A new system in Student Government is helping members pinpoint their roles.
The organization’s focus transitioned from outreach to product this semester in its new constitution as part of the creation of a three-branch system. Part of this change is inspired by the participation points system members must follow to stay in the organization.
Student Congress’ last leadership team replaced its former hours-based system with a points system. Students used to acquire hours by running events.
The team changed the system to make attaining points easier for members, Student Government adviser Jennifer Taylor said in an email.
Supreme Court justices attain points for writing briefs on organizations for the Program Assistance Fund and executive branch members get credit for activities including attending Arlington City Council meetings and running events.
If members do not make the required 20 points per month or miss a meeting, they receive an absence. After two or three absences, depending on the position, the members are removed from Student Government.
Five of the six Supreme Court justices who left left their seats vacant because they did not receive enough points, said Nimisha Budhwani, Supreme Court chief justice. Starting Nov. 1, the court had four members and could not make decisions as a quorum. The court had three members as of Monday.
A quorum is the number of members who must be present to make legal decisions in a governing body. Without a quorum, the court is unable to conduct hearings or recommend giving money from Student Government’s Program Assistance Fund to clubs and organizations.
Budhwani said she alone would hear organizations and recommend an amount to Taylor.
In the spring semester, the senate will put together a committee to look at revising the constitution with a policy in the event of a lack of quorum.
“We don’t want our lack of quorum to stop a student organization from being able to have their event or participate in a conference,” Taylor said.
Budhwani said resolving the difficulty in attaining points requires informing members that reaching out to organizations takes priority over tabling events.
“There was a mindset of only doing events, but we’re trying to shift it to make members do things, which are more important for their particular branch,” she said.
Student senators now get points for writing resolutions and conducting research. They get the highest number of points for writing resolutions that go to the senate’s general body or getting results from senate research.
“You didn’t get any points for research, you didn’t get any points for a bunch of different things,” Student Senate speaker Julianne Kirby said. “If you work a table for an hour, that makes sense, but if you do research and you get an hour for it, how does that equate the same as working an hour at a tabling event?”
Former nursing senator JJ Johnston said she wrote a resolution requesting spaces on campus to be used as practice rooms in order to collect participation points.
“You could say it was selfish that I wrote that for my participation points since I wouldn’t be elected by the people who that resolution affected, but it’s also good because I went out of my way to write a resolution for people that weren’t my constituents that could ultimately benefit them,” Johnston said. “I don’t think that you could say it was right or wrong.”
Johnston said she left Student Senate because she knew she would not be able to meet the point requirements.
“A lot of it was just the time commitment,” Johnston said. “With us changing from just senate to the three-branch system, I feel like there’s still a lot of growing pains with that.”
The nursing sophomore served as a committee co-chair and a lifeguard at the Maverick Activities Center. She said she left Student Senate after realizing she could not be a student, lifeguard and senator.
Nursing senator Rakin Haque said the new points system made senators become more involved in the organization. He said while initially it was difficult for members to meet the 20-point requirement, they eventually acclimated.
“It definitely makes you be more involved,” Haque said. “I believe that’s something they were going for. Having people more involved.”
Kirby said she is willing to help senators make their required points in a given month with options such as office hour opportunities.
“It’s definitely doable, but I do understand that we’re all busy,” Kirby said. “It’s just whether or not you want to have that open dialogue about it or not.”
Taylor said most of the 16 senators who left the senate cited family conflicts or a change in class schedule. She said she did not think the transition into a three-branch system was behind the number of senators leaving.
Senators are elected by students for various terms in campus elections. If vacancies remain in the senate after elections, the senate appoints students to a senator position for a six-month term. The senate cannot appoint senators after the next election-filing period begins.
Kirby said since many senators left after election filing began, the number of vacancies could not be filled, making the number of senators leaving more noticeable.