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Student Senate Debates Rules, not Policy on Anti-War Resolution
by Quinten Friday, Feb. 21, 2003 at 11:33 AM
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A 2 1/2 hour long meeting left Senators frustrated -- with a 1/2 hour long rancorous debate centering on how a motion could be introduced -- when an anti-war resolution was introduced on the floor of the Student Senate yesterday night. In a bizarre twist, no vote was held due to a loss of quorom at the end of the meeting.
"The meeting was semi farcical from the beginning," said Freshman Senator Randy Sinnot. "Debating the nuances of Robert's Rules of Order made it inane. Sinnot said that he supported the anti-war resolution, but was disgusted that so much havoc had been wreaked by it.
He added that he was not sure who was responsible for the mess, but that it was a "compendium of factors."
At 7:30 p.m., after an already long meeting that saw several motions and 10 vacant seats in the Senate filled, Senator Daniel Papasian (CIT) introduced his anti-war resolution on the floor of the Senate. Previous discussion in Excomm made it clear that the motion would not be put on the agenda.
He got as far as describing it as "A motion to oppose the war on Iraq" when Freshman Senator Stephanie Hepner (HSS) moved to not consider the motion. Allegedly, this was at the urging of Student Body President Brian Namey, who previously made his strong opposition to the motion even being discussed known. Stephanie had with her a photocopy from Robert's Rules.
However, it would have done both Hepner and Namey well to have read the rules more carefully, as two-term Senator Erik Michaels-Ober pointed out on the floor. In a nuance of Robert's Rules that left most Senators scratching their heads, Papasian's motion was to have the resolution he had not yet read considered. Such a motion requires a two-thirds vote, as did Hepner's motion. Instead of making a motion to silence the debate, as Hepner did, she could have simply asked for 1/3rd of the Senate to vote in opposition to considering the motion.
The debate over this point went on for almost 10 minutes. At the request of this reporter, the chair finally allowed Senator Papasian to read the motion to the floor. Then the debate over Robert's Rules continued. A brief recess was called.
At this point, Papasian's motion remained on the floor. A quorom call was made, as the attendance at the meeting had been steadily dropping. Quorom was present by a margin of 2 Senators in attendance. Then, a knock came at the door.
The Senate's time in the room had expired. The meeting moved in to the hall. But some Senators left at this point, including Hepner. Quorom was lost.
As it stands, the motion to consider Senator Papasian's resolution remains on the floor, and will be picked up at next week's meeting (as was the original intent -- to have a motion that all Senators could think about, according to Moiseyev and other involved in the construction of the resolution).
Leaving us wondering -- what was the point of attempting to cut off the discussion? Why did 1/2 hour of debate occur before the motion was even discussed by the Senators present, when a similar resolution by the nearby Wilkinsburg Borough Council was passed the day before in less time?
The text of the resolution
by Daniel Papasian Friday, Feb. 21, 2003 at 1:48 PM
Here is the text of the resolution as I entered it on the 20 February 2003 meeting of the Senate. I presented an extended form of the resolution, and am almost certain that most or all of the paragraphs preceeding "WHEREAS: The course of world events..." will be removed before it is passed. I entered the entire resolution, however, so the record will fully reflect the opinions of myself and what I perceive to be a silent majority of campus.
Opposing United States Military Action Against Iraq
WHEREAS: The UN Charter and customs of international law justify attacking a nation only if an armed attack occurs or is imminent, and there is no evidence to suggest that Iraq has attacked the United States or will do so imminently, and
WHEREAS: A policy of "preventive" war and "regime change" will likely result in a long-term United States military presence and occupation, and
WHEREAS: Military action in Iraq will no doubt result in tremendous casualties among the Iraqi people, including civilians, and will displace countless people from their homes, and
WHEREAS: Commitment of American troops to Iraq could put in harm's way past and future graduates of the Carnegie Mellon, especially those in the armed forces or ROTC program, and
WHEREAS: The climate of fear and war hysteria has removed from public scrutiny numerous issues of public concern, and
WHEREAS: Conflict with Iraq could spur a backlash against the Arab, Arab-American, and Muslim communities of Carnegie Mellon, and
WHEREAS: Fears of domestic terrorism in the United States following 11 September 2001 have resulted in passage of laws, including the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act, and the enactment of directives that have reduced civil liberties and democratic self-expression of Carnegie Mellon students and all United States residents and citizens, and further restrictions will no doubt be imposed if the U.S. invades Iraq, and
WHEREAS: The United States government estimates that a war could cost up to $200 billion, increasing a defense budget that is already almost seven times that of the education budget, and
WHEREAS: The expenditures will result in ballooning deficits further weakening the already sluggish federal and state economies and thereby reducing the amount of government aid available to students at a time when tuition rates are rapidly rising, and
WHEREAS: The course of recent world events has created a common concern among the undergraduate student body of Carnegie Mellon University, it has become necessary for the Carnegie Mellon University Undergraduate Senate to lend the concerns of the majority a common voice.
BE IT THUS RESOLVED that the Carnegie Mellon Undergraduate Student Senate opposes any military action against Iraq by the United States, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution, duly adopted and signed by the Senate Chair, shall be sent to President George W. Bush, U.S. Senators Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter, U.S. Representative Patrick J. Toomey, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Pittsburgh City Council President Gene Ricciardi, and Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon.