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Inside Student Senate at Queens College

Staff members of student affairs are not attending, but it’s not a requirement, it’s more of—it’s nice to have them there for references” Jennifer Fernandez said, as another Student Senate meeting began on January 23, 2018. The meeting was the most recent of four student senate meetings held for the Fall 2017-Spring 2018 Fiscal Year, one of these meetings deemed as void for violating the New York State Open Meeting Laws.

Student Senate, as stated by the Student Association constitution, holds the legislative powers   of the Student Association shall be invested in the Queens College Student Senate. These powers include adopting bills and resolutions concerning the general welfare of the student body, to approve and amend the SA budget, and to ratify and remove officers in SA.

The inner workings of student senate are not clarified in the constitution, as stated in Section 6, Article B, “The senate shall have an Executive Committee, with the Senate chair serving as the chair of the Executive Committee, and members of the committee being chosen by the senate”—The Knight News could find no information about the existence of such a committee, or the members on it.  

Additionally, The Knight News contacted Student Senate chairperson Jennifer Fernandez, along with Student Association president Japneet Singh in regards to the responsibilities of the chairperson, the adoption of Robert’s Rules of Order, how informed our senators are, and whether Student Senate has been following recently imposed rules and regulations by Vice President Adam Rockman. These rules require that Student Senate must (1) call meetings one week in advance, (2) publicize said meetings 72 hours in advance, (3) have a QC administrator present, (4) be in a public space. Fernandez and Singh were unresponsive to our attempts for clarifications.

When it comes to voting, senators appear to be poorly informed of the Student Association constitution. This was clear at the January 23 meeting, where Japneet Singh explained the voting of new members into Student Association Committees, stating “the original [members of the committees] were never certified,” adding students on said committees “have to be members of SA.” According to the constitution, Article VII Section 3, it states that “Membership on SA Standing committee shall be open to any student. In order for a student to attain membership on the committee, the student must be nominated by the Committee Vice Chair and elected by the Student Senate.”

The Knight News has uncovered instances where the senate has failed to follow its constitution, including creating alleged fabricated minutes, and failing to question why the SA treasurer, Ramneet Singh, has not presented regular, detailed reports on SA’s revenues and expenditures.

The Knight News is unaware of how many members make up Student Senate, along with who our senators are. We received contact information for the following senators, and reached out to them to take part in our article: Paramjit Gujjar, Parveen Singh, Reaa Ali, Daniel Yakubov, Gabrielle Jean-Louis, Claudia Bandali, Karina Peraffan, Valerie Ramdhanie, Carmine Couloute, Joseph Tinzihanay, Narek Chil-Gevorkian, and Amanda Migdal.

Of the senators contacted, only three responded, to be showcased in our article. The following is the information they provided.

Gabrielle Jean-Louis serves as the Freshman/Sophomore Senate representative on the student senate board, where she votes on administrative policies that impact the educational aspect on campus.

Jean-Louis discussed she was unaware of the powers senators had when she began her work in senate. “When I first became a senator, I was not aware of the power I had. I do think that it has changed a bit overtime however there are instances where I am still learning the true responsibility my position holds after that responsibility was needed to neutralize a situation and at least evoke a just outcome.”

Jean-Louis added she does not believe students are aware of the senate process, and wishes to get students more involved.“I do not believe students are fully aware of the process and it would be refreshing to see that knowledge and information spread sooner than later because it is our job to serve the student population and community. Since the things that we vote on directly impact students, it would be nice to actually have them somewhat involved in the process.”

Daniel Yakubov serves and represents freshman and lower-sophomore students on QC Student Senate. He joined Student Senate to make a positive impact at QC by advocating for students.

Yakubov believes all senators are not aware of the power they hold, and tries to vote on issues brought to senate to best reflect the freshmen and lower-sophomores on the college. “When I make my decision during a vote, I do not take into consideration the views that my superiors (the SA e-board) would have of me – as many might think. My approach is to simply use my judgment and logic to make appropriate decisions that will benefit the student body.”

Yakubov tries to get students involved by posting meeting information on various outlets such as Facebook’s QC Class of 2021 page, in addition to proposing Town Hall meetings as a opportunity to have the student body engage with senators.

Amanda Migdal ran for academic senator, expecting to be involved in policy changes that would benefit the student body. After her term began, she learned the position of academic senator came with the position of student senator. Migdal states she was not informed of this until a meeting was called two months into the semester. After researching, she learned the faculty involved in Academic Senate was not involved with Student Senate, leaving her lost with responsibilities and no one to help.

Migdal also voted against the SA budget, “because there was a miscommunication of budget outlines and we were not given enough time to review the most current one. I had also asked for an outline of what had been spent so far, I was not given anything.”

Most recently, Migdal has voted against the new committees SA proposed. “Every time I have voted ‘nay’ it was solely due to the lack of information. I have continuously asked for material to review before a meeting and I have never been given any,” she states.

QC students are poorly informed as to what student senate is, until their presence becomes known during elections week. Previous Student Senate meeting dates, along with future dates, are not listed anywhere for students to attain.

A majority of the members of student senate do not communicate with The Knight News, making it difficult to showcase the work they have done to serve the QC student body, along with their knowledge as a senator.

Dean of Students, John Andrejack commented on Student Senate, stating, “I don’t think student senators are aware of the power that they have. What we are doing now makes students aware.” Andrejack added, “If the entire Democratic party follows behind the president, those politicians have no power, if student senators don’t stand up and don’t question [what is brought to them], then they won’t know [what they’re voting for].”

The Knight News strives to promote student involvement within Student Senate, and will publish any information we receive regarding Student Senate meetings on our social media pages.

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