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Senate Passes OSI Rep Requirement for Ethics Probes

Ethics Chair: 'Very Against' Bylaw Condition, Questions Autonomy

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The Student Association senate passed new guidelines Wednesday for investigating ethical complaints leveled against members, sparking concerns over the organization’s autonomy from the Office of Student Involvement among several senators.

According to the revised by-law, any SA member pertinent to an ethics complaint must be informed along with the senate chair and an OSI representative.

Drafted to better clarify the procedure pertaining to ethics complaints, the new guidelines update an already existing by-law which led to past confusion.

“We just wanted to make sure that when someone in the future is looking at powers of investigation, they know who they have to inform,” said rules committee chair Brandon Holdridge who sponsored the bill.

Though the bill passed with an overwhelming majority, it wasn’t without dispute.

Sen. Adam Shayo, chair of the subcommittee on ethics, voiced concerns regarding the mandate requiring a representative from OSI to be informed of any ethics complaints.

“I am very against the fact that we will have OSI in our by-laws,” said Shayo, who explained that SA is a separate entity before motioning to strike the language from the bill. “I’m not saying OSI shouldn’t be present, I’m just saying that it shouldn’t be mandatory for them to be present.”

Several senators, including Holdridge and Mitchell Ryback, chair of the board of finance, pointed out that OSI, which acts as a non-biased advisor to SA, already appears in the senate’s by-laws and removing them from the current bill would do nothing to change that.

“If we want to remove this in the future and go over OSI in the entire by-laws, we can do that in the future, but striking it now will not do a single thing,” said Ryback.

Shayo’s motion failed to garner the votes needed to pass. When asked to elaborate on the concerns pertaining to his motion following SA’s meeting, Shayo declined comment.

Last semester, a rift between SA and OSI emerged when OSI deemed ineligible two senators who missed sexual violence prevention training and threatened to freeze the MyInvolvement accounts of 70 student groups whose officers failed to attend similar training.

In response, SA passed a resolution slamming OSI for overstepping its bounds.

When asked if this current senate has any lingering resentment towards OSI stemming from last year, senate chair Jarrett Altilio replied “no.”

The new guidelines passed Wednesday come in the wake of several ethics investigations last year involving former board of finance members Julia Alford and Austin Ostro, the board’s former chair.

Alford faced impeachment proceedings for slander, violating confidentiality, and acting without integrity after accusing Ostro of making “misogynist remarks.” Ostro faced the same proceedings four months later for withholding information and limiting the contact with OSI.

Both Alford and Ostro resigned before proceedings began. However, several disputes arose regarding procedure, which, according to several senators, created an atmosphere of chaos and confusion, and prolonged the proceedings.

“We should never need ethics, but sometimes people need a check,” said Holdridge, who expressed elation over the bills passing. “It’s been a process, but I’m glad it’s over and I’m pretty happy with where we ended up.”

 

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Chad Arnold is a reporter for the Albany Student Press covering Student Association affairs. He is also an die-hard heavy metal fan.

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