On Tuesday night, the Undergraduate Government of Boston College’s Student Assembly (SA) discussed two resolutions: the Stimulating Transparency and Effective Publicity Act and a Resolution Concerning the Secret Ballot. The Stimulating Transparency and Effective Publicity Act passed with one abstention and calls for UGBC to launch a new public relations strategy to improve student engagement with the organization. The vote on a Resolution Concerning the Secret Ballot was postponed until the next SA meeting due to insufficient time for debate and discussion. Aneeb Sheikh, MCAS ’20, sponsored both documents.
The Stimulating Transparency and Effective Publicity Act was co-sponsored by seven senators and listed 12 “original sponsors” made up of BC alumni who had graduated within the past three years. The purpose of the act is to increase SA’s transparency with the student body, something that the SA and UGBC focused on last year as well.
The resolution requires the SA to post 60-second recap videos every two weeks, as well as send “Invite Surges” to encourage BC students to become more active in undergraduate government. The SA hopes to incentivize not only students but also clubs to work with UGBC to improve the lives of students. The SA will begin this new campaign this semester.
“This resolution is calling for more publicity so more students can know what we are doing,” Sheikh said. “Right now we are just an amorphous group of [the] UGBC, we are not really united by something common besides that we are in the same room every week,” he said.
Invite surges will involve the members of SA emailing, texting, and calling all of their friends and classmates about what is happening in UGBC. New resolutions, updates, and other information will be broadcast weekly from the meeting to the students, and to the SA’s new website.
The minute-long recap videos will be created by SA’s Communications Committee biweekly and then posted to the group’s Facebook page and website. These videos provide SA with an alternative way to relay information to the student body, other than the Invite Surges.
The resolution passed, without debate, almost unanimously, with an abstention from Savannah Clarke, MCAS ’19.
The Resolution Concerning the Secret Ballot was debated, but due to time, the vote on the resolution was postponed until the next SA meeting.
The resolution calls for the elimination of the secret ballot option during SA meetings by striking out the rule from the Standing Rules of the Student Assembly. By the current rule, UGBC’s executive vice president can call a secret ballot vote by two-thirds majority in which members write their votes on paper so fellow members cannot see their will. Sheikh wishes to get rid of this rule because he feels that it obscures transparency.
“I personally, last year, after seeing many of the votes being done in blind vote, had a big problem with it,” Sheikh said. “We just spoke about transparency, and [the blind vote] is obviously very opaque.”
Sheikh believes that if a senator presents a resolution on behalf of the student body, then the student body deserves to know how their senators votes on the resolution.
The resolution was passed to debate, and senators expressed hesitation to strike the rule.
Senators discussed how the secret ballot protects diversity of opinion, sensitive issues, and possible negative consequences on account of unpopular opinions.
“SA, in recent years, has had a huge issue with diversity of thought,” said Caroline Monnes, MCAS ’19.
She said that while accountability to the student body is important, she does not think that now is the time to pass this resolution because it should be a priority to preserve diversity of thought.
“Imagine if [the United States] Congress had had the debate and the vote on health care, and then a blind vote,” Sheikh said.
He acknowledged that the SA is not Congress, but in an effort to exemplify similar practices, he says that UGBC owes transparency to the student body.
Sheikh said that the rule was “abused” last year, and cited a secret ballot used to confirm a vice president. The SA was split on the decision, and a secret ballot was called even though confirmation votes are not allowed to be blind. Tt King, UGBC executive vice president and MCAS ’18, said that it would not happen again.
The SA voted to postpone further debate of the second resolution to their next meeting.
Featured Image Courtesy of UGBC