SA Bylaw Changes Now Null
The Student Association has work to do. Rather, re-do.
That’s because the organization’s failure to display the most current version of its bylaws on its website has nullified any changes made to them.
A total of 11 revisions have been made since the bylaws were last updated on the site in February 2018.
The most notable adjustment: the organization’s check on conference line spending.
Approved by the SA senate in March, the bylaw requires any member of SA attending a conference to gain a two-week prior approval from the senate before departing.
The change came after SA leadership attended a diversity conference in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, spending $500 on Uber rides to and from their hotel room in French Quarter.
The trip was lambasted as a “waste of money” by Anna Agnes, a former SA senator who sponsored the highly contested legislation, which was initially vetoed by former SA president Jerlisa Fontaine.
The senate voted to override the veto several weeks later, but – in order to comply with its own bylaws – must now pass the controversial bill, and 10 others, all over again.
Here’s what you need to know.
SA’s senate chair is tasked with updating, archiving and ensuring the most updated version of the body’s governing rules is displayed on organization’s website.
Failure to do so within one calendar week of any changes to the bylaws, “will result in all the legislative and executive actions towards the affected legislation(s) being nullified,” according to the transparency policy-making directives portion of the bylaws.
A provision for “mitigating circumstance” can be found within the law, something SA has cited in the past as reason for its failure to upload current documents pertaining to the organization’s happenings.
Though the site has had its fair share of technical difficulties, SA has had the ability to upload relevant documents to the site since early last semester.
In March, Joel Duran, SA’s former director of Information Technology, told the Albany Student Press he had the ability to upload information and documents to the site, and he was just waiting on then senate chair Jarrett Altilio to send such documents to him.
“Yeah, that’s something I just haven’t sent over to him,” Altilio said at the time regarding senate voting records, which are also required to be displayed on the SA website, according to the bylaws.
Whether Altilio failed to send an updated version of the bylaws to the IT department is not clear.
The bylaw, however, is. Failure to display the bylaws on the site puts the chair in direct violations of those same laws.
SA has a choice: attempt to pass the 11 pieces of legislation again or move on entirely.
The prospect of re-doing nearly three months of work does not sit well with Brandon Holdridge, SA’s current senate chair.
Last year, Holdridge served as chairman of the Rules Committee and personally oversaw the now nullified revisions.
In May, he ran for his current position on a platform of adhering to the bylaws. Now Holdridge is hoping to find a way to “overrule the bylaw” to salvage last year’s work.
“I don’t think it’s right that everybody’s hard work and time and countless hours spent past midnight doing all of this should be thrown away because Jarrett [Altillio] didn’t do his job,” he said.
Holdridge plans to bring the issue before SA’s senate.
If no loophole can be found, SA must debate and vote on all legislation pertaining to its bylaw revisions all over again.
“It’s certainly unfortunate that this bylaw has been overlooked in the years previous,” said Nicholas Pepe, SA vice president. “It was a mistake on the behalf of the Student Association, now the Student Association has to make up for that mistake.”
SA’s failure to update its website has plagued the organization for several years.
Senate voting and attendance records have not been displayed on the site within the required 48 hour period for an untold number of years. Current agenda and minutes are also nowhere to be found as of writing.
The most recent legislative agenda with working links dates back to March 2016.
Questions regarding transparency have surrounded SA, which is funded by the $110 per semester student activity fee, as a result.
SA’s department of Information Technology is currently in the process of updating dead links, outdated code and ensuring everything on the site is uniform, according to Royce Lobban, the department’s current director.
“As of right now, I would give it about a month from now for the website to start having relevant information on there,” said Lobban, who explained it’s just a matter of referencing relevant documents and putting it on the site’s server.
Lobban also hopes to roll out a new mobile app where students can reference all relevant SA documents by next semester.
Plans to digitize past documents and display them on SA’s website are also in the works
“We’re students first, so everything’s not going to be on a business time scale, but it will still get done at an orderly time.” Lobban said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article first appeared in the Oct. 2, 2018 print edition of the Albany Student Press.