legislation was to give the senators a direct say in the matter.

“It didn’t seem super fair of [the executive board] to make the decision when we had some senators approach us and say they would not be on senate if we made this decision,” Lederkramer said. “So we thought it would be more appropriate in the hands of the people whose votes were being represented by this decision.”

Members of USG were not the only ones with strong feelings about the matter.

Over 10 members of the general student body came to student forum in support of accessible voting results, a period of time delegated at the beginning of every USG session for members of the community to speak on matters of concern.

Senior Mykia Kidd, Senior Sarah Levinson, and sophomore Maddy Lowry all spoke during this forum.

Later in the session, senators called the legislation to the floor and entered a moderated caucus. During this time, senators were allowed to express their opinions and concerns on the legislation before a vote.

“We have to remember we’re here to do a job and we have to be accountable to the people we’re representing,” Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Chair Alex Bourguignon said in favor of the legislation.

Other senators who did not support the legislation noted concerns about the duality of publishing a ‘yes or no’ vote. While the legislation would be accessible, senators said they did not feel this system allowed for them to explain why they voted a particular way. 

Several senators who opposed the legislation said they also felt the risk of their votes on legislation following them into the workforce was significant.

“The reason we go to college is to better our future and we shouldn’t have to sacrifice our future for one small vote,” senator Sam Rosenberg said.

Senator Josh Rosenbaum said as a member of USG he expected that level of accountability. 

“We’re here to represent,” Rosenbaum said. “I am more than happy to make every statement and vote I make in this room public.” 

Other senators who took a more neutral stance felt that the initial reason for proposing an anonymous clicker system was to allow senators to cast votes without exterior pressure from other senators.

“The point of [anonymity] was so that we can get our votes out without pressure to vote one way or another,” senator Michael Morton said.

Sophomore Maddie Lowry, a co-convener of Whiteness for SOAR, spoke during open forum and she said she feels the legislation will bring more students into USG open forums and encourage engagement. 

“As a student who is not a part of USG I feel like a lot of what goes on in the room and in that space is closed to the rest of the students here,” Lowry said. “So I think that this legislation that I was supporting is a big step in opening up more transparency and more accountability.”

Freshman Leadership Program participant Cade Herman said he sees the increased transparency as a catalyst for a change.

“I know that this legislation has the potential to awaken the student body to prompting issues student government faces,” Herman said. “Transparency will fill the future senates with senators who want to be held accountable and who want to selflessly serve the student body.”

Gibbons said she ultimately feels that being on the minority side of an issue is something that comes along with participating in a governing body and that being against an issue, such as publishing of votes, doesn’t discount senators’ voices from being heard.

“We will do everything in our power to ensure that the people who are still uncomfortable with this are still being heard,” Gibbons said. “But I think that when you sign up to be on a senate, to be on a governing body you agree that you’re not gonna be in the majority all of the time and you have to be okay with that.”

Canela Lopez, who co-wrote this article, is a non-Black Co-Convener of Color in Students Organizing Against Racism.

*18 voted for, 15 against, and no abstentions.

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans
USG says ‘yes’ to publishing senators’ individual votes