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There Oughta Be A Law … Oh, Wait …

With all the attention Southworth has received lately, you’d think that the plebes in student government would start paying attention to the law. You know, all those rules and strictures that aren’t delineated in the oft-vaunted-yet-completely-overrated Greentape Notebook – the ones that actually matter. Obviously, this is not the case.

At tonight’s meeting, Stephanie Erickson, whom you may remember from her role in the Great Senate Walkout of 5/24 (we must note that the minutes for that meeting are still not online), oversaw the election of the summer session Senate President and Vice-President. For those of you unfamiliar with this process, allow me to throw some knowledge your way: This process is a complete joke.

Two candidates – or, as is often the case, one candidate – stand before the Senate body and deliver short speeches. After the candidates finish, they leave the room; this makes it easier for the rest of the Senators to make paranoid comments like, to paraphrase, “Dude, I’m not gonna name names or anything, ‘cause that’s just not how we roll at Sigma Nu, but that chick totally has an agenda.” Then they cast their ballots, which are tallied by the acting Senate President – in this case Erickson.

This seems simple enough, right? Wrong. What happens when a journalist throws a monkey wrench into the proceedings, by, like, asking questions and stuff? Well, this is when student government resorts to making shit up, because they apparently expect everyone to be as clueless as they are. And this is exactly what happened tonight, when, following the election of Jennifer Lleras, ODE reporter Nick Wilbur asked for the vote tally. This exchange followed:

Wilbur: So, what’s the tally?
Erickson: I can tell you that after, off the record, if you like. Okay?
Wilbur: Why isn’t it on the record?
Erickson: I can just tell you that she [Lleras] overwhelmingly won.
Wilbur: Why can’t you tell me the actual balloting?
Erickson: It’s a matter of privacy … with people not wanting to make their vote in public.

Whether senators want their votes made public is not up for debate; legally they must make their votes public. The simple question that Wilbur asked, which was for the sake of journalistic completeness, was not unreasonable. Erickson – in fact, the entire Student Senate – violated Oregon State Meeting Laws (ORS 192.650):

All minutes or recordings shall be available to the public within a reasonable time after the meeting, and shall include at least the following information: […] (c) The results of all votes and, except for public bodies consisting of more than 25 members unless requested by a member of that body, the vote of each member by name.

And, from the 2004 Attorney General’s Public Records and Meeting Laws booklet:

6. Voting

All official actions by governing bodies must be taken by public vote.

Not only must a governing body tally the votes publicly, it must also divulge the names of those voting. Oregon prohibits the use of secret ballots at public meetings. Thus, Erickson is mistaken on two counts.

So one may ask, what is student government all about? Is it about governing, as its name suggests? Of course not. It’s about friendship. It’s about knowing the secret handshake. It’s about posturing, building a resume, playing telephone, and making a name for oneself – despite the inability to lead, form complete sentences, add numbers correctly, or know basic legal principles. It’s about togetherness. Damn facts, laws, and other sundry details of the outside world. We’ve got our clubhouse in Suite 4.

Don’t believe me? Where do you think Erickson is heading after the school year, when she eventually graduates? She will be joining the “non-partisan” part of former ASUO President Adam Petkun’s progressive political circle jerk, the Bus Project. Good riddance.

Student Senate ended with a bang. Expect the ODE’s Nick Wilbur – who’s willing to scour the Trashcan of Truth for the voting records he needs – to have the full story on Thursday.

Expect the OC to file a grievance on Friday. It’s the principle, you know?

UPDATE: The Emerald‘s story can be found here.

  1. […] In a stunner, Senate today changed its mind and elected Sara Hamilton as Senate President for the Summer. In an illegal, secret vote on Wednesday the Senate had purportedly elected Athan Papailiou. […]

  2. Ian says:

    Senate has to do it since they haven’t technically elected a President or Vice-President for summer. The secret election was about as legitimate as Milli Vanilli.

    Also, the meeting minutes for 5/24 and 5/31 still aren’t available online.

