ASPC considers withholding senators’ paychecks for poor meeting attendance

View of the ASPC business office from the check-in counter. A middle-aged African American woman works at a computer desk.
Recent ASPC meetings have been marked by low senatorial attendance despite upcoming elections. Pictured above is the Business Office of the Associated Students of Pomona College. (Timothy Liu • The Student Life)

Half of ASPC’s 15 paid senators are generally absent from weekly meetings, according to ASPC President Alejandro Guerrero PO ’19, which impedes the student government’s ability to pass legislation and approve minutes.

The attendance issues have become so severe that Guerrero, vice president Johny Ek Aban PO ’19 and staff adviser and associate dean Ellie Ash-Balá are considering withholding senators’ stipends.

“This year, our students are just not actively engaged and are finding ways to not be as present as possible,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero said the high absenteeism has been a roadblock to ASPC operations. For ASPC to invoke its legislative ability, a quorum — or majority of senators — must be present to vote, according to Guerrero.

“There have definitely been moments in which a quorum would be needed, and we weren’t able to get to certain things,” Guerrero said. “Last semester … we were trying to get agendas voted on, and some people weren’t showing up.”

Depending on their position, ASPC senators are compensated between $1,200 to $1,850 for their work, which is drawn from yearly fees paid by Pomona students. All other 5C student governments, besides Pitzer Student Senate, pay at least some of their positions.

It’s unclear why ASPC senators aren’t attending the meetings. However, Guerrero said senators’ responsibilities as “part-time administrators” can result in emotional strain during periods of tension between the administration and students.

“Inconsistent attendance in meetings is not just a reflection of … people not caring, but … a reflection of trauma,” Guerrero said, attributing absences to personal difficulties and recent tensions on campus.

Unlike each of the other 5C student governments, ASPC’s bylaws and constitution do not require voting members to attend.

In minutes from the March 12 meeting — the only minutes TSL was able to obtain from ASPC secretary Alfredo Reyes PO ’20 — more students were absent than present. Eight voting senators and three non-voting members were present, and seven voting senators and seven non-voting members were absent.

Across the other 5Cs, student government meetings are routinely well-attended. At recent ASCMC and SAS meetings, there was only one absence each, according to the published minutes. The most recent minutes for Pitzer Student Senate recorded seven absences of a total of 39 senators, and all members were present at the last ASHMC meeting.

ASHMC fines senators’ constituencies $25 per meeting if they miss more than one scheduled senate meeting, according to its bylaws.

“This year, our students are just not actively engaged and are finding ways to not be as present as possible,” — ASPC President, Alejandro Guerrero PO ’19

Senators check in quarterly with Guerrero to discuss their ASPC-related activities and receive their checks. This quarter, Guerrero may not give certain senators their checks.

“There were senators that never showed up to meetings ever and still they got their checks in years past. … I see that as a trend,” Guerrero said.

Low attendance also prevents approval of the minutes recorded at weekly meetings, which also requires a quorum. When high absenteeism occurs, voting on minutes must take place over a Slack channel.

Though minutes may be approved over Slack, they remain unavailable to the public. Since the start of the school year, the ASPC website has stated that a “minutes tracker” is under development. Guerrero said he was unaware of this “minutes tracker,” and accepted responsibility for minute inaccessibility, saying he wasn’t aware it was a problem.

“It’s definitely about me doing my job as a leader saying what’s going on and how can we address this and move forward,” Guerrero said.

Following his interview with TSL, Guerrero said all minutes from the 2018-19 academic year will be posted Sunday.

As ASPC elections approach, Sean Volke PO ’21, ASPC elections commissioner, stressed the need for committed candidates.

“I want people running who are invested in showing up and working as hard as they can on ASPC,” he said. “I think about that as a student who will be impacted by decisions made by the Senate.”

Miguel Delgado PO ’20, one of three candidates running for ASPC president, criticized the financial compensation given to senators with poor attendance.

“Stipends are paid with student body fees and every dollar allocated to stipends could be used to serve the greater student body,” Delgado said via message. “As elected officials, we must hold ourselves to the highest standard and we can’t expect students to engage with ASPC if senators don’t.”

Cameron Tipton PO ’20, another presidential candidate, also criticized the poor attendance by this year’s senators.

“When being financially compensated to advocate on behalf of students, habitually skipping meetings is nothing short of egregious,” they said via message. “Being elected to office obligates you to serve the students wholeheartedly. You can’t win the fight if you won’t even bother to show up.” (Disclaimer: Tipton is also a TSL opinions writer.)

The third ASPC president candidate, Kirill Myagkov PO ’22, pledged to be an accountable leader, if elected.

“Many people end up putting blind faith in the leaders that they trust which ends up resulting in a lack of accountability … having trust and accountability are the two most important things in a leader,” Myagkov said via message.

Guerrero recommended candidates set realistic schedules for themselves to ensure they can attend the meetings.

“Don’t over-commit,” he said. “If you want to do this, be intentional about that work.”

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