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Miscommunication causes changes in Senate

December 11, 2008

The Shared Governance committee appointed a new chair to the subcommittee in charge of the budget for all student organizations after the former chair resigned due to a communication breakdown in Student Senate.

Junior Theta Chi member Joshua Brock was appointed chair of the Leadership Development and Programming Board (LDPB) at a Shared Governance Committee meeting Nov. 30.

“We felt that [Brock] was qualified for the position, and introducing a neutral viewpoint to both of the groups might help solve some of the conflict that has been going on,” Shared Governance Director Sara Deick said.

Former LDPB Chair Michael Defenbaugh resigned Oct. 31 after two former members of LDPB were not appointed to LDPB with the rest of the appointees. That was just one of the actions that Defenbaugh said impeded the progress of LDPB.

“I was not going to serve on a committee that doesn’t really go anywhere because of Senate putting a hold on what we do,” Defenbaugh said. “I feel that there were personal opinions that got in the way of getting [Rebecca Peine and Kayla Haines] on board. That was another reason for my resignation.”

After being held off the Oct. 28 motion, Haines followed through with her resignation whereas Peine rescinded hers and was then named interim LDPB chair the next week. Peine could not be reached for comment.

Last semester Student Senate received numerous complaints from various Greek organizations that LDPB did not have hearings regarding their budgets. The then LDPB Chair, Defenbaugh, denied that being true when Student Senator Matthew Dale inquired about the issue.

“I asked the LDPB chair if this was true and he said no,” Dale said. “I then asked if I could see a record of the minutes, because if they did hear the Greek organizations’ requests in meeting there should be a written record of it. They then informed me that they did not take minutes.”

According to Dale, this created a controversy because LDPB was unable to provide any evidence that it did, or did not, hear the Greek organizations’ budget requests. Student Senate rejected the budget because of this reason and sent LDPB a list of requests, among those, taking minutes during meetings.

The Wisconsin Open Meetings Law states that governmental bodies are required to conform to Article IV, section 10 of the Wisconsin Constitution that states: “Each house shall keep a journal of its proceedings and publish the same.”

According to Article VI, section four of the Student Senate Constitution: “Student Senate meetings shall be held in accordance with the Wisconsin Open Meeting Law.”

“The subcommittees of Student Senate, and the subcommittees of the subcommittees all have to abide by the open records law,” Associate Student Services Coordinator Jon Levendoski.

Levendoski also said that abiding by the open records law is something that subcommittees sometimes have a difficult time doing.

“When we approached them LDPB members said they didn’t know how to take minutes properly,” Student Senate President Cindy Bendix said.

The communication rift continued into the current semester, prompting resignations along with bogging down the governing process.

“Student Senate meetings consist of bickering back and forth,” Defenbaugh said. “Nobody can really come to an agreement on anything; it harms the student body and slows down progress for student organizations.”

In order to deal with the breakdown, Student Senate formed an Ad-Hoc committee comprised of Student Senators and LDPB members that dissipated after only one meeting.

“They [LDPB members] viewed the ad-hoc committee as Senate telling them what to do, that’s why they walked out,” Bendix said.

Even with the failure of the ad-hoc committee, the Student Senate appears to be taking steps toward remedying the communication problems between the two groups. The appointing of Brock as chair is the latest effort to fix the broken situation, something that Brock is already aware of.

“I was brought in as a neutral party for the position,” Brock said. “I don’t really know too much about the problems before hand. I think everything seems to be going real well.”