SBA Welcomes New Senators
On September 23, just after 11pm, the Student Bar Association executive board announced the new student representatives selected students to fill five senator positions. While applications for the senator positions were opened to the full student body this year, the selection of senators has in the past been an opaque process performed largely outside of both the SBA bylaws and the SBA Constitution.
Under the SBA Constitution, there should be four SBA Senators appointed, selected from 2Ls, 3Ls, and 4Ls. The Constitution further states that senator applications must be opened to the student body no later than May 1, more than three months before the applications were opened in at least the last four academic years.
“In the official bylaws of the SBA, it says this is supposed to happen in May of the year before, which doesn’t make sense because in May, [students are] taking finals and graduating,” SBA President Amanda Yu said. “So that doesn’t actually happen. So every year every SBA just votes and changes it to whatever they want.”
“The bylaws are very out of date,” Yu added.
In an email, Yu wrote that the executive board changed the senator selection process according to Article IV of the SBA Constitution, which requires a two-thirds vote of the board to make any changes.
According to Yu, this year’s executive board opened the application process in early September to the whole student body in an effort to attract students who were interested and qualified, but whom the board may not have known.
Yu said that the executive board is unsure how the senators were selected in the past, but knows that there were not open applications last year.
“We do not have records from the years past and none of the current board was a part of those proceedings,” Yu said in an email.
Several students were selected throughout last year to fill various duties that needed to be performed, but no application process was formalized and no open call was made to the student body. In 2011, the executive board had opened three positions (Technology, Class Gift, and Events Senators) to the student body but received few responses.
The email announcement, also sent in September, explained that the SBA was making an effort to streamline its operations by significantly reducing the number of people involved, but offered students an opportunity to propose additional positions.
“We had a number of conversations and used the senator positions to fill in gaps,” said Diana Schaffner, former SBA Vice President of the 2011-2012 academic year. “The class gift and Barrister senators were also an effort to get people involved in things they seemed to care a lot about.”
In 2010, the SBA started recruiting senators in mid-August, but didn’t specify specific offices. The announcement email simply asked for a one-paragraph “description” of why the applicant wanted the position and “any ideas you have for the SBA.”
“I don’t think there is much institutional memory for how senators are picked,” said Will Cooper-Daub, former SBA President for the 2011-2012 academic year. “The SBA constitution doesn’t provide a whole lot of guidance either.”
According to Cooper-Daub, the 2011 executive board took on some senators even before the application period simply because students expressed interest, and everyone who applied later was given a position as well.
“Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that we were particularly transparent,” said Cooper-Daub, who also started the first SBA blog to share executive board decisions with the student body. “But, it also kind of seemed like nobody was that interested in senatorships anyway.”
This year, the new SBA senators are Kate Chiucchini as Bar Night Senator, Kathleen O’Hare as Student Life Senator, Erica Zaragoza as Events Senator, Jeffrey Chu as Technology Senator, and Zachary Zetlin as Class Gift Senator.
The SBA declined to release the number of applications they received for the senator positions.
–by David Harvey, Editor in Chief