On Wednesday, October 29th, right after I left the meeting, Senate decided to not include a “code of conduct” outlining the ethical responsibilities expected of ASUO Senators. This conduct code was based on the ethics bill authored by Senator Kate Jones and former Senator Neil Brown last school year (2007-2008).
Both Neil and Jones ran on the original Campaign for Change featuring Sara Hamilton and Athan Papiliou, which ran on a platform of ethical behavior and, as the name of the slate states, change. After sweeping the elections, Neil and Jones wrote the first ethics proposal in memorable history.
According to a statement from Sen. Jones last Wednesday, the ethics bill from the 2007-2008 school year was stopped by Constitution Court, not ASUO Senate. Any changes to the Senate’s governance document have to be put forth by November 1st, and the Con. Court failed to rule in a timely enough manner to allow for a change.
This year, Senators Derek Nix and Emma Kallaway brought fourth a code of conduct with hopes that it would help Senate make decisions based on facts and avoid bias and personal interest. The proposal reads:
13. Code of Conduct
13.1 The following prohibitions apply to the Student Senate:
(a). Each Student Senator shall conduct themselves at all times in a manner that shall reflect credibility on the Student Senate.
(b). A Student Senator may not receive compensation and may not permit compensation to accrue in their beneficial interest from any source, the receipt of which would occur by virtue of influence improperly exerted from their position in the Student Senate.
(c). A Student Senator may not knowingly use their position to solicit gifts or otherwise gain advantages improperly exerted from their position in the Student Senate.
(d). A Student Senator may not authorize or otherwise allow any individual, program or organization not under direction and control of the Student Senate to speak on behalf of the Student Senate without the knowledge and authorization of the Student Senate.
(e). No Student Senator shall represent another ASUO Program, outside company, or other entity in order to gain unfair advantage improperly exerted from their position in the Student Senate.
(f). All voting shall be made in a viewpoint neutral manner. No member of the Student Senate shall vote in a way that would promote a real or seemingly incompatibility between one’s public and fiduciary duties.
13.2 A Student Senator may file a complaint against another Student Senator for violations of this Rule. The process for this complaint shall be in accordance with Student Senate Rule 6.
Inevitably Senate voted the proposed ethics addition down–you cannot tell me this is surprising. The Senator most opposed to this change was Sen. Nick Gower, which is not at all surprising either, he seems to have a history of voting no so far this year. What is surprising was Sen. Tyler Scandalios’ motion to vote the change down.
Tyler Scandalios not only ran on this year’s Oregon Action Team, with Sen. Nix, which was strongly based on changing the bias and special interest existing in student government in years passed, but he also ran with Sara and Athan’s Campaign for Change. Change? Action? Apparently Sen. Scandalios is not interested in either of them, and proved it Wednesday night by moving to vote down the only proposal aiming to keep Senators accountable for their actions.
Derek did state: “I wanted to be clear that I appreciate the input that Senate gave me through this process in regards to the Rules Changes as a whole. The wording of the proposed Code of Conduct should have been more clear which is why, I think, the Code of Conduct did not make it past Senate.” But that “The negative outcome of not including a Code of Conduct in Senate Rules will be that there is going to be no way to hold Senators accountable for their actions. It will also make it difficult to have discussions on conduct when there are no set rules regarding the issue.”
Some of the most controversial issues from the past (Jerome Roberts collecting a stipend when he was no longer a UO student, last year’s Executive allegedly hosting a campaign event titled “Take Back Campus” using ASUO resources, and former Sen. Gulley’s trip to Hawaii) could have possibly been held accountable if such a code of conduct had been in effect.
When asked about the situation Athan had this to say: “Recognizing that rules and laws do not always dictate the most ethical behavior, we rely on rules to institutionalize ideas and processes for future leaders. For the first time in several years, our Association is privileged to have a reform-minded Senate coupled with an Executive of high character and moral fiber. Unfortunately, however, ASUO election history tells us that we cannot rely on this past year as a trend for the future.”
Without some sort of ethics policies in the ASUO Governance Document, we will continue to see scandalous behavior in our student government, and with our student funds.
It is very possible this issue goes beyond just this ethics bill. The actual Ethics Committee (which is a standing Senate Committee) has yet to have a meeting this term, and it is week six. There is a scheduled meeting this Wednesday at 4pm, and hopefully we will see enough people at that meeting for it to count. It would be horrible to have so many Senators in non-compliance. But, this behavior does exemplify the tone of the Senate so far this school year.
“It was unfortunate the senate struck down the code of ethics. I think so far we have seen a huge divide between the majority of senators who are truly dedicated to the job and the few others who continually show up late, disrespect and demean group and program leaders who come before them, and fail to show any sort of commitment to serving anything besides their own egos,” mentioned Sam Dotters-Katz, when questioned about the Senate’s overall ethical behavior.
I personally hope to see a change toward ethical behavior in the coming months.
Lastly, the Clark Document, the Governance Document mentioned in this article, will be officially signed on November 11th, from 3:30-5:00pm in the Knight Library Viewing Room. Something tells me there will be free food.