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Nov. 11, 2005

SGA votes to limit administrative power

by Ethan Kuhnhenn, Online Managing Editor
The SGA discussed the Homecoming Dance and passed two measures in a Senate meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 9. The measures included two amendments, the first of which would establish a new cabinet position for an ESOL representative and the second of which would limit the authority the administration has in removing SGA officers.

Fourteen senators drawn from all four classes were present on Wednesday for the twice-monthly meetings led by Senate President Sebastian Johnson.

The Senate began proceedings by discussing last month's Homecoming Dance, which the SGA staff labeled as a success. Although several minor scuffles and a few dress code violations were reported, administrators had no issues with the way students danced or the dates they brought with them, two problems cited at last year's event.

The Senate then passed an amendment to an SGA bylaw that will reconfigure the current system of class representation to include an additional Executive Board (cabinet) official who would work directly with the president and represent ESOL students from all four grades. The amendment arose after several senators brought up concerns regarding the lack of ESOL representation in the SGA (there are currently no ESOL students in any branches of the student government) and of ESOL students' lack of participation in after-school events. Under the amendment, ESOL students would elect a current ESOL student, or a student who had previously been in the ESOL program, to represent them in the SGA. The amendment also mandates that the Senate approve any new representative.

The Senate closed the meeting by passing an amendment to the SGA constitution that would make it easier for the SGA to protest the removal of an SGA member by an administrator. Under the constitution, the principal has the power to veto any SGA action and remove SGA officers after notification, and, in a clause required to be in every school constitution under MCPS policy, has the ultimate authority over any SGA decision. The proposed amendment strikes down the second clause in that specific section of the constitution, removing the principal's authority to remove SGA officers. "The Senate's interpretation is that our veto clause, which gives the principal final veto power, fulfills county requirements," Johnson wrote in an email.

Under the constitution, all amendments have to pass a 2/3 majority in the Senate, the Cabinet, and the Review Board. Thus far the second amendment has passed both the Senate and the Cabinet. A review board meeting will be held this Thursday, Nov. 17.

The Senate's approval of the amendment comes only a month after Principal Phillip Gainous removed SGA Parliamentarian Jay Asbell for making an "illicit gesture" during a freshman class assembly.

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected since publication. It originally stated incorrectly that the ESOL representative would be a senator, not a member of the Executive Board.



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  • disgusted on November 11, 2005 at 11:05 PM
    It really worries me that the sga feels the need to pass this amendment. The administration would not remove an officer for any petty reason. This amendment comes so soon after Asbell's removal--do they honestly think he should have been allowed to stay after what he did? I hope the administration has the sense to vote this amendment down.

    please give us some explanation of why this was passed aryal. please tell us what goes on in these "senate meetings." please do your job.
  • Anonymous on November 11, 2005 at 11:51 PM
    Ok, so how can the SGA pass an amendment that "is required to be in every school constitution under MCPS policy."? What if Gainous vetoes this?

    An ESOL representative? How about we start assigning representatives to people based on last name. I don't know the last names of the SGA Senators, but what if the A's are under-represented? I would hope people don't vote for someone based on what program they are or aren't in. If they are qualified to do SGA and get the signatures, run, and win, then they can be a Senator. If I recall, the Freshmen had 2 unfilled Senate positions because not enough people ran. I don't think the problem is the Senate being dominated by other people.

    I'm not in ESOL, but if they can get the signatures and get elected a Senator, they can do it, it does not require a special position. I don't know a single representative for me. Reason? It doesn't matter. If I have a problem with the administration, I'll talk to my administrator directly. I don't particularly care who it is that arranges dances and pep rallies, pretty much anyone can do that that has the extra time. Why does ESOL need representation? Does this mean ESOL members can't run for the other Senate positions? If not why? They have a separate position AND can run for other positions? Why don't we have a magnet representative? A CAP representative? Why not do it based on race? A white representative, a black representative, an Asian, Hispanic, Russian, etc.

    The reason is that we are not representing for certain ethnic groups or certain sub-groups other than class. We want to vote for people who can best represent the class. If there is a kid from ESOL who wants to run nothing's stopping them. This is just one more time that I'm thankful that SGA has no power, because a Senate like this doesn't represent me or my class.

    If the second amendment is actually allowed by Gainous it is a step in the right direction. The SGA needs to turn into a STUDENT organization. When the principal can simply veto ANY action or kick out ANY member, it ceases to be a STUDENT government association. We need the SGA to return to representing the students. After that we can work on actually getting it some power, but it needs to get straight on things such as this ESOL idea. Affirmative Action, ESOL action, whatever you call it is still discrimination. Not reverse discrimination, discrimination. I'm tired of being penalized for being a white, magnet, male. I worked hard to get to where I am, yet blacks and other minorities as well as women will get extra points for many colleges simply because of their skin color or gender. I'm not saying these people don't work hard, but they should be put on an equal level as me, just as ESOL students should be put on the same level for SGA. SGA is an organization meant to represent the students, let's make it truly represent the best each class has to offer.

