Half of GA walks out in protest
The General Assembly, AU's student legislature, ended its meeting abruptly Sunday as at least 13 members walked out over the impeachment of a representative. Although the members walked out, they will not face suspension as they plan to attend the next meeting this Friday.
The walkout, which brought the meeting's attendance to below the minimum for quorum, occurred after an appeal was voted down to restore Class of 2006 representative Will Mount. The number that walked out is in dispute, with the GA leadership claiming that 13 left and the opposing group counting 15 members.
Although the walkout could not stall Mount's removal, it did halt the discussion of business for the remainder of the meeting. Zachary Constantino, speaker of the GA, said he was unhappy with the actions taken by the students at the meeting.
"I think the walkout was immature and childish," Constantino said. "I have been in the GA for three years and have been involved in several contentious debates. Through all of this, I moved on."
The members who left were threatened with suspension by Constantino as they walked down the hall, according to Class of 2004 representative Mike Pollock. In order to be suspended, the members must be absent from two consecutive meetings, causing the GA to be unable to hold quorum, according to Constantino.
Right now, "they're still members," Constantino said. "They still have full voting and speaking rights until their suspension."
Constantino reported Sunday night that the walkout would not continue until Friday, when the GA will meet to discuss the Student Confederation Budget. If it did, the members would be officially suspended and turned over to the Government Operations committee for disciplinary actions, said Speaker Pro Tempore Carlos Ramirez.
Under the current rules, the GA needs 14 people present to hold quorum, Ramirez said. If the suspension occured, that quorum would be reduced to nine, as suspended members would not be counted towards it.
"They're essentially blocking the official business of the student legislature," Constantino said. "If we can't do that then it is a clear basis for removal."
Mount had been charged with tampering with legislation. On Oct. 11, Mount removed a piece of legislation, GA bill 03-04-15, from the Speaker's mail box in the GA office. Mount added his name as a co-sponsor of the bill, yet failed to return it to the mailbox in time for the meeting.
"When the first reading came up on [Oct. 11], the bill, while scheduled on the agenda, was unable to be found," representative Richard Bradbury, the primary sponsor and author of the bill, said in a letter to the GA's Government Operations committee. "At the time, the Speaker Pro-Tempore noted that, if the individual or individuals responsible for the removal were to be found, it would be an impeachable offense."
The bill was found later with Mount's name added, implicating him of tampering with the bill. According to Article 6 of the GA's by-laws, "No member should take possession of a bill after filing with the intention of depriving the assembly with its availability for consideration."
"Government Operations found him guilty of removing a piece of legislation from a mail box, tampering with it and returning it to the box," Ramirez said. "Push comes to shove, he broke a rule."
Mount added, "In retrospect, it was a mistake."
The bill in question dealt with additional funding for the Kennedy Political Union. Mount said he added his name because of his long-standing support for KPU.
Pollock said the walkout was only the first step of a longer process they are undertaking.
"This started with us putting our foot down on the removal of a GA member for groundless allegations," Pollock said. "This is going to be an overhaul of the system. We are trying to get as many students active as possible."
Pollock, who spoke for the members who walked out, said they are planning to attend Friday's meeting.
"The walkout was a voicing of frustration on this process," Pollock said. "I didn't know if anyone was really going to follow us out, but everyone had the same feeling, that this is just not right."
Although Mount was removed from the GA, he is still eligible to be re-appointed or elected in the next GA election this spring. He said he has not yet decided if he will run.
Mount, who was present at the meeting as an observer, said he was surprised by the support he gained from members.
"Today validated my two years in the GA," Mount said. "I feel I went out on a good note; it brought a tear to my eye"