At senate meetings, ASUC commission chairs not regularly present

Cheyenne Tex/Staff

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According to ASUC Senate agendas, several ASUC commission chairs have not been attending ASUC Senate meetings, leading to a discussion of potential legislative reforms regarding the commissions.

According to the ASUC bylaws, the commission chairs — each of which are associated with an executive or appointed officer but maintain functional autonomy — must appear for oral reports for at least one of every four senate meetings. The chairs must also submit a written report before each regular senate meeting occurring in an even-numbered week of the semester.

“When chairs of commissions don’t show up, there is a hit to legitimacy to a lot of the elected officials,” said Corinne Biencourt, chair of the ASUC Sexual Violence Commission. “It means members of the ASUC don’t have clarity on what they are working on.”

Biencourt added that commission chairs do a lot of work during transition periods, even if they are not present at the meetings.

Biencourt alleged that there is a systematic lack of training for chairs regarding their roles and responsibilities.

Maria Sanders, chair of the ASUC Financial Wellness Commission, said in an email that she recommends commissions have a scheduled time to give their reports during senate meetings, so they would not have to wait “several hours” to present reports. She added that unlike senators, commission members are unpaid.

While Sanders said she believes commissions can do influential work besides giving a presentation at the beginning of ASUC meetings, she added that attending ASUC meetings is required. Attending meetings allows commissions to remain in compliance with the bylaws, improve relationships between the senators and commissions and increase transparency, according to Sanders.

In the past, senators have offered suggestions for the commission projects, such as working to find ways to provide new students with personal finance information prior to stepping foot on campus, according to Sanders. Commission members have taken these suggestions and worked with organizations to incorporate new financial literacy measures for incoming students, such as a new finance seminar offered during Golden Bear Orientation.

“I do believe that it is very beneficial to show up at times when we are able to report back to the senate because we are separate entities,” said Cynthia Garcia Villalta, chair of the ASUC Intimate Partner Violence Commission. “I get good feedback when I show up.”

ASUC meetings are very long, according to Villalta, who said she is concerned about her safety walking back by herself late at night after meetings.

The commissions have been regularly reminded that attendance is required, according to ASUC Executive Vice President Andy Theocharous. He added that commission chairs who have not been consistently attending may lose their positions.

The Police Oversight and Mental Health Commission chairs will be temporarily replaced because of a lack of attendance at meetings, according to Theocharous.

“I think their presence is very important and they need to attend the meetings,” Theocharous said.

Commissions that have allegedly never attended meetings include the Housing Commission, Police Oversight Commission and Sustainability Team, according to Theocharous. He added that because of a lack of communication with commissions, he is not sure of the exact reasons why they are not attending, but that there are plans to reform the commission.

“Not showing up and being diligent to report on the work shows that the ASUC cannot perform,” Theocharous alleged. “Some are due to indifference, that is my assumption.”

Contact Nina Narahari at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ninanarahari_dc.