The Fairfield University Student Association Senate passed two bills that they hope will allow for a better cooperation between themselves and the executive branch of FUSA.
The bills were presented by the head sponsor, Senator Noah Richardson ‘23, at the general meeting on Wednesday night, Nov. 13. The first bill, 56-001, is titled “A Bill to Require Weekly Executive Reports Be Delivered to the Senate.” The second bill presented, 56-002, is titled “A Bill to Establish the Senate’s Subpoena Authority.”
“My hope is that since we passed both of these bills that we’re going to have a future of better transparency in the executive branch and that in the future we’re going to be able to make much more effective policies as a result.” said Richardson.
These two bills were revised versions of the bills that were passed at the last General Senate Meeting on Oct. 30. Those bills were passed by the Senate, but vetoed by President Claire Monahan ‘20. The sponsors of the current bills worked with the President Monahan to create the compromises found in the new bills. The biggest change, as explained by Senators Ali Haidar ‘21, Colin Townsend ‘21 and John Stalzer ‘22, all sponsors of the bills, was that any accusatory language against the current executive branch was removed.
In an email following the Senate meeting on Wednesday, Monahan said, “I’m always happy to work with senators on legislation and initiatives. I really appreciate all the senators I met with taking the time to hear my concerns about the bills and try to incorporate them into the amendments.”
Both revised bills proposed at Wednesday’s meeting were amended further during debate with the motion being called for by Haidar. In terms of how much time was allotted to the executive branch to submit reports, the wording originally read “academic, non-holiday days,” which Haidar said can be misleading. The amendment removed “non-holiday.” A similar amendment was added to Bill 56-002, adding the word “academic” to describe the days allotted to recipients of subpoenas to gather the requested documents.
Bill 56-001 passed with 15 votes in favor, 0 opposed and 2 abstentions. Bill 56-002 passed with 13 votes in favor, 2 opposed and 2 abstentions.
During the debate over Bill 56-002, Parliamentarian Teresa Sauer ‘20 said, “I want to commend everyone for working with the President, but I don’t agree with this bill because I don’t think it is necessary to execute our responsibilities.”
Sauer expanded on her opinion via email three days after the meeting, saying, “The original preamble to Bill 56-002 mischaracterized the present Executive branch as secretive by stating ‘in past years, and, in some cases, the past weeks, requests for documents…were not furnished.’ To my knowledge, no formal requests were made in the past few weeks which were not furnished by the Executive branch. When I commended the Senate for working with the President, I was commending the edits they made which more accurately framed the reasoning behind the bill’s creation.”
“However, I could not give my support to the bill, even with the proposed edits, because it states that the Senate ‘requires these forms [from other branches] in order to adequately execute its responsibilities,’” said Sauer. “It is my firm opinion that the Senate’s dedicated efforts should be placed towards advocating for the student body and improving the Fairfield University community rather than policing the other branches who have, to my knowledge, not failed in the responsible execution of their own duties.”
“The bill is framed around a problem which does not currently exist in order to give the Senate powers which it should not need in order to adequately fulfill its primary responsibilities,” continued Sauer.
“We don’t want to have a fight with the executive branch, that’s not what we are here to do, we are here to serve the students of course. So, this compromise was to prevent any escalation that could have happened,” said Speaker Tyler Heffern ‘22, following the meeting and the passing of the bills.
Prior to the business with these bills, the issue of sustainability was a major topic during the public comment section. Sophomore Matthew Little, an Associate Justice in FUSA, came up and spoke about how Fairfield is not doing enough in terms of sustainability. He was prepared for questions by having Fairfield University’s Sustainability Plan pulled up on his laptop and knowing its content. Little expressed the urgency of this issue by taking the campus’ location near the water into consideration.
“We are the Jesuit university that’s going to be the most affected by climate change, yet we are the university doing the least about it,” Little said.
Little proposed the idea of having FUSA create a task force dedicated to making the campus more focused on sustainable options, such as motion lights, encouraging stair use rather than electricity for elevators, and ways to reduce waste, such as water bottle filler stations in all buildings . He explained that having the students unite against any possible lack of action happening now, there is a much larger chance that something will be done.
“Fairfield University’s sustainability plan is good in that it encompasses more than just facilities, it really encourages the creation of a student that is passionate about sustainability. But, where the sustainability plan fails is that the university just simply isn’t following it,” Little said in a post-interview. “It speaks about putting ultrasonic sensors into some buildings to turn off lights as buildings are being renovated and that just has not been done. The university really needs to be held accountable for where they have failed to follow their own plan.”
Little’s concerns and suggestions were well-received by many of the senators.
“It is certainly a student issue that we care about. I know I care about sustainability, and many other members of the senate care about sustainability, and his goal was essentially to provoke a greater discussion on sustainability and specifically creating a task-force that is inter branch and interboard within FUSA,” said Heffern.
In a post-interview, Heffern spoke of his hopes to work with the executive branch in an effort to create the kind of task force that Little spoke of, and to begin creating something “concrete” that will allow progress to start being made. He explained the likelihood of starting with small things first, that can be done now, like water bottle fillers in the residence halls to encourage the use of reusable bottles, and then eventually getting to big solutions such as the motion lights that Little mentioned appear in the university’s plan.
The meeting on Wednesday night ended in a manner much less serious than the matters that were discussed. Sauer called for a motion to suspend dress code at the Dec. 4 general senate meeting to wear “holiday dress” instead. When questioned about what “holiday dress” entails, her answer was simply “ugly sweaters.”