A majority of the Student Government assembly was absent from at least one out of every five assembly meetings during the last session.
The Daily Texan obtained SG attendance records for the 110th session and found many student representatives were regularly absent from assembly meetings. Representatives are required to attend every assembly meeting unless they receive an approved excused absence from the speaker of the assembly. Despite this, 80 percent of the 220 total absences from the 110th session were unexcused.
“The attendance policy needs to be more strictly implemented,” said Vivianne Tu, business representative and management junior. “In the real world, this (many absences) would never be allowed; otherwise, you would lose your job.”
For at least three of the assembly meetings during the 110th session, the SG assembly was unable to meet quorum to hear and vote on legislation for either all or part of the meeting. Two-thirds of the representatives must be present for the meeting to reach quorum.
The reading of nine new pieces of legislation had to be postponed to the following week when quorum was not met at the Feb. 28 meeting. This included a resolution opposing Senate Bill 4, a bill in the state Legislature which requires Texas law enforcement to comply with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Amanda Long, international relations and global studies and plan I honors sophomore, said she’s frustrated by SG’s poor attendance rates. Long said it’s essential that representatives be at assembly meetings, because students attend them to share their final concerns on legislation coming before SG.
“If (constituents) are giving their time to come to discuss something, (representatives) should be able to give (their) time and respect what is being said,” Long said. “You’re just not fulfilling your purpose in SG if you’re not even able to vote on legislation.”
SG measures attendance through two roll calls at the beginning and end of each weekly assembly meeting. If members lack approval for their absence and miss one or both roll calls, they are either counted as half absent or fully absent. Only three representatives had perfect attendance during the 110th session.
Madison Huerta, speaker of the newly sworn-in 111th SG assembly, said attendance is a major priority for her and that she plans to hold representatives accountable throughout the session ahead.
At the first assembly meeting on April 4, one new representative asked if weekly attendance is necessary, and Huerta said her response was simple — “You have to be here.”
“We’re going to work really hard to create an effective system that holds representatives accountable,” said Huerta, a management junior
Santiago Rosales, former speaker of the assembly, said part of why representatives wouldn’t show up was because of the long and monotonous nature of assembly meetings.
“Through a much more comprehensive effort to keep the meetings engaging, it will really hone in and emphasize the necessity of people being there,” said Rosales, a finance, economics and Plan I honors senior.
Huerta said she plans to enforce better attendance by posting turnout online following each meeting, so constituents can see for themselves if their representative was there. This will add another level of transparency and liability for SG representatives, Huerta said.