Senate votes down release of documents
The Student Government Association Senate voted 26-12 Thursday night to defeat Resolution 33-11, which called for University administrators to allow the release of information relating to the resignation of former SGA President Grant Cochran. Twelve other senators abstained from voting on the proposal, which was first introduced two weeks ago by Sen. Brad Tipper.
“Essentially what we’re all voting on right here is a slap in the face to someone and in this situation it would be our former president,” Sen. Austin Barranco said. “It’s a serious situation that was already handled and we don’t need to make it worse by slapping him in the face and letting the whole student body see what actually happened.
“I don’t see why anyone would sit here and encourage the rest of the University to have an in-depth look at what went wrong in our administration,” he added. “There’s no reason to sit here and harp on this mistake and make it public knowledge to everyone else.”
Ethics committee chair Lauren Hardison disagreed.
“We were elected by the student body and they have a right to know what happened to some degree,” she said. “Right now, they don’t have a clue.”
Tipper defended the resolution, expressing concern for the rights of new students at the University.
“In this situation, student rights of new students at our University were blatantly taken away,” Tipper said. “That, in my mind, is embarrassing for us to be associated with an organization that would go out and do that and then afterwards kind of just sweep it under the rug, say that we’re handling it internally, and say next year we’ll change and next year we’ll be different. We’ve been saying next year is going to be different for a while now and things need to change.”
Barranco responded by saying students wouldn’t benefit from making the information public.
“One of the things that frustrates me the most is that you said you realize that we’re all students and this is a learning process (and that) new incoming students will be benefited by us putting this all over the newspapers and making it complete public knowledge,” he said. “They definitely won’t benefit from this. All they’ll see is that we have a corrupt government system.”
“The point of it is not a slap in the face, the point of it is to let the students know what happened,” Hardison said. “How can you start focusing on the future in the midst of a lie?”
Sen. Casey Rogers said members of the Senate would be affected if the information was released.
“It’s clearly stated that it’s going to directly deal with us,” she said. “It’s going to deal with people in this room...It’s going to deal with senators.”
Before the vote was held, Senate Secretary Chandler Wright reminded her colleagues it was just a resolution, and wouldn’t actually compel anyone to release information even if it passed.
“I think it is also important to remember that this is just a resolution; it’s just a statement made by the Senate,” Wright said. “I mean, (you all) can vote however you want to vote, but it’s not going to do anything even if we do pass this bill because the administration’s going to do whatever they want.”
The resolution was introduced after University administrators blocked a public records request sent to each branch of the SGA asking for “any written testimony provided by members of the Student Government Association Senate or SGA staff detailing irregularities that occurred in the First Year Council selections process,” claiming the information was protected by federal privacy laws.
That selections process was invalidated by SGA Attorney General David Simpson last month as a result of unspecified irregularities. Within two days, both Cochran and Sara Lavender, the SGA Director of First Year Council, resigned from their positions within the student government.
In other business, the SGA Senate also voted to reject a resolution that would have encouraged paid SGA officials to donate their salaries to tornado relief.
Sen. Alex Ash said SGA officials are free to donate their money to the relief effort, but those who need their salaries shouldn’t feel compelled to give them away.
“The SGA created a program for raising money for tornado relief and I feel like if it is the paid member of SGA’s decision to donate their salary, that’s fine,” he said. “But by no means should we make them feel forced because some people might need that money.”
The Senate meeting followed a reception for senators and some University administrators that was provided by Auxiliary Services, a division of University Financial Affairs.
Senate will meet again tonight at 6 p.m. in Ferguson Center Room 301 for a special session to consider the nomination of Randy Bowden to serve as Executive Vice President of the SGA. Bowden currently serves as SGA Director of Engagement, and if confirmed will replace former EVP Stephen Swinson, who assumed the SGA presidency upon Cochran’s resignation.
Roll Call Vote
Abby Grace Brown
Rebecca Rose Lutonsky
Mary Sellers Shaw