Archive for June, 2010

The Quirks [June 25, 2010 Edition]

Posted in appointments, idiosyncracy, Rules on June 30, 2010 by Brandon

Last week’s meeting: not so eventful.

This week’s meeting: no events at all, because the House voted to give themselves the day off in celebration of Independence Day.

That about sums meaningful happenings up, but since I invested the time to be there, and you invested a few seconds to visit the blog, I’ll mention a few more details than that.

Student body president Ayden Maher was absent for the second week in a row. He’s only required to show up once a month, but until now he’d been attending them all. Speaker Josh Pollock was also missing in action, leaving Pro-Tempore Nicholas Scalice to act in his place.

Boca governor Allison Gentry announced progress in signing weeks-old legislation:

“Myself and Ayden signed the library resolution as well as the website update resolution. And I have the free speech resolution on my desk.”

Let’s see. The library resolution passed on May 28. The website update resolution passed June 4, as did the free speech one.

Of course, according to SG’s own rules, it’s now irrelevant if the governor signs anything that’s currently outstanding. Everything passes automatically after seven academic days.  The first time I noticed this in the statutes, actually:

Upon approval by a majority vote of the total active membership of the Campus House, the legislation is then sent to the Campus Governor for approval or veto. The Campus Governor has seven (7) academic days in which to enact or veto legislation. If there is no action on the legislation by the Campus Governor for those seven (7) academic days, the legislation shall then be considered enacted and shall carry the force of law. (458.312)

Of course, I’ve never heard anyone in the House raise this point — maybe they just like to follow procedure even when it’s unnecessary. This past meeting held such an example, actually.

Representative James Shackelford raised a fuss when the House unanimously approved Gentry’s appointment for NightOwls assistant director without doing a roll call vote. That is, he wanted every single person to vote out loud, like they do on legislation. He said that’s the rules.

Gentry pointed out that they’d never done that for any other appointment she’d made, and Shackelford had never raised it before. Representative Boris Bastidas also objected, and forced the House to have a vote on whether they should have a vote or not.

Lastly, I would be amiss if I failed to quote Representative Dean Hasan in a quirks post:

If you guys notice, you can see an FAU building from I-95. It’s the Oxley Center. It has a logo from like two logos ago, and it looks like crap. I think someone should write a resolution, I don’t want to write it, to get that changed.

I’ll do the legislative update tomorrow, but it’s another small one with nothing passed.

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Legislative Update [June 18, 2010 Edition]

Posted in Legislation on June 23, 2010 by Brandon

It’s officially summer, and it’s officially slow in the House. That means another short update.

One resolution was introduced and passed last week, written by Speaker Pro-Tempore Nicholas Scalice. It’s about the wall of photos outside the SG office suite — which happens to be missing a number of photos, and has for years.

The wall showcases all the past student body presidents and the years they served, dating back to the 60s.

Scalice wants to fill in the blanks because “the display case fails to show appreciation for the past student body presidents” and “students are unable to reflect on an important part of student government history at FAU,” the legislation says.

I found the timing of this resolution pretty interesting, myself — because I recently asked FAU’s Media Relations for photos of all the presidents, among other things. I’m interested in what they’re all up to these days, as I’m sure many people are. (Especially Ken Jenne.)

Media Relations said they only had 16 photos, although there are more than that on the wall already — I’m guessing many of them are photocopies that the university does not have the originals for.

While I plan to write about these guys in the fall, I’ll go ahead and share one photo — of FAU’s first student body president, Dan Mica. (And unlike Jenne’s recent history, we can be proud of Mica’s current activities.)

It’s a photo taken at FAU’s first graduation ceremony, which looks like it was held in a tent.

A photo of former FAU student body president (and former U.S. congressman) Daniel Mica, taken over 40 years ago. (Courtesy of FAU Media Relations)

The Quirks [June 18, 2010 Edition]

Posted in idiosyncracy on June 21, 2010 by Brandon

Short meeting last Friday.

Boca Gov. Allison Gentry announced she had only signed one piece of legislation since taking office. House Speaker Josh Pollock took the blame, saying “the bill signing sheet I passed on to the governor was slapped together very poorly. I had trouble doing it and it looked horrible, and so I’m going to get to it next week.”

The one piece of legislation that made it through? That would be the bill transferring around $18,000 to the Speaker’s projects account, which is going to be spent on those basketball jerseys. That was rushed through because the House would have otherwise completely lost that money to an account accessible only by administrators at the end of the month.