    And let's get the SGA more power, so they can actually represent us rather than just setting up Freshman socials, dances, and pep rallies.
  • fan on November 12, 2005 at 2:45 PM
    sebi for pres of US in 2008!
  • Jeff Lautenberger (View Email) on November 12, 2005 at 5:32 PM
    This is an arrogant action by the SGA. There needs to be some accountability so that the Administration can still veto SGA decisions regarding personnel, and this amendment removes any system of checks and balances that was in place. I know that in the case of Jay Asbell, the SGA was reluctant to remove him from office but was forced to by the Adminstration. Removing Asbell was absolutely the right decision, but I feel that if this amendment existed at that time, he would still have his job, and that shows lack of character, integrity, and responsibilty of the entire SGA, not just one member.
  • 07 person on November 12, 2005 at 6:36 PM
    There should be an ESOL Rep because not all ESOL students graduate with the class they started with in their freshman year because they have more to do; learn their regular courses as well as learn english. it not always guarunteed that they will graduate with a particular class, so they should have their interests represented.
  • to your question on November 12, 2005 at 7:30 PM
    "Why does ESOL need representation?"

    Ask anyone that question and you will have an answer. Blair is a highly diverse student body, and ESOL students are indeed underrepresented. As for your "questions" about why not have CAP, Magnet, or ethinic representatives, the answer is that they are already represented by the Senate and SGA in general. There are CAP students, Magnet students, and students of many ethnicities.

    "And let's get the SGA more power, so they can actually represent us rather than just setting up Freshman socials, dances, and pep rallies."

    Organizing dances and pep rallies are only 2 of the SGA's responsibilities. What you are not realizing, however, are other responsibilities of the SGA. With its purpose being to represent the student body, there a great number of tasks to be done, which from your comment, I doubt that you gave any thought to.

    Finally, the freshman social is an activity organized by the class government. Therefore it is another of your many unsupported arguements.

    Discrimination exists in many forms, and by placing unsupported complaints you're accomplishing a lighter degree of the same effect.
  • !!! on November 12, 2005 at 9:26 PM
    I don't think that jay even goes to blair anymore.
  • Anarchist on November 13, 2005 at 12:02 AM
    The post by "07 person" may be the most eloquent argument I havde ever heard as to why we should NOT create a special ESOL representative.
  • g on November 13, 2005 at 2:17 PM
    dear "ok,so"
    how arrogant are you? you don't even try to understand the ESOL students' position. as a white male in american society you're obviously never going to have trouble finding people to represent your voice. i'm actually proud of the SGA's efforts to increase diversity, because that will represent the population of Blair better. the SGA works a lot with after school activities and events, and there were concerns about the lack of ESOL students' representation, as the article said. do you think the SGA really has to worry about lack of CAP or Magnet representation? it wouldn't make sense to assign a different senator from each racial group or program, because some of them obviously dominate the SGA. the additional ESOL senator is trying to alleviate that inequity, and it's a simple gesture to the ESOl students, inviting them to participate more in Blair's SGA.
    why does it offend you so much? you say the SGA should represent students, but are you arrogant enough to just mean your kind of student-white magnet and male? you were born privileged. try to understand it from the viewpoint of someone who wasn't.
  • Anonymous on November 13, 2005 at 7:23 PM
    To Jeff Lautenberger:

    First of all I would like to know how the SGA CAN do this. How can they pass an amendment basically getting rid of something required by MCPS.

    But this is not an arrogant action, but a much-needed action. The SGA is the STUDENT government association. What existed before was not a system of checks and balances, but of total control by the administration. It would be like if the President of the US could literally veto anything, including court rulings, laws, and unilaterally remove Congressmen, etc. but at least the President is elected.

    The SGA was not reluctant to remove Asbell from office, they wanted to try to impeach him themselves, see if the students wanted him to represent them in the STUDENT government. He is supposed to be there to represent the STUDENTS. If the students still want him representing them then that's just tough beans for the administration. When the administration can remove people that were elected by the students problems start and it becomes a puppet government. We elect a representative, they talk to the administration.

    I believe flicking someone off isn't that bad. If they take offense to it, they would elect to impeach him, but this wasn't what was done. He flicked the students off, so the administration decided that it offended the students and that he should be removed. Why not let the students decide if they were offended and if they really want someone like that representing them?
  • Anonymous on November 13, 2005 at 7:26 PM
    To 07 person:

    I understand this. Athletes also have different interests, as do magnets, CAP, etc. Are we going to have a baseball, football, CAP, magnet, and ESOL position in the SGA? Does the US have an immigrant senator? The idea of a Senator is to represent ALL of the students, and if the people don't think an ESOL student represents them then they won't vote for them. If they think that the ESOL student will represent them adequately, than fine, he/she gets elected.
  • =T on November 13, 2005 at 8:48 PM
    i agree with disgusted.

