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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Veto, Scandal, and a Resignation – An Eventful Senate meeting

    ‘ Dear Editor,

    The last Senate meeting was incredibly interesting and included a variety of issues and events that are likely to be of interest to students, prompting me to deliver a longer report than has been customary.

    First, the Senate unanimously overrode President Jean-Baptiste’s veto of the SAB By-Laws Act, an unprecedented event in this Senate term. Members of the Student Activities Board, who expressed some concerns’ about the new Senate-mandated By-Laws, will have an opportunity to bring forth amendments at a later time, but for now the veto override ensures that the By-Laws’ will be’ amended.

    Next came the final vote on the Clarification of Employment Act, legislation that seeks to limit the President and the Executive Council’s ability to hire paid ‘aides’ using Student Activity Fee funds. After many meetings and amendments, the final version was passed with a 12-5-2 vote, barely achieving a 2/3 majority. The President is likely to veto the act, given his numerous objections to it on the Senate floor, but his prospective veto would only succeed if he can convince one or two more Senators to oppose the bill.

    The President then gave a State of the USG address, which discussed the USG’s progress over the past semester, as well as plans for the future. The most interesting upcoming program in the President’s address was the creation of ‘Campus Cash,’ an off-campus debit program that allows students to place money on their ID card, allowing them to purchase food at Domino’s Pizza and Subway for a 10% discount (with limited exceptions).

    Vice President for Student Life, Trevor Hirst, asked why the plan did not allow students to use their meal plan points, instead of forcing them to ‘add’ money to their cards, similar to the’ way students add money to use the laundry machines using their ID cards. The President said that the meal plan would have to be taxable if this happened. Personally, I believe that while this plan is interesting, few students will choose to use it.

    Those living on-campus will likely have little opportunity to visit Domino’s or Subway, and for the most part must rely on using up their meal plan points on campus. Off-campus students may benefit, but with only two locations to buy food from, I doubt many will bother with the plan.

    Next on the agenda was a confirmation hearing for Alex Ovtcharenko, for the newly created post of District Advocate. While the candidate appeared to be quite qualified and had some ideas on recruitment and cracking down on clubs and organizations that use fraudulent practices, questions regarding his ethics dominated the hearing. At a meeting of the College Republicans just prior to the Senate meeting, Mr. Ovtcharenko apparently suggested to Senator Antonelli that he sign a document indicating that he would go on a trip, in order to reserve an additional hotel room that was no longer needed, because several students who wanted to go on this trip decided not to go. This was with the full knowledge that Senator Antonelli was not planning on going.

    Mr. Ovtcharenko claimed that he was ‘unaware’ that this conduct was improper, and after some Senate debate, the nominee was confirmed by a vote of 9 in favor, 1 opposed, and 9 abstentions.

    While I personally find it incredibly interesting, my dear editor, that someone with an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice is ‘unaware’ that committing fraud is unacceptable, I hope that fellow students will reserve judgment on’ his ethics and his effectiveness, until he has been in office for some time.’ And for the sake of the student body, I wish him the best of luck.

    The Senate then considered the Campaign Finance Reform Act, which has two main purposes.’ First, it stipulates that candidates are granted a stipend from the Elections Board, in order to buy fliers or other election campaign material, and it allows the candidates to raise as much money as they would to run their campaigns.’ At the same time, it restricts the use of the Student Activity Fee (except for the Elections Board funds) in directly funding election campaigns.

    The response of the Senate was mixed.’ Senators such as Alexandra Borodkin and Robert Romano, who are members of the College Republicans, in particular, decried that the bill would restrict the ability of their clubs to run student election campaigns, which they consider an important part of their club mission.

    Other Senators, led by Senator Shapiro and Senator J. Hirst, disagreed, insisting that the bill was a fair way to manage election campaigns. My opinion, dear reader, is that clubs and organizations have no business using their funds, coming from the Student Activity Fee that almost all students pay, in order to buy fliers, posters, or other student campaign paraphernalia.

    Political clubs, such as the College Republicans or College Democrats, have every right to use their club funding to run events that feature their political philosophy, such as by bringing speakers, organizing debates, publishing articles, or holding rallies in support of their viewpoint. When it comes to student elections, however, political clubs, and all clubs for that matter, should be’ allowed to help candidates, either by campaigning on their behalves, encouraging their members to vote for them, and by providing other non-monetary support.

    Student Activity Fee funds, however, should always be used in a viewpoint neutral manner, in ways that broaden and enrich the campus experience, and not on ‘buying’ a USG political officer or giving them an unfair advantage by increasing the amount of funds they have access to, in order to fight an election.

    Finally, the meeting reached the ‘Open Agenda’ portion, when Senator Kenny Hoang took the floor and in an emotional statement announced his resignation from the student government. I would like to take this time to praise Senator Hoang as a responsible student, who puts his academic commitments first, as should all students, and who served as an invaluable member of the USG Senate by having an independent mind and by asking intelligent questions and making insightful comments at debate. He will be sorely missed and his contributions shall not be forgotten.

    In that same spirit, I believe we students ought to encourage and thank our student representatives for their consistent hard work on our behalf. While there is still so much more that needs to and ought to be accomplished, and I will devote myself to repeat, ad infinitum if necessary, the goals and projects that we students expect from our representatives, I cannot deny the incredible work that the USG, particularly the USG Senate and the Budget Committee, does for the student body, and I hope that they will continue to work with our interests in mind in the months ahead.

    Sincerely yours,

    Esam Al-Shareffi

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