The governor’s chief of staff, Matthew Owens, announced that the BSUMP reform committee had another meeting and planned to advertise the heck out of the BSUMP Director job reposting, which is now buried on the second page of FAU’s job listings here.

They’re also advertising that as an event on Facebook, with 24 confirmed guests (to what? It’s a job posting) and 23 others “maybe attending,” which just proves that some people always lie on Facebook — “oh, I might attend an event that doesn’t exist.”

Sorry, I find Facebook culture fascinating and ridiculous. Anyhow.

SG is also advertising seats in the university-wide senate, hoping people will run in the fall. SG Director Heather Bishara says you can just fill out the application form for the House and write “Senate” on the top. Drop it off to the SG Office in the Student Union, Room 215.

NightOwls — our campus safety chauffeur service — appointed an associate director, Derek Smith. After a speech from NightOwls Director Jon Waller recommending Smith, the House had just one question.

Representative Rashad Khonat asked: “Do you like your job?”

Smith replied: “Yes. Otherwise I’d be looking for another one.”

And two people were booted out of the House for not showing up: Thais Arsolino, and newbie Kiel Von Minden, who I don’t think ever showed up after being sworn in a month ago.

There’ll be a short entry on Wednesday about the one new resolution introduced last week. Tomorrow Thursday, I’ll be writing about some policy changes Student Affairs is initiating, and which the BOT is likely to approve this week.

Legislative Update [June 11, 2010 Edition]

Posted in Legislation on June 17, 2010 by Brandon

This week’s update on legislation is short and sweet. There was only one item in old business, and the House killed it.

Representative James Shackelford‘s comments succintly explain why the bill died:

I was in all the committees and we’re [talking about using this bill for] allocating A&S fees for one specific professor that many students have probably never heard of.

The bill’s co-author, Speaker Pro-Tempore Nicholas Scalice, accepted that:

As a co-author of the bill, I think it’s fair to compromise in this situation. I knew that would be the problem with this bill given that it’s a fairly substantial amount of money, $200. The point of this is to recognize his service. However we go about recognizing him is great, it does not have to be monetary.

Scalice also mentioned the possibility of independently fundraising to accomplish the same thing as the bill, without spending student money. So the House tabled the bill indefinitely — a polite way of throwing it out the window — and decided to write a resolution instead. That might appear this week.

Representative Kristina Fritz said what the House should really do is combat FAU’s tenure policy:

I feel like the problem lies in the Board of Trustee’s decision with the way they decide tenure. I feel like we should be fighting that battle rather than recognizing one professor.

FAU’s current policies on tenure are here. It’s a lofty goal, but I’m not sure how the House would approach change, or if there’s much, frankly, they can do.

It sounds like something that would give the academic lobbying committee a purpose again, though.

The Quirks [June 11, 2010 Edition]

Posted in idiosyncracy on June 16, 2010 by Brandon

As I mentioned yesterday, the main part of last week’s meeting was the governor’s appointments. But there were a few other interesting things. Like soccer, and smelly diapers.

Representative Peter Amirato is relatively new to the House, having joined just three weeks ago.

So far he’s been physically absent from one meeting, and mentally absent from another. I’m not sure he ever opened that agenda in his hand last week, because he was busy watching the World Cup match between Uruguay and France.

Admittedly, these photos make the game look more interesting than a 12-page agenda.

Student Media Director Marti Harvey let the House know that Student Affairs is “moving forward with the search committee” for an assistant director this week.

Student body president Ayden Maher informed the House that the BOT approved the expected 15 percent tuition increase.

SG Director Heather Bishara announced that Student Affairs had “two things to be aware of: We are reviewing the fiscal policy and the travel manual the university has,” perhaps in response to the UP‘s most recent cover story, which mentioned some FAU alums trying to catch a free ride to California with the surf club.

And Representative Dean Hasan announced that he wanted to “speak about something serious.” Most of the House found that funny, for some reason.

Hasan: “In case you haven’t noticed today, when you walk in the Student Union it smells like a bathroom. I’ve heard like four people say ‘What’s that smell? Why do I go to this university?’”

He suggested writing a bill to invest in air fresheners or new carpet.

Speaker Josh Pollock concurred, noting, “It smells like someone just got done changing 100 babies up there.”

