Senate Notes: Senators Clash Over Rules and Policy

Gin Dumcius

Two student senators clashed once again over rules and regulations in the last Senate meeting of November, prolonging the meeting and overshadowing funding requests from various student clubs and organizations.

President Joseph Panciotti and Senator J. Stone Laraway quarreled in an almost repeat performance of a Senate meeting two weeks before, each figuratively throwing Robert’s Rules of Order, a guidebook of parliamentary rules which governments rule by, at one another.

Senator Laraway objected to the Steering Committee meeting regarding the election of a new Campus and Community Affairs Committee Chair. Senator Laraway stated that the Steering Committee had met the week before without prior knowledge, and did so illegally. Senate President Joseph Panciotti kept cutting him off, until Director of Student Life Joyce Morgan said, “Let him finish, Joseph.”

Senator Laraway asked for a point of order, and read from the by-laws, saying that the agendas of SGA meetings shall be prepared and posted three calendar class days in advance of the next regular meeting. Senator Laraway pointed out that the Steering Committee did no such thing.

President Panciotti ruled that Senator Laraway’s point of order wasn’t, in fact, a point of order. Senator Laraway then asked for a parliamentary inquiry. “Where is it stated [in the Constitution] that the Chair can decide what is in order?” he asked, setting off another exchange between him and the President.

“Because I wrote it, and it does follow standard procedure according to Robert’s Rules, according to our own practice…” started President Panciotti, before Senator Laraway cut in: “According to Robert’s Rules of Order, Chapter 4, Sub-Section 9, particular types of business…”

“Sir. Order. Now,” said President Panciotti, banging the gavel. “Point of order,” responded Senator Laraway. President Panciotti told him he was out of order, to which Senator Laraway demanded to know why he was.

“First of all, the Senator has asked for a clarification. The Chair is still the Chair. The Chair makes the rulings,” said President Panciotti. “Now I would remind all of us that we do have standard rules of operation. We do have our own bylaws and constitutions, and that under all of those authorities, the Chair rules. If anybody would like to challenge the ruling of the Chair, then they are welcome to do so.”

Director Morgan tried to clarify Senator Laraway’s position, stating he had put a motion on the floor to remove the report of the Steering Committee from the meeting’s agenda. Senator Robert Comerford then seconded the motion. President Panciotti proceeded towards taking the vote, before Senator Laraway pointed out that the Senate had to go into discussion first.

During the discussion period, in answer to a question from Senator William Roach, President Panciotti stated that, “The Steering Committee does not have to post agendas.” Yes it does, said Senator Laraway. “Nowhere in our by-laws does it say that the Steering Committee has the right to not post agendas and [not] follow other rules and regulations.” President Panciotti said that the practice for the last five years has been that the Steering Committee has had no agenda and it has usually met in executive session.

Finally, the motion was voted on and defeated in 3-1 vote.

After Officer and Committee Reports, a motion was made to deny the validity of the CCA’s election of Senator Fritz Hyppolite as chair.

Senator Laraway was the one who had initially objected to the election, and brought the matter before the Senate at its November 6th meeting, saying it was “illegal because CCA did not follow proper procedure and policy.” The issue, again over Senator Laraway’s objections, was sent to Steering Committee, the Senate’s committee on committees. Steering at first voted to recommend to confirm the election, then later held an emergency meeting when it learned from a parliamentarian that it was in error. It was decided that a totally new election would be held before the Senate, coming full circle.

President Panciotti put forth a motion to accept nominations for CCA chairs, to which Senator Laraway objected to, stating that it wasn’t a special election, and therefore not valid. Director Morgan said that special elections did not apply to the current case. Senator Jesse Solomon concurred, adding that there was a lot of pressing business on behalf of the students, and advised that the Senate get back to the business of serving the students.

“Rules shouldn’t be pushed aside,” said Senator Laraway in response. “If we do, we defeat the purpose of why we’re here.”

“We’ve wasted 45 minutes arguing over internal conflicts,” said Senator Bigyan Acharya, and made a motion to continue with business, which was approved.

Student Trustee Heather Dawood nominated Senator Hyppolite for CCA Chair, and Senator Robert Comerford nominated himself. Senator Hyppolite won in an 8-3 vote.

Chaya Kraitzman of the Hillel Club spoke on the Chanukah celebration on December 5th. Senator Jesse Solomon made a motion to grant $350 for it, which was seconded by Senator J. Stone Laraway.

Senior Nursing Club asked and recieved $1932.30.

UMass Boston’s literary magazine, The Watermark, asked for $700 to be appropriated for a fiction reading and workshop in February 2003 with Mary Sullivan, author of Stay and coordinator of PEN New England. The motion was approved.

Rebecca Small of the Friends of MassPIRG made a funding request of $6940 for a Worldwide AIDS Day Memorial Day Event, which was approved. “Events like this put UMass Boston on the map,” said Student Trustee Heather Dawood.