Senate Notes: CCA Election Called Into Question, Declared “Null and Void”

Gin Dumcius

Tensions flared minutes into the latest Student Senate meeting regarding the election of Campus and Community Affairs Committee’s chair the week before.

During the Committee Reports segment, Senator J. Stone Laraway called for a point of order, stating that “…according to our bylaws and our constitution, the election process that took place during CCA’s meeting last week [is] illegal because CCA did not follow proper procedure and policy.”Senator Laraway had been voted out of the CCA chairmanship at that meeting. “The point is out of order,” said President Joseph Panciotti.

Senator Laraway tried to appeal the decision of the chair, but President Panciotti stated, “The senator is out of order, and points of information from others are not done during committee reports.If the senator wishes to pursue it, I recommend that he address it during Item 6,” referring to an item dealing with the confirmation of the new CCA chair, Fritz Hyppolite, further down in the agenda. Senator Laraway persisted until President Panciotti slammed down the gavel, saying, “Luckily I have this to bang on that.”President Panciotti later said he was joking when he said that.

“We are still in committee reports,” Panciotti reminded the Senate, while Senator Laraway kept on calling for a point of order.

The Student Government Association shall call for special elections, and since the election of Fritz Hyppolite as chair of CCA in October had not been deemed a special election, it was illegal, said Senator Laraway, citing bylaws.

“The Chair will rule that if members of the Senate feel aggrieved, is that, by our bylaws, you are required to present your grievance to the Steering Committee,” said President Panciotti.

The Senate came back to the issue towards the end of its meeting.President Panciotti declared the election null and void and the Chairmanship of the CCA vacant.Senator Laraway, according to Director of Student Life Joyce Morgan, is still Acting Chair of CCA.

“I believe wholeheartedly that Senator Hyppolite is quite capable of being our chair, but the main issue for me as a senator is to bring up the bylaws and the Constitution that we need to follow.That way, everything can be done more concisely and more orderly,” said Senator Laraway.

The issue was sent to Steering Committee in a 12 to 3 vote.The Steering Committee is made up of the President, the Vice-President, the Student Trustee, the Representative to the Faculty Council, and the Chairpersons of the all the Committees.

The issue at hand is that the Senate has been acting on this precedent of committees electing committee chairs for years, a precedent that no one had ever questioned before. The decision which will have to be made soon is whether to continue to let committees elect their own chairs and vice-chairs, or to defer to Robert’s Rules of Order, which say otherwise.

“It’s not something where that I think anybody did anything wrong,” said Director Morgan later in the week.”What was brought up, which I think is great, is it makes [the Student Senate] take a look at their policies, and it makes them figure out exactly how they want to do this. And if they want to defer to what happens in Robert’s Rules of Order or if they want to establish that their committee chairs are in fact elected by the committee.But it’s just that they have to make that choice.Because by not listing it in their bylaws and Constitution, it automatically defers to Robert’s Rules of Order.”

“The bottom line is that student government and its committees need to follow the bylaws and the Constitution of UMass Boston.That is my main objective, and always will be my main objective,” Senator Laraway said.

All of this could have been avoided, said President Panciotti, had Senator Laraway done what he had been told and taken it to Steering Committee in the first place.

The conversation never happened, according to Senator Laraway.”He never told me to take this issue to Steering Committee.”

“Well, sometimes people listen and sometimes they don’t,” responded President Panciotti, standing in the hallway outside the Undergraduate Senate Office last Friday.”Stone has never sought my advice, although I have given it to him many times. And of course, when you don’t seek somebody’s advice, and they give it to you, and they’re not seeking it, do you really think they’re going to apply the advice that was given to them freely?

“I told him, well, I suggested, that, ‘Stone, these issues are handled in Steering Committee. That you get all your facts together, and all get your ducks in a line, quote, and that you bring it to Steering Committee.’And then he said, ‘Okay.’

“I like him personally,” he said of Senator Laraway. “He’s a pain in the ass in the Senate, but I was a pain-in-the-ass four years ago when I first arrived on the scene and said more than I knew and more than people cared to hear about.I think that’s one of the reasons I was elected President, so I wouldn’t have so much to say in the Senate.But as it turns out, with all the questionings of the rules, of the bylaws, of Robert’s Rules, it takes up a lot of time.But the people are still learning, the majority of the Senate and the senators.

“I don’t so much mind being questioned about procedure, or about the Constitution, or the bylaws, or Robert’s Rules.But when you’re told three times that this is what it means, and you keep on saying, ‘Point of Order,’ that is not a point of order.That is a parliamentary question.It’s not even a parliamentary procedure at all.

“That was a total waste of time yesterday,” he said, referring to the November 6 Senate meeting and its deliberations over CCA chairmanship.”But if I want to be totally fair, maybe not a total waste.At least, some people learn what they have to put up with and what they have to deal with in the future.”