  3. Greg S. says:

    I cant believe Im saying this, but Senate is actually doing the correct thing by holding another meeting to re-elect chairs. Even though it seems like it was Stephanie Erickson’s fault in the first place, the new senate is redoing it all anyway. Or maybe they just didnt want to get sued.

  4. Miles Rost says:

    Bill Bradbury’s office?

    Screw it. They do nothing.

  5. Michael G. says:

    Not only that, but it’s the Secretary of State’s office that investigates violations of Public Meetings law.

  6. Tyler says:

    Yes, Miles, that may be true, but as Greg stated, all they have to do is have the meeting again and this time adhere to the rules. And, yes, it appears as if they are going to do this.

    I would, however, love to file a grievance insisting that Erickson apologize to the Students of Faith.

  7. Miles Rost says:

    Wouldn’t be much gas. One of my good friends from the Law School is working in the AG’s office right now. *grin*

  8. Greg S. says:

    “192.680 Enforcement of ORS 192.610 to 192.690; effect of violation on validity of decision of governing body; liability of members. (1) A decision made by a governing body of a public body in violation of ORS 192.610 to 192.690 shall be voidable. The decision shall not be voided if the governing body of the public body reinstates the decision while in compliance with ORS 192.610 to 192.690. A decision that is reinstated is effective from the date of its initial adoption.”
    – I would assume that the “governing body” in this case would be the ASUO Constitution Court (correct me if I;m wrong). Thus, someone (and I assume it is going to be Tyler) would need to file a grievance which would go to the ASUO Constitution Court, which would then declare the vote invalid, and make the ASUO Senate re-elect summer committee chairs. But it looks like they are doing this (by the above post) anyway. Miles, I would save your time and gas – I dont know that the Attorney General’s office would really care about a violation of this scale.

  9. Miles Rost says:

    I think I will go down and file a grievance, and maybe contact someone from the Atty. General’s office.

    I could make it real hell for Stephanie Erickson. To which, it would be payback.

  10. Toby says:

    Where’s a walkout when you need one.

  11. Tyler says:

    Are you personal friends with any of these people, Todd? Because that’s what it takes. I mean, Nate Gulley? Seriously? Wally Hicks? Jacob Daniels? I just don’t get it.

    And we should file the grievance tomorrow. We’re not trying to be jerks about this, but I think it’s rather important to notify these people when they violate state law/federal law. Especially when they act like dicks when they’re doing it.

  12. Todd says:

    They weeded out me! The system must work!

  13. Toby says:

    Hey Ian, they really just don’t want to make anyone mad… and we know all of these people are highly qualified for these positions, why should we really question anyone being elected into positions of Senate leadership or vacant seats? Seriously, don’t you have FULL confidence in the committee (Ashley Rees, Mike Fillipelli, Sara Hamilton, and Athan Papailiou) that hired for the vacant senate seats. I mean, don’t you? Plus if the Senate leadership is being elected by the slate, I mean the senate, those senators will be critical enough to weed out the unqualified candidates….(if you didn’t catch on to the sarcasm, insert here).

    Kudos for filing a greivance by the way.

  14. Meghann says:

    I don’t think anything about this situation was “vicious” or “bitter.” It sounds like the Senate is just stupid.

  15. Stan says:

    “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics,
    because the stakes are so low.” (Wallace Sayre)

  16. Ian says:

    I cleaned up some of the code a bit. Tyler had to rush in order to get it up onto the web before we were kicked out of the EMU.

    Did I really say

  17. Miles Rost says:

    Hmmmm…first case for one of my friends, potentially?

  18. Meghann says:

    They’ll probably try to cite FERPA, the student privacy law, which would be total bullshit.

  19. Nick says:

    Did I really say “balloting”? You sure it wasn’t “outcome” or something more intelligent?

  20. Matt P. says:

    But, Mr. Graf, if they are required to release the Senate’s votes, it might hurt some people’s feelings! Is that what you want? To hurt people’s feelings?

    I have respect for the Student Senate (and the Bus Project, just as an aside…), but the law’s the law and it’s best we all follow it. Good post, sir. Thanks for the update!

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