By Shawn Ness | November 20, 2023
Senate Chairwoman Erin McGrath (at podium) talking to Senator Timothy Goldsmith.
Photo Credit: Shawn Ness / The ASP
At the University at Albany’s Student Association (SA) senate meeting Wednesday, Nov. 15, senators passed emergency legislation that revoked the club recognition of UAlbany Women’s Rugby after the UAlbany Office of Community Standards (OCS) found the group in violation of hazing policies. The bill passed with 29 “yes” votes, and three abstentions.
OCS hears complaints when a student is in violation of UAlbany’s student code of conduct. They meet with students and/or student organizations if they receive a complaint, according to the office’s website. Sanctions for hazing can include terminal disciplinary probation, removal from residence, suspension, and dismissal.
According to SA’s bylaws, an organization’s recognition can be revoked if “the President or a Senator has other reasons to believe that the group is no longer qualified to be recognized.”
Senator Dylan Klein took issue with the bill, saying “If they’re not here to defend themselves, how can we adequately review this piece of legislation? I am guaranteeing a majority of the people in this room don’t know what happened. I am one of those people, This would not be an upholding due process and what SA is about… and something like this could potentially open us up to a lawsuit.”
Klein also believed that discussing what he referred to as the “sensitive nature” of the bill, and therefore should not be heard by members of the public. Though he made a motion to remove members of the public from the meeting and to end the livestream, he would later revoke the motion.
“It’s not a secret. It’s already out, there’s nothing sensitive here to discuss,” Senate Chairwoman Erin McGrath said. “This is merely a matter of us recognizing what the university has already decided.”
SA Comptroller Jason Lisciandro reminded Senator Klein that the club had already been investigated by OCS and found in violation of hazing policies. The findings from the investigation are not publicly available. “These investigations are handled internally. There are laws and procedures regarding what information can be said, what you can be told is that hazing has occurred within the organization.”
The derecognition of the club means they are no longer allowed to apply for funding. This specific bill would not allow them to apply for funding until the spring of 2025. It also stops them from renting rooms on campus to host meetings (which the group could no longer do regardless of SA taking action).
These punishments were also levied by OCS after the investigation, “[this bill] says that we are also saying that they are not allowed to group on campus. The university has already in effect disbanded the club,” Chairwoman McGrath said.
“Hazing is hazing,” Senator Quincy Stern said. The statement received many table knocks, which is SA’s form of a clap. “I don’t know why there’s any debate over whether or not we should take this into consideration because it’s our job to make students feel safe on campus… Everything has already been proven, we’re the final blow where we kinda just take the sticker [of recognition] off.”
Senator Ethan Siegal echoed those statements, saying “If the university’s finding evidence of hazing, it’s reasonable to believe that they have facts and evidence.”
The Senate considered a number of other bills, including one entitled “Preventing Constituent Abandonment & Election Abuse Act,” which would make it so that Senators are unable to run for reelection for a seat that they had previously resigned from. The bill, sponsored by Senator Klein, failed with 10 “yes” votes, and 18 “no” votes.
Senators Fiona Facciolonga and Trevor Pettit, among others, spoke out against the bill because of its narrow scope, saying that it should be amended to be in effect for only one semester instead of an entire academic year for Senators who resigned if they are studying abroad or for an internship. Senate Rules and Administration Chair Jalen Miller furthered the statement saying that SA should not be dictating who students can and cannot vote for.
The body heard a Presidential Veto bill that would require the President to either sign or veto a bill within six business days of the bill hitting the President’s desk, if the President does not take action against a bill in that time period it becomes law.
Senator Klein objected to the bill being considered at all, citing that President Jalen Rose was not consulted. McGrath clarified saying that the bill does not need President Rose’s signature, further saying that the Executive Committee posed no objections to the bill. Klein also took specific objection to the time frames outlined in the bill, saying that it is not something SA needs to do at the moment.
Senator Miller made a motion to table the bill until the next Senate meeting, which no one objected to. It will be considered again on Nov. 29.
The Senate also voted to pass the Senate Session Code of Conduct Reformation Act which would prevent Senators from advertising campaigns during meetings. The bill passed with 31 “yes” votes and a single “no” vote. They also considered an attendance bylaw change, which would formalize the process of excusing absences, which Senator Miller described is already common practice, the bill would simply put it into writing. It passed with 29 “yes” votes and four “no” votes.
The Committee on Rules and Administration, Ethics, Community Engagement and Outreach (CEO), and the Appropriations Committee all voted to assign additional members after the conclusion of the Fall Special Election. Rules received three new members, Ethics added one additional member, CEO received one new member, and Appropriations received two new members.