The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) Senate unanimously passed an amendment to the senate bylaws aiming to more strictly enforce attendance at meetings.
At the April 24 GUSA meeting senators voted in favor for the new amendment which strips senators who have three or more unexcused absences of their voting power at GUSA Senate meetings. Senators who meet this threshold will be required to meet with the GUSA Senate’s Ethics and Oversight Committee, which aims to investigate and discipline GUSA officials on issues such as attendance and decorum, to discuss their attendance before further action is taken.
The new protocol will take effect beginning next senate term in the fall.
Ethics and Oversight Committee Chair Senator Dominic Gordon (SFS ’23), who helped to co-author the amendment, said low attendance from senators has prevented the senate from carrying out its duties.
For every senator who loses their voting privileges, the voting quorum will decrease by one, so a senator’s failure to attend will not affect GUSA’s ability to enact legislation, Gordon said.
On average, only 80% of senators attend weekly GUSA meetings, further decreasing the number of senators required to block a bill from passing, according to Gordon.
“The bigger issue is that a lot of our business still requires quorum,” Gordon said. “Even if we get about 80% or 90% of senators, we still need a two-thirds majority of all senators to change the bylaws, put a constitutional amendment up, or certify the results of an election. If the number of senators present gets down to, say 23, then only a few senators are needed to block something from passing, which is incredibly frustrating.”
People have taken advantage of the senate’s current lenient attendance policies, Gordan said.
“There’s a few people in there who really took advantage of this situation and kind of abused it,” Gordon said in an interview with The Hoya. “But it’s also very hard because it’s kind of confusing on how to deal with this issue in our bylaws.”
Gordon said low involvement from senators has contributed to GUSA’s inefficiency when it comes to enacting change.
“A lot of times, what I find is some of the senators that always whine the most about GUSA not doing the most are the people that do the least,” Gordon said. “We waste so much time when people just skip meetings because they don’t want to vote on something, or they are mad about something.”
Gordon believes that by threatening to suspend voting privileges senators will be compelled to regularly attend meetings.
“A lot of people who like to miss meetings still like to vote on important issues and just miss other meetings they don’t care about,” Gordon said. “I figure, if we can punish them by taking away their vote on issues they do care about, then they’d be incentivized to vote on issues that everybody else is working on, so they don’t skip meetings.”
John DiPierri (SFS ’25), who co-sponsored the amendment, said the resolution aims to introduce an alternative method of holding senators accountable for their attendance other than impeachment.
“While I don’t know of any Senators who have been impeached recently due to attendance, technically, a Senator can be impeached if they have three unexcused absences, a quota which many Senators have already reached,” DiPierri wrote to The Hoya. “I think losing the right to vote is a good first step to allow Senators to discuss their situation with the Ethics and Oversight Committee, as to prevent high turnover within the Senate.”
Ethics and Oversight Committee Vice Chair Joshua Bernard-Pearl (SFS ’25), who co-authored the resolution, l said it will be an effective tool to deter senators from skipping meetings in future terms.
“The hope is that by passing this at the end of this senate term we can go into the next term with a culture of responsibility around attendance. In regards to whether losing the right to vote will be effective, I think it will be,” Bernard-Pearl wrote to The Hoya. “For those senators who want to remain in the senate, it is a warning and a message that their absences do matter.”
DiPierri said student leaders must be held accountable for their attendance in order to adequately represent the student body.
“Simply put, it’s a shame that we have to create a rule to force people to be part of a club that they campaigned for,” DiPierri wrote. “However, this is exactly why I cosponsored this bill, because the Senate needs all 29 members to ensure student voices are being heard, and so meaningful activism can be accomplished.”