Impeach’em All, Elect Nobody!

Impeach’em All, Elect Nobody!

…That’s what a bumper sticker stuck on a stop sign near West Fork on some dead-end street says. I was inclined to disagree with that statement concerning our student government until Tuesday’s chaotic meeting.

Why, Lord? Why does our Associated Student Government get so far before falling back down?

Our dedicated and loyal ASG had been doing so well, until my representatives proved either they were starving to be corrupt or blissfully ignorant, when they turned down a bill to improve their ethics and prevent conflicts of interest.

I warned inbreeding among the ASG and various groups and Registered Student Organizations would result in something ugly.

I hate being proved right.

The ethics bill, authored by President Phil Brick, offered hope in preventing blatant conflicts of interest whether they are done out of intentional manipulation or sheer ignorance. The argument from several of our representatives that the bill’s wording was too narrow or prevented senators to do their work is logical but fails to completely cover their true intentions.

I’ve been on a strict and legal diet of narcotics and I cover ASG for The Traveler, so I had to be at the meeting, but any fool insane enough to attend the meeting would have seen that the “inquisitive” questions by senators opposed to the bill were full of disdain and loathing for a bill that might hold them accountable for their numerous violations of ethical codes.

Beside the multitude of examples I have given in previous articles, an ironically amusing case arose during the meeting moments before the bill was presented. Senator Adrielle Churchill was nominated, gave a speech and was approved to be a part of an investigating committee looking into possible ethics violations by Senator Sarah Hudson, who is Churchill’s sister in Pi Beta Phi.

A Greek conspiracy?

I doubt it. But it was entertaining to hear Churchill oppose the conflicts of interest bill so adamantly.

If actions like Churchill’s weren’t done out of intentional manipulation, then the only other option is they were done out of ignorance.

This theory is as easy to prove as shooting fish in a barrel or using ASG’s online voting process. When senators from the elections committee innocently violate ethics by making nominations for positions, or, as I overhead last night, one senator in cahoots to get around Blake Pennington’s filibuster asking an educated senator what “filibuster” meant, odds are good for the latter.

Only one sentence concerning conflict of interest in the ASG’s code. Brick’s bill, along with the heroic support of Robbie Jones and Blake Pennington – two men on opposite sides of the political spectrum – is what ASG needs to prevent both ignorance and malice.

Without specific rules, there could be something close to chaos, as Tuesday’s filibuster showed. Fact is, both the Booster Club and Friends of India did not receive money because of clear rules in the appropriations code.

Both groups had justifiable reasons as to why they should get the money not approved to them. Thanks to Jones’ and Pennington’s insistence to stick to rules and procedure during debate over the appropriations bills, the UA is not liable to be sued for preferential treatment.

By the time ASG got to the appropriations bill, I was tired and the narcotics had kicked in hard. So to be fair, my senses were not up to par, but there seemed to be a much warmer reception for the Booster Club appeal, made by Senator Kristi Hunter, who is on the much-spotlighted elections committee and sister to Churchill and Hudson at Pi Beta Phi.

The amendment passed with hardly a protest, which cannot be said for the presentation senator and member of the impotent Public Relations Committee, Ranjit Mane, of Satara, India, an obvious outsider – in every sense of the word – to ASG. Mane had an up-hill battle when pushing for funding for the Diwali banquet, an event that has proved a perennial success for 37 years.

The explicit rules and codes, on which Pennington and Jones so insisted and prevented ASG from getting into serious trouble, exist for the same reason ASG needs to have legislation for conflicts of interest.

Not all the members of ASG are malicious or ignorant, and like most stereotyped groups, once you get to know the members, most of them are good people. Regardless, ASG took a few steps back Tuesday.

That politically opinionated stop sign near West Fork was also marked with a hit from a 20-gauge shot gun. I pray it’s not a sick metaphor for my journalistic career after this napalm fire-bombing column. I fear I’ll never be able to walk back on those bridges.

Most importantly, I pray it’s not a metaphor for the newly reconstructed ASG. The students on campus need a stable representative body with rules and effective action.

[Original piece available here.]

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