The senators elected to USF St. Petersburg Student Government are supposed to represent the student body in their meetings. But they can’t do that if they don’t show up.
According to section 5.1 of the Senate Rules of Procedures 2015-2016, members are expected to attend all meetings of the General Assembly and their two assigned committees.
So how reliable have the 17 senators been this semester?
When The Crow’s Nest graded the senators’ attendance records, it found that most have done well. But a few did not.
One of them is Vice President-elect Sam Goetz, who had the second worst attendance rate. Goetz has since filed for a leave of absence from the senate for the remainder of the semester and warned that he might not be able to serve as vice president.
“If my academics are not improved by the term for which I have been elected, I may have to make arrangements for a replacement,” said Goetz. “I sincerely appreciate the opportunities afforded to me by the student body in the senate and the role of vice president.
“However, it would be selfish of me to accept an office to which I would be unable to be unconditionally devoted due to my academic circumstances.”
With two exceptions, senators are not paid. The senate president (now Emilie Morris) is budgeted to make $7,290 in the 2017-2018 academic year and the president pro tempore (now Ysatis Jordan) $5,467.50.
Senators can be kicked out of office if they miss the first two GA meetings with unexcused absences. But after that, there is no penalty for senators who don’t show up for meetings.
When senators miss a committee or assembly meeting, they are marked unexcused or excused in the beginning and end of senate roll call.
Senators who are unable to make their committee meeting are not uncommon, and they can be asked to move to a different committee that better fits their schedule.
“If a senator needs to miss a meeting, he or she has to give 24-hour notice of their absence,” said Morris. “But ultimately, there’s another clause that states that it is up to the chair whether it’s excused or unexcused. It depends on the situation. Life does happen.”
A senator’s request for an excused absence can be as formal as an email or as informal as a text message.
Although there is no limit to the number of excused absences allowed, Morris explained that when she notices a senator has many absences, she reaches out to see if the senator needs help.
“We’re very understanding about academics and things that pop up in life,” she said.
According to Morris, the most important part of being a senator is communication with constituents and other senate members.
“If they’re not communicating what’s going on in SG [to students] or communicating to SG about what students are asking for, then I’d say they’re ineffective,” said Morris.
The Crow’s Nest graded each of the 17 senators based on their attendance during General Assembly and committee meetings and assigned each a letter grade.
Two senators received failing grades. One senator passed by a hair, but most senators scored well.
The Crow’s Nest graded senators based on their number of absences. Starting with a base score of 100, each unexcused absence subtracts 10 points and each excused absence subtracts 2.5 points. Showing up late to a meeting counts the same as an excused absence.
We graded General Assembly attendance and committee meetings separately and then averaged out the two totals to determine each senator’s score.
Example: Lina Montoya has three excused General Assembly absences, bringing her GA score to 92.5. She also has three excused absences in her committee meetings and another unexcused one, giving her a score of 82.5. The average of those two scores is 87.5.
Emilie Morris, senate president (97.5)
She began the spring semester as acting senate president. She has since been voted into the position. She has a perfect GA attendance and has two excused absences from her committee meetings.
Ysatis Jordan, senate president pro tempore (95)
She has one excused absence in GA and has two excused absences in committee meetings. She has showed up late to one committee meeting. She was recently elected to her position as pro tempore. During the first part of the semester, she served as vice chair of the appropriations committee.
Scott Mange, former president pro tempore (92.5)
He has missed two GA meetings, one excused and one unexcused. He has shown up late to one committee meeting. He served as acting president pro temp for most of the spring semester.
Kaedan Kelso, senator (100)
He is the only senator with a perfect attendance record. He is a freshman who was elected to the senate last fall.
Sasha Rambo, senator (resigned) (97.5)
She missed only one committee meeting and showed up to another late. She said that even though she wasn’t paid, she thought of her position as a job.
“Whether I was being paid or not did not matter to because I knew that the work I was putting in was to better the student body and the school,” said Rambo. “I made it a point to be present at as many meetings as possible. “The world, or school in this case, is only run by those who show up.”
Christine Pierre, senator (97.5)
Ranking among the best, she has shown up late to only one GA meeting and had an excused absence for a second one. She is a freshman senator who was elected in the fall.
Mariah McQueen, policy committee chair (97.5)
She has two excused absences, one in GA and one in a committee meeting.
Kevin Castle, policy committee vice chair (93.75)
He has one unexcused absence in GA meetings and one excused absence in committee meetings.
Bill O’Connor, senator (resigned) (90)
He missed two GA meetings with excused absences and one committee meeting unexcused, along with another excused absence.
Anthony Cook, university and community affairs committee chair (90)
He had an unexcused absence and three excused absences in GA. He also has one excused absence in a committee meeting.
Jared Bolton, senator (81.25)
He has missed only one GA meeting with an excused absence, but he’s missed three of the four University and Communication Affairs Committee meetings with unexcused absences.
Lina Montoya, senator (87.5)
She has missed three GA meetings with excused absences. She missed three committee meetings with excused absences and one with an unexcused absence.
Albert Moreno, appropriations committee chair (87.5)
He has the most excused absences with eight total. However, Moreno has never had an unexcused absence. He explained that his responsibilities as a parent can conflict with meetings.
“I don’t typically go to General Assembly, which is on Monday evening, because I pick up my son an hour away in Clearwater, where I live,” said Moreno. “My vice chair, Ysatis Jordan, fills in my absence. I do my absolute best to be there when there is something crucial to vote on or discuss.”
Dmitri Griffith, special funding committee chair committee (86.25)
He has two excused absences in his special funding committee meetings and another excused absence in the appropriations committee. He has also shown up late to two appropriation meetings. In GA meetings, Griffith has one unexcused absence and two excused ones.
Jozef Gherman, senator (resigned) (83.75)
He had two unexcused absences and one late appearance in GA along with four excused absences in committee meetings. He resigned his senate seat at the beginning of March.
Valerie Dieppa, senator (resigned) (63.75)
With decent attendance in GA meetings but tons of unexcused absences in her required committee meetings, she has since resigned from her duties as senator.
“I am a full-time student and I work part time,” said Dieppa, a freshman. “Some days, I couldn’t afford missing out on studying time or risk getting fired from my only source of income.”
Sam Goetz, vice president-elect (50)
He was recently elected vice president of Student Government, but his attendance at meetings as a senator ranks among the worst. He missed three GA meetings and seven committee meetings with unexcused absences. Goetz took a leave of absence on March 10.
“I took a leave of absence from the senate earlier this semester because of academic matters,” said Goetz. “As of now I am not a currently sitting senator.”
At this point, Goetz said, he still intends on assuming the role of vice president in the summer.
Jonah Goodman, senator (38.75)
With the most unexcused absences in both General Assembly and his required committee meetings, he ranks the lowest for a senator still holding office. He is a freshman who was elected to the senate in the fall.
Morris said that over all she’s proud of how senators have performed so far this semester, especially considering that each of them has other responsibilities.
“There are those who are more involved than others and we ask them to do as much as they can,” said Morris. “I think we’re looking for that involvement, getting them out there with students [more] than their attendance at the meetings.”