By Henry Fisher | February 20, 2023
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
The University at Albany’s Student Association (SA) overturned the third presidential veto of the academic year this week after President Enid Walker vetoed a bill concerning office hour extensions. Her veto stopped the bill from going into effect, leaving it back in the Senate to potentially be overturned. In addition, with the funds transferred last week from SA scholarships, six clubs were able to get additional funding – totaling to $2,039.
This meeting, held on Feb. 15, was initially delayed due to a fire alarm in the Campus Center, with representatives from some clubs leaving – not realizing the session would continue. The timeline for the session was shifted slightly to accommodate those who may have to leave the now-late meeting.
Though President Walker was not in attendance for this meeting, Vice President Ciarra Medrano explained the president’s reasoning behind the veto. By extending the potential office hours to 11:00 p.m. from 8:00 p.m., there is a risk of alienating students, according to President Walker. This is because of worries that SA officers would only hold late office hours or mostly hold late office hours due to the bill. Medrano also expressed that the extended office hours would weaken the executive branch when combined with vague definitions of what directors must do in their roles.
“The biggest thing is if we’re going to go ahead and change this, then there needs to be more emphasis on the checks and balances system that exists between all of our branches,” Vice President Medrano said. “I feel like we are not receiving the support from Senate that we need to run an efficient executive branch. So until that happens, I would love to see some sort of effort… if senators could stop by my office and rechange the bylaws with me that are really defining people’s jobs, that would be great.”
The presidential veto drew attention from many senators, with some offering compromises between the sponsors of the bill and the president.
Senator Selwa Khan proposed, “Resubmitting the bill with a stipulation that 30% can be outside business hours, 70% within 9:00 to 5:00.”
The sponsors of the bill, Senator Jalen Rose, Senator Amelia Crawford, and Senator Jeremy Zheng kept to the original purpose of the bill.
“The student voice does not sleep past 8:00 p.m., and if there are officers willing to accommodate that, they should,” Senator Rose said.
Arguing to maintain the bill as it was, Senator Crawford said, “The senate spoke then, and we want to reaffirm what we said,”
Much of the reasoning behind this bill was to accommodate SA directors with other jobs, which requires them to be at work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. – leaving them only 3 hours immediately after work, assuming they did not have classes or other responsibilities.
“I think that if we circle this conversation around 9:00 to 5:00, we ignore the importance of our jobs,” Vice President Medrano said.
In regards to how late the hours would be, Vice Chair Jalen Miller said, “It gives an option, it doesn’t mandate.”
“The option should be there. We know what it's like being students, having busy schedules,” said Senator Sariyah Lewis.
During the debate, Senator Dylan Klein also pointed out that, “This president has now vetoed more legislation than any other…” in at least five years.
From the research that Senator Klein presented, no other president in the past five years vetoed more than one piece of legislation.
The veto was overridden with 28 in favor of the override, three against, and one abstaining. Vice President Medrano said that she “would like to outline what each department does,” in order to make sure these extended office hours are put to good use.
The other piece of legislation passed in this session was the confirmation of James Cuddy as an associate justice of the SA Supreme Court. Senator Klein also discussed complaints concerning the Board of Finance’s short notice to club e-boards of mandatory budgeting meetings they must attend.
The clubs that received funding this meeting were the UAlbany Consulting Group ($378), the Great Dane Dance Marathon ($400), the Tango Club ($400), the Indigenous Student Association ($96), the Guild ($365), and UAlbany Best Buddies ($400).