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Low attendance problem for Student Congress

March 19, 1997

By Jenni Luker

Lariat Reporter

As spring activities accumulate, Student Congress is struggling with low attendance at the organization's weekly meetings.

Many members have filled their weeknight schedules and are finding it more and more difficult to attend all of the meetings.

'Absences are always a problem, especially in the spring,' said COB member Ben Bacon, a Freehold, N.J., junior. 'People just get busy.'

Ten of the approximately 50 members were absent at the Feb. 13 meeting when Student Congress allocated $1,250 to the Society of Graduate Students in English for a conference held in February.

Later in the same meeting, the members lost quorum and the meeting was immediately adjourned.

Quorum consists of half of the members of Student Congress plus one. This amount is required for meetings to continue.

Since roll is taken twice per meeting--at the beginning and the end--anyone's leaving early has the possibility of affecting quorum.

In addition, members who are absent at the second roll call are given a half absence.

Student Congress members are only allowed two absences before they are reviewed by the Congressional Operating Board (COB). The members of COB then determine whether the member should be asked to resign or if other action should be taken.

Some absences are excused. Absences due to classes or labs, illness, family emergencies, exams and All-University Sing technical rehearsals (for Sing technicians only) are excused.

Kevin McMurry, student body vice president and a Norcross, Ga., senior, said the two absences allow for unavoidable schedule conflicts that aren't excused absences.

'If you have to skip [a meeting] for an intramural game' or some other activity, he said, 'we understand that. That's why you get two absences before it's brought to COB.'

But the COB serves to weed out those who are simply apathetic about attending meetings, McMurry said.

'We'd rather get people on who are interested in doing something,' he said.

Members have to work to balance Student Congress meetings and their other activities.

'I've been on Student Congress for two years, and this year it has been much harder for me to stay below two absences,' said Amanda Whiteley, a San Antonio sophomore. 'Right now I have 1.5 absences just because I have so much going on.'

According to Student Body Secretary Michael Jackson, a Waco senior, there are currently nine members of Student Congress who have more than two absences.

'Overall, I'd say this semester the absences have been worse than last semester,' Jackson said. 'We've already had to fill 11 spots due to absence problems.'

Bacon said, 'COB is taking a more proactive stance on absences this semester. We've been asking more people to resign.'

McMurry said Student Congress is becoming more unforgiving of unexcused absences.

'This year we take it seriously,' he said.

McMurry said several people have already been asked to resign this semester.

'In addition, several people have chosen to resign of their own free will,' he said. 'They went ahead and resigned rather than go before COB.'

College of Arts and Sciences representative Eraina Sloan, a Waco sophomore who currently has four absences, said she will be attending a COB meeting this week to discuss her absences.

'I think this [the two absence limit] is a fair policy,' Sloan said. 'Some of mine [absences] are from missing office hours, Sing rehearsals and other conflicts.'

With the induction of 11 new at-large members in February, Student Congress members said they hope to see an improvement in attendance.

'I think there were some past members who didn't realize the time commitment when they joined,' Whiteley said. 'Now we have a lot of new people who are really energetic.'

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