ASUC Senate to re-evaluate virtual meeting attendance

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During its Wednesday meeting, the ASUC Senate decided to withdraw and redraft a bill that would allow senators to virtually attend meetings.

SR-11, a bill to allow virtual attendance of meetings, was first discussed in the Government and Internal Affairs Committee. SQUELCH! Senator Sina Rashidi, the primary sponsor, withdrew his bill after senate discussion on revising it.

The bill’s amendments would have allowed senators to virtually attend meetings with prior approval. The senator would have to ensure that all technology is set up prior to the meeting so that the senate is not hindered by technology failures, and the senator’s standards for attendance would not change.

Requirements surrounding attendance at meetings have recently come into question. Last year, two senators faced potential removal from office because of absences. The current ASUC Constitution states senator absences from meetings may be excused for certain academic, religious or health-related reasons.

Rashidi said he has had stressful experiences in the past when trying to excuse absences he accumulated while applying to graduate programs.

Executive Vice President Lavanya Jawaharlal explained academic commitment absences are given only if they would directly affect one’s academic grade at UC Berkeley. Jawaharlal said she had all 20 senators sign a form saying they understood what an excused absence is in the spring.

“The idea of virtual attendance has a lot of issues,” Jawaharlal said. “The ASUC currently doesn’t have the technology to do this, and accessibility to technology is also an issue — how can we make sure senators have access to technology wherever they are?” 

Former SQUELCH! senator Madison Gordon, a co-sponsor of the bill, believes the bill “would allow senators to participate fully in the meeting, even when they’re away.”

“Every year, we have a few issues with attendance because the policy about senate attendance was draconian,” Gordon said. “This bill could alleviate that.”

Chief Technology Officer Mihir Patil noted in an email, however, that the office of the CTO is working on several projects and that allocation of engineers to SR-11 would not be practical. 

According to Patil, the office is working on both the ASUC mobile app and the website Berkeleytime, which has nearly 10,000 user accounts.

“The project proposed by SB-11 will impact at most 20 people each year, and that too only for very specific circumstances,” Patil said in the email. “This disparity in impact makes the implementation of SB 11 by (the CTO office) logistically infeasible for the foreseeable future.”

If Rashidi crafts a new version of the bill, it will be re-examined by the Government and Internal Affairs Committee before going through the senate.

“At the end of the day, I am working to make sure all students have equal opportunity on the senate floor,” Rashidi said.

Jessie Qian covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessieq96.