The Senate meetings are where all the action happens with the Associated Student Government. This is the place where every new piece of legislation is proposed and where every public debate happens.
For the second year, the man presiding over the action is Kris Zibert, the ASG Senate chair. There are few others in the executive branch with as much experience as Zibert. Although he doesn’t like to talk about it, Zibert has been working closely with ASG for three years, first as a freshman senator, then as a parliamentarian for both the Senate and the Residential Interhouse Commerce and now as chair of the Senate.
“This is my last hurrah,” said Zibert, who will finish his degree in engineering this year.
Zibert said his position “is a pretty technical job,” which requires him to know an incredible amount of rules and procedures.
“It’s been said the chair needs to make sure all the rights [of each senator] are maintained [and] everyone gets to properly debate. I have to do my best to stick to neutrality as I work in the chair,” he said.
The rules and procedures Zibert refers to are Robert’s Rules of Order, which dictate the rules for basic parliamentary procedures for everything from City Councils to the U.S. Senate.
Past debates have been heated exchanges between senators of opposing opinions, and it has been the chair’s job to keep order.
But Zibert’s job is more than just keeping the Senate technically together during meetings, he said.
His job is also to serve as the liaison between the senate and the outside world, particularly the executive branch and the public, he said.
“I’m there to represent what the Senate feels,” Zibert said. “I’m elected by the Senate, so I feel I have to be proactive in getting what the Senate needs and what they want,”
There are a few things that the Senate wants, and is working on for the benefit of other UA students, like the executives, he said.
The Senate is working on making students’ money work as effectively and efficiently as possible, Zibert said.
Specifically, the Senate is going to begin studying how much students are paying for the Union to operate, and how to lower the amount they have to pay to keep it running, he said.
“Every year, students are paying more of the percentage and total cost [of running the union],” he said.
Zibert wants the Senate to look at the Union and see if students are getting the same use out of it as they are putting into it monetarily, he said.
“It’s small things like raising the temperature by two degrees” in the summer and lowering the temperature in the winter, that save students hundreds of dollars, Zibert said.
As chair of the Senate, Zibert also wants to make the Senate committees “a larger part of the legislative process” – a wish echoed by the other executives, he said.
When senators who participate in more roundtable discussions and committees are the ones that bring new legislation to the entire Senate, then there is less of a change of lackluster and “random” ideas.
There is eagerness in Zibert’s voice, especially when talking about having a productive year in the Senate chambers.
Zibert was around when ASG went through its messy shake up three years ago, and is ready to see the student representative body move on, he said.
“I think we’re still in the rebuilding stage. Yeah it’s been three years but it’s still only been three years,” he said.
ASG – both the executive and the legislative branch – have spent a good amount of time with their publicity. Zibert is ready to move on to helping students instead of “rebuilding,” he said.
“That sort of base, [that] foundation, has been laid,” said Zibert, who credits most of the good publicity to the other executives.
“These are the most proactive executives I have seen or worked with. They’re up here working their butts off,” he said.
But Zibert doesn’t seem eager to be an executive of that nature.
“The president [position] is not for me,” Zibert said. “With the chair position you can get down and dirty.”
– Arkansas Traveler, Sept. 25, 2006
[Original profile available here.]