The smell apparently had something to do with the carpets being cleaned upstairs and hasn’t been smelt this week, to my knowledge.

Pollock also mentioned speaking to men’s basketball coach Mike Jarvis about some other initiatives with athletics involving the jerseys the House is investing in — now 2000 not 1600, and FAU red/blue instead of red/white — and planning to give away. Wearing these jerseys to the games in the fall might net you some free food, trips to away games, or the chance to be assistant coach for a night, if all the details get worked out.

I’ll post more about the giveaways as details become available.

Tomorrow: A tiny legislative update.

Governor’s Appointments

Posted in appointments on June 15, 2010 by Brandon

The most interesting aspect of last week’s House meeting was arguably the governor’s picks for director positions, since no legislation was passed or introduced. These students, appointed by Boca Gov. Allison Gentry, will have some money to play with next year:

Mariana Ortigosa, who has been the director of Students Advocating Volunteer Involvement for two years now, was approved by the House without fuss. SAVI’s $22,000 budget goes to organizing things like blood and clothing donation drives, or community service opportunities.

Robert Huffman is a newcomer who was also, surprisingly, appointed as the Council of Student Organizations director without much discussion. He’ll oversee a substantial budget of student money — over $283,000 — and dole it out to student clubs.

Marketing Director Marcus Washington was the most disputed appointee — he held the position last year and it seems some people in SG weren’t quite sure what he did.

Representative Kristina Fritz asked, “Could you provide examples of what you did to promote Student Government last year?”

Washington responded, “Pretty much Stress Week.” Then he started remembering other initiatives, like getting SG mentioned on screensavers in campus computer labs, and “also doing simple stuff like putting things on Facebook.”

He also mentioned talks of “making a[n SG] street team, kind of like Owl Radio has” and “looking to put together a Student Government logo instead of the FAU one,” but those were, uh, future tense examples.

Representative Shamal Williams then asked, “Are you doing any case studies, speaking with students directly?”

Washington: “I’m just going to all the events, and I know what I’m looking for in events and I try to piggyback off that with the directors.”

Representative Guilherme Massetti had a gripe about election turnout: “We had a 5% turnout in elections, are you satisfied with that and can you do anything about that?”

Washington started explaining, “my job description, I wouldn’t be able to do much about that,” when Speaker Josh Pollock interrupted to say that’s the job of the election chair — a university-wide position — and not the Boca marketing director’s.

After hearing these responses, Fritz formally objected to Washington’s re-appointment and forced the House to vote on it.

Sounding slightly alarmed, Washington interjected, “Does everybody understand my job description? I’m not sure everybody does.”

In the end, Washington got to keep his job, with a vote of 15 to 5.

Afterward came the appointment of Gentry’s new chief of staff, representative Matthew Owens, who tried to lighten the mood by “introducing” himself to the House he’s served in for more than a year. Sad to go, he said, “I think this is an opportunity for me to go on and help this university grow as much as possible.” He expressed an interest in working on BSU&MP reform and his own projects.

I’m sad to see him go, myself — he was one of the most serious and competent people I’ve seen in the House. But I’m glad he’s moving up.

Owens was confirmed with only one small hitch — Massetti motioned to approve him for the position of “chief justice.”

Gentry then asked the House to recreate a new (old) position, attorney general. She described it as, “a way to hold ourselves more accountable, I guess, instead of waiting for other people to tell us we’re doing something wrong.” Sounds good. Maybe you could give him the marketing director’s salary.

That position is open, but will probably be unpaid. If you’re interested, you can e-mail the governor at her new generic address, fau.bocagov@fau.edu.

Also re-opened is the position of BSU&MP Director; Gentry tells me that it’s “being reposted for another 2 weeks in order to get more qualified applicants.” Apply here for that.

Tomorrow: The quirky hodge-podge of everything else worth mentioning from last week’s meeting.

Legislative Update [June 4, 2010 Edition]

Posted in legal, Legislation on June 10, 2010 by Brandon

Three items were on the agenda this past week, only one of which was new business:

Over-ruled

As I mentioned earlier this week, the committees which were meant to meet and discuss the two resolutions from the previous week didn’t meet quorum, and so when this meeting came up, they had problems. The rules say, if you send it to committees, you can’t do anything else with it until the committees get the chance.

Mmmm, 208 pages of parliamentary rules. (In the "concise" version.)

