SA Rules Committee Removes 2 Senators for Accumulated Absences
A vote to remove two Student Association senators from power following a string of unexcused absences raised questions of professionalism for some SA members, while revealing potential issues in how meeting attendance is tracked for others.
SA’s Rules Committee last Tuesday voted to remove Senators Carlos McArthur of Alumni Quad and Katherine Dobler of Colonial Quad after they accumulated five and six unexcused absences respectively this semester.
Under current SA by-laws, representatives are permitted no more than three unexcused absences for an entire academic year.
“They obviously don’t want the job, or they have too many other things going on where they just can’t give their undivided attention to it [Student Association],” said Rules Committee Chairman Brandon Holdridge preceding Tuesday night’s vote.
Neither McArthur or Dobler responded to request for comment.
Tuesday’s vote wasn’t without controversy, however, as several members of the committee objected to the senators in question not being notified prior to their removal.
“I’m just asking for common courtesy,” said Sen. Amanda Demmer. “If this was anything else we’d at least give them the chance to say ‘hey, this is happening.’”
There is currently no provision in SA’s by-laws that mandates senators be notified before being removed from power due to attendance issues.
“An email is a courtesy, but it should have no effect on our decision to follow the by-laws through-and-through and do our job,” said Holdridge who called the issue “black in white.”
“I don’t think it’s right to get an email saying, ‘Hey you’re in the senate but now you’re out of it,’ just out of the blue,” said Sen. Dillion Asmus who argued the committee should be more considerate of “extenuating circumstances” impacting a senator’s personal life before voting to remove someone from power.
Both Demmer and Asmus moved to table the vote until the senators in question could be notified, a motion that was ultimately voted down.
Demmer eventually voted to remove both McArthur and Dobler from power, whereas Asmus voted against the proceedings.
“I don’t believe it was a good point of practice,” said Asmus, citing the lack of notification as his reason for voting against the removal proceedings. “Obviously the senators missed an exorbitant amount of meetings to the point where they showed that they don’t care, and they deserved to be impeached. But I also believe they deserve to be notified.”
According to Senate Chair Jarrett Altilio, the rules committee acted in accordance to SA by-laws in removing McArthur and Dobler from power. However, he said notifying those facing impeachment proceedings in the future “may be good practice.”
“I keep trying to notify people, not individually, but broadly, to keep track of those [absences],” said Senate Chair Jarrett Altilio. “When it gets to the point that you’re missing more than you’re coming to, we want to make sure those seats are vacant so that people will come and be able to run.”
Altilio indicated several other senators are in danger of being removed due to their attendance records, but did not specify how many.
When pressed why it took so long to remove McArthur and Dobler from power even after the senators surpassed the number of allotted unexcused absences allowed under SA by-laws, Altilio called the delay “the number one most fair criticism” of Tuesday’s proceedings, calling into question how SA keeps track of attendance.
“The attendance records need to be managed better,” said Holdridge who called the way attendance has been kept this semester as “egregious.”
Currently, SA attendance records are kept using pen and paper, with each senator being marked present or absent after their name is called.
The Albany Student Press requested a copy of SA’s attendance records from Vice Chair Subha Tasnim as well as comment on why McArthur and Dobler weren’t removed from power sooner. Tasnim, according to the SA Constitution, is tasked with keeping track of all the senate’s administrative duties.
“I am more than happy to share the attendance records with you, but I don’t think I will have time to do so until the beginning of next semester,” said Tasnim in an email, citing final papers and exam preparation as reason for the delay.
SA attendance records are subject to public record. However, they are not readily available online.
“I want to help the vice chair moving forward,” said Holdridge, who suggested a more digital way of keeping track of attendance at SA meetings such as a Microsoft Excel sheet.
It is unclear how SA plans to keep track of attendance moving forward.
Tuesday’s vote leaves two more senate seats vacant, bringing the total number of seats up for grabs this upcoming special election to six.