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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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    Will They Grow Up?

    Dear Editor,

    The November 14, 2006 USG Senate meeting held the promise of being the shortest Senate meeting this year, but things did not turn out that way. At first, the Senate moved quickly through various legislations, killing a bill proposed last meeting which would have given the USG ‘subpoena’ power. (The actual language used was to refer the matter to the Legislative Review Committee, but in reality it is practically the same thing.)

    Afterwards, a Commission, which was organized early in the semester, delivered its final report, making recommendations on the state of the non-academic judiciary and reporting on how Stony Brook could make that process better. Whether or not these recommendations will ever mean anything, in terms of actual action by the University, remains to be seen, but the formation of the Commission and its work are all positive steps.

    I hope that the Senate investigates other important issues which impact all students. (Some suggestions: Food prices on campus; parking space availability; the efficiency of campus buses; getting the ‘Speed’ channel back on TV; the impact of increased undergraduate enrollment on campus infrastructure, among others.)

    A great deal of time was spent on ‘Open Agenda,’ primarily discussing the constitutional amendments currently on the ballot, which can be accessed through SOLAR and clicking on ‘Student Elections’ (same as for the Fall Elections.) While I could probably fill several pages with the various accusations of intimidation, incompetence, and sheer stupidity by almost every USG official involved, I think we should take a higher path and discuss the actual issues.

    Although I could score many ‘political’ points by naming names and shaming individuals, I honestly do not think that is the best way to proceed, and despite my disagreements at times with Senators in terms of policy, I am on the whole pleased with their passion.

    On the ballot, you will see two amendments that deal with the USG Constitution. Most people who have read the amendments agree with the need to incorporate them in order to address potential liabilities within the USG Constitution, but the most important problem here is not the wording of the amendments (although there are concerns,) but rather the timing of the ballot.

    In terms of timing, many students, me included, feel that it is the wrong time to propose these amendments to the student body. We have just finished a fall election in which a very small minority of students (less than 6%) bothered to vote, and this number was achieved arguably only because of the presence of many candidates running for political office, who would increase advertising and enthusiasm for the poll.

    We now face the prospect of two long amendments presented to students with a minimum of advertising and with no new strategies of attracting voters or raising USG awareness since the previous poll, which achieved so little in terms of votes.

    Proponents of the amendments argue that it is imperative to pass them and to do so immediately, as the USG Constitution is technically not compliant with New York State administrative laws and that we would therefore be ‘liable’ to lawsuits.

    While this might be true, in all of the years since the inception of the Constitution there has not been, to the best of my knowledge, any legal challenge in state courts regarding the USG Constitution, and there appears to be no tangible threat that such a suit would be imminent. In fact, it would be quite reasonable to say that very few people know about the USG Constitution, fewer people yet are aware of the potential inconsistencies with NYS Law, and no one to our knowledge from that group is willing to file a lawsuit on the issue.

    In the final analysis, it seems as if our student leaders weighed the prospect of poor turnout on the ballot with the ‘imminent’ danger of a lawsuit and decided that democracy would have to be sacrificed a bit in order to keep the USG organization out of legal liability.

    I disagree with that assessment and believe that the most imminent concern facing USG is not technical violations of administrative law that no one will bother with, but rather the pitifully small number of students who are involved with USG and its mission, and I believe that it is the government’s responsibility to ameliorate that situation. In the end, the people are sovereign, and I urge all students to log on to SOLAR and vote their conscience.

    Hopefully that will be the end of this matter and I look forward to the government coming together and doing what is right for students, without all the bickering and nonsense of late. I will do my part by lightning up the mood at the next Senate meeting. Can’t say how just yet, you’ll have to be there in person to see.

    Sincerely yours,

    Esam Al-Shareffi

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