But the rules also say if there aren’t enough people at a meeting, you can’t have it. And there weren’t enough people.

So, in order to revisit the legislation and make decisions without waiting at least another week for the committees to consider them, they had to get somebody to undo the decision to send it to committee from the previous week.

As you can guess, the rules have something to say about that, too: only someone who voted for sending it to committee in the first place could undo — or “rescind” — the decision.

This means the people who wanted to consider the legislation in the first place had no say in choosing to consider it the following week. This is so that the opinion of the majority can’t be overruled, even if, technically, it’s no longer the opinion of the majority.

Don’t you love arcane rules?

Anyway, they spent some time figuring out who could make that motion for each of the resolutions and eventually passed them both.

A Frezzo Intermezzo

The new item considered last week was BRHB-10-23, meant to spend $200 on a plaque and a tree on campus in dedication to Mark Frezzo of FAU’s sociology department.

Mark Frezzo is a cool guy. So cool that he doesn't even have an official FAU photo, apparently.

According to the bill,

Dr. Mark Frezzo has not received tenure and he will be leaving FAU shortly[.] [T]his departure will start a reign of immense sadness and depression throughout the campus without his teachings and leadership.

This follows a petition from last year — which currently has 139 signatures from students and fellow professors — to lobby FAU on Frezzo’s behalf. It was started by this Facebook group.

Frezzo’s been immensely popular at FAU, as you can tell by his RateMyProfessors.com ratings: he has 27, only one of which is negative. This places him in the top 6% of the 1,783 FAU professors listed on the site. (I only have three ratings after teaching six classes, myself.)

The bill was sent to committees without much discussion, and will probably pass this week without much objection.

Speeches about speech

BRHR 10-08 didn’t get much more discussion last week, but BRHR 10-09 sure did. Representative Boris Bastidas gave a lengthy speech in defense of the resolution (which I quoted a little on Monday). Representative Guilherme Massetti raised concerns about the clause which mentions Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) — a conservative group trying to form a chapter on campus — which he had never heard of.

That clause reads:

WHEREAS: On March 3rd, 2010, Florida Atlantic University campus officials shut down an informational meeting about starting a conservative organization, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), on campus and violated their First Amendment right to assembly and discriminated against the contents of their speech, and;

Massetti wasn’t convinced that the group being kicked out of a Student Union room which they hadn’t reserved had anything to do with the First Amendment, and went back and forth with Bastidas:

Massetti: “I fully agree with you with what you’re talking about with the UP, but with the YAF, they were kicked out because they did not do the paperwork, is that correct?”

Bastidas: “My problem is that police officers were called, not that they were asked to leave.”

Massetti: “I think these are completely different incidents and I don’t know if they should be in the same bill. They don’t really go along with each other.”

Bastidas: “This is about the First Amendment: freedom of speech, freedom of press is the First Amendment. I think we could’ve had two bills, but they are somewhat related.”

Just for the record, there are five freedoms protected by the First Amendment: speech, press, assembly, religion (which also protects freedom from religion), and freedom to “petition” or dispute your government. A lot of people only know a couple of those.

If you’re interested in more about the YAF incident, you can read their original press release here and one about the legislation here.

Following that discussion, Bastidas motioned to undo something else from last week — an attempt to soften up the language of the resolution so it wouldn’t sound bossy to Student Affairs. Last week, they amended the text to read  as a “request that the university administration acknowledge” state and federal law, rather than “abide” by it.

Representative Dean Hasan objected, saying “It’s rude, and we’re acting like we’re higher than [Student Affairs]. We’re supposed to give them a chance…”

Representative James Shackelford, co-author of the resolution and YAF organizer, said he “spoke with Dean Mena and [Student Media Director] Marti Harvey on this and they both feel abide should be in the bill.”

The amendment passed 12 to 6. The resolution also passed, with four people voting against it: Hasan, as well as Speaker Pro-Tempore Nicholas Scalice, Parliamentarian Amanda Phillips, and one of the new representatives, Fawaaz Diljohn. (Yes, Representative Hakeem Haye, who so vocally criticized the UP the previous week, voted in favor of the measure.)

Despite the dissenting votes, I think it’s cool that the House took action on this issue before Student Affairs Vice President Charles Brown and FAU President Mary Jane Saunders each got letters about it (here and here) from national journalism organizations. Especially since Gov. Charlie Crist just signed a bill from the Florida House reiterating First Amendment protections, too.