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PC Zach Garmoe

Our sickly Senate, a troublesome trial

In an effort to keep UMBC students informed, The Retriever has been attending weekly Student Government Association Senate meetings on Monday nights. While each meeting has been controversial in its own right, the meeting held on Sept. 28 was worth noting.

The meeting started with confirmations. Due to the opening of an RA position within Residential Life, Vanessa Barksdale respectfully stepped down from her position as senator on Sept. 4.

Following this newfound vacancy, Speaker of the Senate Andres Garcia released an application for the position on Sept. 15. In total, there were seven students that submitted applications before the Senate meeting on Sept. 28.

Garcia announced that he selected a candidate, Alex Zarlenga, because “he was the first to respond back to the application.” Zarlenga proceeded to speak in front of the Senate, providing reasons as to why he should be appointed.

He received backlash from several senators. It became clear that Garcia had not interviewed any of the other candidates. Zarlenga is a friend of Garcia’s, and is a former roommate of senator Seth Benefield. Furthermore, it was later discovered that Zarlenga had in fact campaigned for Jankoski during the previous elections. 

Senators Andres Garcia, Seth Benefield and Augustus Williams all received endorsements from embattled SGA President Anthony Jankoski during the election process, and in turn have each maintained a strong allegiance to Jankoski.

The Senate rejected the confirmation, and have tabled the matter until more candidates are interviewed. However as the constitution states, the Speaker of the Senate only has to bring one candidate to the Senate to be confirmed. In other words, Garcia can interview as many or as few candidates as he chooses, and has the option to bring just one to the Senate. 

When senators run for office, they are made aware of the necessary time commitment via the Senate Procedural Rules. It states, “Attendance at Senate meetings, committee meetings, and office hours is mandatory for all Senators.  Two unexcused absences from regular Senate meetings or committee meetings within the same year shall result in expulsion from the Senate.”

Potential senators were also made aware that they should clear their schedules after 5:30 p.m. on Monday nights, as this is when Senate meetings start. Meetings have no set end time.

Two senators currently have class conflicts. Both Benefield and Williams have class at 7 p.m. on Monday, and are therefore absent for at least part of every meeting.

The Senate Procedural Rules state that the Speaker of the Senate, in this case Andres Garcia, has the ability to determine what is an excused or unexcused absence. During the meeting on Sept. 28, Garcia announced he would give excused absences on a case-by-case basis.

Initially Garcia gave examples like “A death in the family or being sick…”, but when pressed about whether leaving for class would qualify as an excused absence, Garcia conceded that it would. Several senators found this problematic, given that each senator knew not to register for classes during that time period.

After much debate, a decision was reached. Two excused absences and two unexcused absences would be allowed. It is worth noting that given the new attendance policy, even if Benefield and Williams were eventually removed from office due to attendance violations, it would likely be after the impeachment vote took place.

Both were supported by Jankoski, and both are friends of Garcia, who was also supported by Jankoski.