SA votes against censuring president
Nov 18, 2014
While bidding on an entertainer to come to the University at Albany at the end of October, two-term Student Association president Francis Agyemang failed to notify the Board of Finance and the Office of the Comptroller before he raised the bid by $25,000 over the originally approved $100,000, which was a violation of bylaws.
Upon investigation it was discovered that the Board of Finance and the Office of the Comptroller did not find out about the exchange until five days later.
According to a press release, Agyemang raised the bid due to the fact that other colleges were bidding on the same entertainer at the same time and the agent asked for a raise. If the agent had accepted the bid, SA would have been stuck in an informal written contract and subsequently forced to pay the higher amount.
Agyemang violated bylaw 303.3, which states that he should have sought the approval of the Comptroller, who functions as the Chief Financial Officer of SA. He also violated bylaw 505.9, which says “any contract which deals with a sum of $5000 of more must be approved by the Board of Finance.”
At the SA meeting on Nov. 5, the senate voted against a bill that would have censured the Office of the President for the infraction. A censure is a formal disapproval of an action. Adam Sanzone, Alumni Quad Senator and Chair of the Government Operations Committee presented the bill at the meeting. Sanzone acknowledged that there was a rush to get the entertainer, but did not think that was an excuse for bylaws to be ignored or forgotten. He also said that his committee found it troubling that a two-term president forgot protocol.
The senate expressed mixed reactions to the bill. Vice President Marc Cohen vouched for Agyemang and assured the senate that Agyemang was very aware of the mistake and regretful of it.
“President Agyemang brought his mistake to the senate, apologized for the mistake, answered questions about the mistake, and put concerns to rest. He didn’t attempt to brush off the situation nor did he make any effort to lie, deceive or diminish the importance. For a very select group of senators, this wasn’t enough. They decided to single out one mistake among hundreds of accomplishments, and bring it to the floor of the senate in the form of a censure. I was proud to stand up with the overwhelming majority of senators and speak out against this ridiculous use of a senate power,” Cohen said.
Vice Chair Stanley De La Cruz was also against it.
“However you see this issue, we are one organization. If you want to make it public and say that we publicly disprove of our public representative, the president, then by all means do so, but I don’t think it’s good for our organization. That’s essentially saying that our president is incapable of making proper decisions. So if you want that to be the image of Student Association, then by all means,” De La Cruz said.
Senator Conner Dunleavy was in favor of the censure bill.
“This is doing something that’s the right consequence for the action that took place,” he said at the meeting. He also mentioned that while Agyemang made the right move in apologizing to the senate, the bylaws were still violated and stressed that SA has the responsibility of upholding those bylaws.
He also noted that the censure was simply SA saying that they do not approve of the mistake.
“It’s our job to say, when the bylaws are broken or violated, that we did something wrong and we disprove of it. That’s what a censure is. He came and he apologized, and that’s fine. But we still need to say that we disprove of what happened so that it sets a precedent that something like this shouldn’t happen again,” he said.
Other senators disagreed. Senator Emma Schwab said that the bill was counterproductive and stressed that the senate had more important issues to address.
“We have a lot to do and this is only going to tear us down,” she said. She believed that Agyemang made his amends when he informed SA of his mistake and described the censure as “rude.”
Ex-Vice President Nick Butler was also against the bill.
“If we start censuring people because they break bylaws, then everyone should be censured,” he said at the meeting. Senator Christian Chowdhury was against the censure as well.
“I think this is going way too far and I encourage everyone to vote no,” he said.
Some senators were willing to forgive the mistake. Senator Chenaniah Henderson equated the censure to a slap on the wrist and reminded that Agyemang was forthcoming in his apology. Senator Rachel Eager agreed.
“This discussion is a slap on the wrist. We don’t need to pass the actual censure,” she said.
“Just don’t let this happen again,” Senator Ray Webb added.
Senator Beroro Efekoro called the censure bill a “witch hunt” and Sanzone said that the committee was “not out to get anyone”, rather the bill was presented with the intention of expressing to senators the importance of following bylaws. Comptroller Mackenzie Rinefierd and Chairman of the Senate Danny Markisello said that Agyemang has been communicating well with both of their respective offices since the incident.
Agyemang said that in the midst of the error it is important to remember that the primary goal of SA is to serve the students.
“Because the Student Association Senate overwhelmingly voted against censuring the Office of the President, it is clear that the Senate is as excited as I am to work together in order to keep moving forward, even stronger than before,” he said.
Dunleavy said that the non-passage of the censure bill was a result of the fact that some members of SA are more concerned with preserving the image of the President than standing by the students.
“Last night we had a chance to do our job and let it be known that we disapprove of those who break our own rules. I am proud that this bill was brought to the floor and I am proud of the seven senators who stood by their constituents on this issue. Sadly the censure did not pass, but the word is now out of these actions and the people will be the judges,” said Dunleavy.