Cabinet No-Shows Sink the Student Vote

Rebekah Hwang/Guardian

Attendance doesn’t usually count in college. Your biology professor won’t notice if you don’t show up to your 300-person lecture, and there’s little consequence to ditching a dorm meeting besides missing out on a free slice of pizza.

But when you’re an A.S. councilmember who earned the student body’s vote on enthusiastic promises of change and visibility, the very least you can do is make an appearance at your own weekly meeting.

Showing up is a minimum requirement that — according to A.S. Advocate General Parminder Sandhu — many A.S. councilmembers have been struggling to meet. Four members are one absence away from the council’s three-absence maximum, and six have surpassed it. Sandhu now plans to nominate them for impeachment at the A.S. Council meeting during Week Four.

And rightfully so. In a perfect world, the councilmembers we elected last year would gauge their peers’ perspectives, then vote accordingly at meetings. But if members aren’t even showing up for meetings, it’s likely they’re not surveying the general public. And if they’re not surveying the general public, they’re probably not doing much else.

True, a handful of councilmembers have still been productive outside of weekly meetings. But their absence also slows the council’s progress on collaborative initiatives by necessitating repeat information.

We understand that discussing referenda language for six hours isn’t the most stimulating way to spend a Wednesday night, but there’s more to being a student representative than making posters and designing bear paraphernalia. All A.S. councilmembers knew what they were signing up for when they ran for election, and if they aren’t honoring their commitment, they don’t deserve to buffer their resume with some official-sounding position any longer.

According to Sandhu, excusing an absence prior to a meeting is as simple as saying “I have a class.” You’d think the impeachable councilmembers would at least care enough to lie about why they’re ditching.

Problem is, the council threatens to impeach no-shows almost every year, but never does. In 2008-09, Campuswide Senator Henry David Ritcherson missed the vast majority of meetings, but no one noticed. By the time his absences finally came up in Spring Quarter, there was so little time left that no one wanted to impeach him.

Maybe this year it’ll be different, but — despite the fact that A.S. President Utsav Gupta’s supports Sondhu’s impeachment nominations — the A.S. General Advocate still needs two-thirds of council’s approval to move the process along. Considering a majority of members don’t want to upset their cushy, noncommittal community or endanger their own right to ditch out, it’s unlikely anyone will be voted off the island.

Furthermore, even the nonvoting members — who have accumulated a good amount of absences themselves — have submitted an amendment to the council’s Standing Rules that would eliminate their obligation to come to meetings altogether.

What can we say that’s not painstakingly obvious? Don’t run for office if you’re not planning on showing up to meetings. Make the impeachment of voting councilmembers who’ve exceeded the limit a more executive decision. Maybe then they might show enough commitment to lie and say they’re having car troubles. It’s the least our representatives can do to show one of their only obligations some scrap of respect.

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