    ...enough said.

  • Hawk on November 14, 2005 at 4:23 PM
    I have a general rule to figure out whether a civil rights idea/speech/claim is reasonable. Replace every instance of the "oppressed"/ "under-represented" group with the phrase "left-handed people", and every instance of the "oppressing"/ "dominating"/ "over-represented" group(s) with the phrase "right-handed people". If the statement still makes sense, then it is probably right, and if the claim does not still make sense, then it is probably wrong. For example, a few excerpts from Martin Luther King Junior's "I have a Dream" speech, converted by this method: Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of left-handed slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the left-handed people are still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the left-handed person is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the left-handed person lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the left-handed person is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land... It may read a little funny, but it still makes sense (assuming the claims of oppression to be true, which the original claims were). Thus, this method makes it clear that MLK Junior was right. Compare that obvious correctness to the utter stupidity of Hitler (this excerpt is from Chapter V of Volume II of Mein Kampf), which sounds ridiculous with, or without this change: The People's State, which I have tried to sketch in general outline, will not become a reality in virtue of the simple fact that we know the indispensable conditions of its existence. It does not suffice to know what aspect such a State would present. The problem of its foundation is far more important. The parties which exist at present and which draw their profits from the State as it now is cannot be expected to bring about a radical change in the regime or to change their attitude on their own initiative. This is rendered all the more impossible because the forces which now have the direction of affairs in their hands are right-handed people here and right-handed people there and right-handed people everywhere. The trend of development which we are now experiencing would, if allowed to go on unhampered, lead to the realization of the Pan-right-handed-persons prophecy that the right-handed people will one day devour the left-handed people and become lords of the earth. In contrast to the millions of 'bourgeois' and 'proletarian' left-handed people, who are stumbling to their ruin, mostly through timidity, indolence and stupidity, the right-handed person pursues his way persistently and keeps his eye always fixed on his future goal. Any party that is led by him can fight for no other interests than his, and his interests certainly have nothing in common with those of the left-handed peoples.... Again, the "Left-handed Test", as I call it, shows the truth. That Hitler was a maniac. So now lets apply this method to the fundamental idea behind the ESOL amendment: ESOL students should have a guaranteed spot on the senate to counteract their current under-representation. becomes: Left-handed students should have a guaranteed spot on the senate to counteract their current under-representation. If you really believe that that makes sense, I forgive you for thinking that this amendment does. P.S. While I would certainly be in favor of looser administrative control on SGA membership, this option was not made available to us when we were originally drafting the new Constitution. I sincerely hope the SGA manages to get this amendment passed.
  • To g on November 14, 2005 at 5:13 PM
    I don't see a post titled "ok, so" but I'll answer you anyway. I am an individual. I don't think that I am like other white people just because of my skin color. There is no "white voice". If you are truly for a color-blind society you will treat us all as humans rather than what color our skin is.

    So now you want to punish us for being born here? So you don't think the magnet or CAP analogy worked, how about this? Why don't we have a representative of the people with GPA under 2.0 or 1.0. I would guess most SGA officers have pretty good GPA's, people with low GPA's have distinct concerns.

    As you can see it has a similar problem. We are rewarding people because of their under-acheivment in the second scenario. You are rewarding people based on what language they learned first. You are trying to punish us who chose to learn the language of our country. I'm all for ESOL and helping people to learn our language, but you shouldn't also expect to have EXTRA representation.
  • Jay Asbell (View Email) on November 14, 2005 at 8:54 PM
    To disgusted and those that agree:
    It's not the fact that what i did was inapproprate or not, its the fact that the S in SGA stands for 'Student', and though the gesture was made at the wrong place at the wrong time, if the students felt that i was not fit to represent them then it should have been the students decision to remove me. Keep in mind that this was not the only incident that the SGA felt administration overstepped its bounds, many juniors and seniors remember when our very own student member of the board was banned from running for SGA president because he refused to remove his opposition to the ban on "freak-dancing" from his campeign speech. If the administration is allowed to pick and choose the leaders for the students, it removes the credibility of the organisation and undermines the values of the democratic system SGA seeks to emulate.
  • Finally on December 5, 2005 at 9:43 PM
    Having just graduated from blair, I can remember so many utterly stupid things the administration has done (forcing class skips for tardies, banning Sebastian from running because the admin were on a power trip...) that eliminating any form of the school administration's power from a STUDENT running organization makes more sense than anything else I've ever heard of SGA doing.
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