At the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) senate meeting Wednesday, senators approved a measure that will allow members of the public to address the senate after each agenda item.
The senators approved the measure by an 8-7 margin.
Prior to the motion’s passing, members of the public were designated five minutes at the beginning of the meeting to make any comments, statements or suggestions regarding both agenda and non-agenda items. Now members of the public have three minutes to speak prior to each agenda item, and with a simple majority approval of the senate, can speak again before the senate is allowed to move to the next item.
According to executive vice president Alex Andreotti, this issue was on the agenda because it was brought to the senate’s attention at the last ASI meeting on Feb. 10.
No other California State University (CSU) student government allows public comment after each agenda item, according to Andreotti.
Senator Jamie Krauss suggested sticking with the status quo.
“I think other CSU schools have a good idea by not letting people from the public speak on every action item,” Krauss said. “Our meetings run two [hours] to two and a half hours anyway. How much longer do we want them to go?”
Senator Clifton Wahlberg concurred. He said he doesn’t believe the senate will be more proficient at making policy for the student body. He added that it will add to the bureaucracy and prolong discussions.
“They can comment at the beginning of the meeting, but for each action item on the agenda is somewhat ridiculous in my opinion,” Wahlberg said.
A motion to send the item to the legal committee before an official vote in order to lay out a more structured outline on the issue failed.
Advocates for the motion included senator Melissa Mata, who said because of her two years of experience with ASI, she didn’t think excessively long meetings would occur because not many people ever show up. She also reminded her fellow senators that allowing the people they represent an opportunity to speak on all items only makes sense.
“If we are doing our job, they won’t feel the need to speak on every action item,” Mata said. “If it is a big issue, then they should have a chance to speak because we are their representatives.”
Senator Cesar Sanchez reiterated the importance of allowing more opportunities for students to speak is not about ASI senators.
“If this is an item that came from the students themselves, I think that the motion should be strongly considered and eventually pass,” Sanchez said. “If it takes an extra 20 minutes to do it right, we should.”
In an e-mail interview after the meeting, senator Brie Witt expressed her disappointment that the motion didn’t go to the legal committee for review.
“There was much confusion in the discussion,” Witt said. “The legal committee could propose the proper wording and it would be clear how holding public comment for each agenda item would be drawn out.”
Witt also said that the ASI agendas are supposed to be posted for public viewing 72 hours prior which allows ample time for the public to prepare their questions and concerns.
Senator Matthew Todd doesn’t believe the length of meetings should be an issue because all senators are volunteers and allowing students more time to speak their mind is a good thing.
He also said it was unwarranted for another senator to insinuate that senators are not doing their job if they can’t accurately portray all the concerns of their constituents.
“I represent the Lyles College of Engineering totaling 1,400 students, and there is no way I could talk to all 1,400 students every two weeks,” Todd said. “Since I can’t interact with every student, what better way than to allow increased public comment so we can hear concerns straight from the source.”
He also added that more heated discussions will arise from increased public comments, but is inevitable even if things stood as they were.
There are also concerns – especially considering instances at past meetings – that students will take advantage of this privilege in an irresponsible way.
“Students have spoken over the meeting chair when asked politely to have a seat,” Witt said. “I believe we will continue to run into the same problems we have encountered in the past which could ultimately result in a very disorderly meeting.”