Something that came up during the case and in a recent Justice editirial was the decision by Lev and I not to recuse ourselves from the vote on the Bill Ayers / Robert King Senate Money Resolution. The Justice editorial stated,
We also take issue with the fact that Senators for the Class of 2011 Lev Hirschhorn and Alex Melman voted on the resolution even though they are members of Democracy for America, one of the organizations sponsored by the Senate’s $900. This is a conflict of interest, and the senators should have recused themselves.
I said this in the trial, but I want to repeat it here: No goddamn way. This would be true if we had a true “picuniary interest” in the vote; ie if we were set to personally make a lot of money because of it. Thats not true in the least; the SMR would have merely granted money towards an event that one of the clubs we were in was helping to plan. Unlike F-board, an organization with closed meetings that is supposed to remain unbiased and grant money in the most equitable way possible, the Senate is supposed to have opinions on its vote. This is reinforced by the ability of clubs to endorse candidates for Senate; F-board candidates are supposed to remain impartial and can receive no endorsements. To ask us to recuse ourselves from the vote is akin to asking every Senator who planned any project from recusing him or herself from the vote on whether to grant money to that project. This is not what the Senate has done in the past nor is it what the Senate should do in the future.
I said all this at the Senate meeting after careful consideration of the idea of recusal, suggested at the last minute by Treasurer Max Wallach. It is also important to note that every sophomore in the room (our constituency) urged us to vote on the issue lest they not be represented. To recuse ourselves would have been the irresponsible thing to do.
3 responses to “Recusal shenanigans”
I love all this hat talk, but it doesn’t make a tad bit of sense to me. We are all combinations of our experience, we can’t pick and chose who we are in a single moment. Senators are elected as people, whole people. Any informed voter would have known that had a proposal such as this come across Alex and Lev (no matter if they were involved in the planning) that they would vote to bring former sixties radicals to campus–these votes elected Alex and Lev and they should have the right to represent these constituents. Indeed, considering there was no East Quad senator at the time, had Lev and Alex recused themselves 60% of the sophomore class would have lacked representation on this important matter.
Again, seeing as this subject of recusal was only so fervently fought over concerning this single SMR, I am led to believe that the debate on recusal was a strategy for manipulating the senate’s vote, rather than a moral issue.
There is no reason that a Senator should need to abstain from voting on an SMR just because they planned the event the SMR is for. As the UJ affirmed, SMRs are only supposed to be for Union Government projects. Even if that was not the case, the Senator should still not need to abstain. Senators should be able to take off the “clubleader” hat and put on the “Senator” hat when in the Senate.
The only case where I could see abstaining really being warranted is when it comes to club chartering. If a Senator is also going to be a founding member of a club being chartered it might make sense to abstain from that vote, but even that case the decision should be made on a case by case basis.
Senator Melman. I agree entirely with you the student senate is not at all like the F board but for an entirely different reason. The F board has its proposals sent to them by the treasurers or leaders of clubs and then they are deliberated on by the F board members to deem their level of finance according to their merits. Meanwhile Union SMRs are only allowed to be submitted by senators. This is so that there is some separation between the club and the senate. However, when a senator is intimately involved in a club this check becomes non existent. Thus on matters concerned with clubs that a senator is intimately involved with, the senator should abstain or recuse themselves from voting.