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Student Association Elects New Senate Chair: Erin McGrath

By Henry Fisher | May 1, 2023

During last week’s special session for the University at Albany’s Student Association (SA) Senate – a session which immediately followed the normally scheduled meeting on April 26 – senators voted in Senator Erin McGrath as the new Senate Chair. After three rounds of voting, McGrath won after the concession of runner-up Senator Sean Millington and the elimination of fellow candidate Senator Jalen Miller.

Senate Chair Erin McGrath during her election speech on April 26.

Photo Credit: Maceo Foster / the ASP

“I’m really grateful to everybody who supported me up to this point,” Chair McGrath said in a brief interview with the ASP. “I’m incredibly excited to work next year with senators to accomplish the goals they want to and really make some legacy lasting changes in the Senate. I think there are some real changes that we can make to our body in the future.”

Chair McGrath succeeded Senate Chair Naishaly Vélez Galán, and will be senate chairperson for the 2023-2024 school year. In this position, McGrath will be acting as a regulator for discussion within the Senate and is able to organize committees for senators to work in.

McGrath herself is on her fourth term as a SA senator.

“My experience here over the past four years has given me a really good insight into the way that the Student Association operates and the ways that I think we could improve in the future,” Senate Chair McGrath said in her opening speech to the Senate.

McGrath spoke on what she believed the role of the senate chairperson should be, saying, “A little bit of my philosophy on the chair. All of you were elected, and we elect senators to advocate for students, but we elect a chair to advocate for the senators, to make this space for you all to do the advocacy work that you want to do.”

The new chair’s goals included maintaining rule consistency within the Senate, citing times that senators hold student groups “to the letter of our laws” when they apply for funding – even though McGrath believes the Senate has had “a habit of picking and choosing” when they’d like to follow their own rules. Chair McGrath stated that she did not wish to block changes to the bylaws, but to follow the rules as they are presently written.

McGrath also emphasized collaboration between senators, though she felt passionately for her third major goal: a digital legislative management system. This, McGrath believed, would cut down on time spent in long bureaucratic processes.

“A digital legislative management system would allow us to upload our Constitution and our bylaws to a third party location. Anytime anybody wanted to make a resolution, they would write the legislation, we would collaborate on it together, and if it was approved, it would automatically be sent and made available to the public. If you were to [change a bylaw], all the formatting would already be there, all of the transparent editing policy points would already be there.” McGrath said. “If we implement this policy, senators wouldn’t have to waste their time worrying about formatting, they wouldn’t have to waste their time worrying about if they’re doing the right thing – they only have to worry about their advocacy… and the content of their legislation.”

Chair McGrath has stated that while she has multiple contingencies – including using a program used by the European Union or creating one in collaboration with UAlbany students – the program she is currently in the talks of using is LegisPro, the same program used by the US House of Representatives. McGrath has stated that while it may not be in the budget, she has gotten in contact with the president of the company that runs LegisPro, Xcential.

Later senators were able to ask questions, with Senator Ethan Madappatt asking what trait each candidate believed defined them amongst the other candidates.

“It’s important that I emphasize some kind of lifelong learning. I’ve been here a really long time, and when you’ve been here a long time, it’s easy to get comfortable, but I’m always learning new things about the Student Association and about the campus. I think being hungry for more knowledge…is one of the most important parts…. Redistribute the knowledge and grow together as a body, because I don’t know everything – you don’t know everything. It’s important to be humble enough to recognize when you have places to grow and improve,” Chair McGrath said.


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