Wednesday, January 20, 2021

SA opposes Code of Ethics legislation 8-4

The Senate convened Wednesday in order to preside over the events of the past week, briefly addressing budgetary allocations in the early minutes. The bulk of the meeting was spent occupied with discussion concerning potential legislation.

A draft for the proposed “Student Association Code of Ethics” was introduced by Executive Vice President Isabella Sofia, to be discussed by the Senate. Drafted by the Constitutional Legislation Committee, the code outlines the responsibilities “all members of the Executive Council are expected to abide.”

Neither the current or proposed Constitution of the Student Association includes a specific “Code of Ethics” to which the members are expected to abide.

Examples of expected ethical behavior include, “objectivity in all matters” and “providing the best leadership possible for a strong student government,” stemming from the review of the potential by-law members of the Senate discussed impressions.

Senator Spence said she was concerned, as she interprets some points as “vague” outlines. Several of her fellow Senators expresses their agreement.

The current constitution’s “Articles of Impeachment” grant the Senate the power to impeach, by majority vote, any member if the found in violation of either the constitution, legislative status, SUNY Plattsburgh Student Code of Conduct, or federal and state law.

Hypothetically, the implementation of this bill would allow impeachments on the grounds that the accused member violated their responsibility to be “objective in all matters.”

The inability to quantifiably prove or disprove an individual’s guilt, when due to the nonspecific definition of each violation, undermines the bill’s effectiveness.

A straw poll was requested during the meeting in order to examine the Senators’ interest in allowing the Code of Ethics, as presented, to continue into the next phase of authentication. The vote found the Senate opposed in 8-4 majority ruling.

After the meeting concluded, Vice President of Finance Ryan Ferguson explained the reasoning for addressing this specific type of legislation.

“We have a new Constitution that’s taking effect in January, one of our main endeavors last semester was passing all of our legislation by reviewing and renewing it, as well as looking to change anything that is out of date. We were basically here to find whether we should attempt this type of legislation at all,” he said. “This piece of legislation in its current form is incredibly vague. It was presented last semester and it was voted down, justifiably so.”

President Kimmer said in the code of ethics was subject to individual interpretation, and this legislation would only create confusion, and possibly, abuse.

“Due to the inevitable variations within individual interpretation of the various violations, this legislation would only create confusion, and potentially abuse, if implemented within our constitution,” Kimmer said. “It is without a doubt that my fellow members in the Student Association do not require a constitutional decree to act ethically, and if the threat of impeachment is necessary in order to encourage our members to treat one another with respect and dignity, we have larger problems to address than abstract definitions.”

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