The reasons behind the decision of 14 Student Government senators to abstain in Tuesday’s vote on whether to support USF President Judy Genshaft’s decision to fire tenured professor Sami Al-Arian are ridiculous. Claiming ignorance to procedures, as some have suggested happened during the meeting, or being ill-informed on the issue at hand are not excuses for refusing to cast a concrete vote.
Some senators said the reasoning behind voting for abstention was because they wanted to have more time to become acquainted with the views of the students they represent. Another said it was a “unique” situation in that other senators were newly elected and simply “not motivated” enough to sufficiently poll students on how they felt. In effect, those who abstained said that they wished to table the resolution because they were not informed enough to make a decision at the time.
However, as representatives of a large student population, being uninformed is hardly an excuse for casting a vote of neutrality, nor does it warrant being afforded extra time to become informed.
In addition, the senators chose to use a liberal interpretation of the word abstention – defined in the Student Government statutes as an appropriate response when a resolution conflicts with a senator’s “direct personal or pecuniary interests.” This, in turn, allows the senators to rationalize doing nothing.
If these abstaining senators are uninformed on possibly the most controversial academic freedom issue ever to infect this campus, then what precedent does that set for future issues?
Furthermore, with only 45 senators representing 37,000 students and just 21 casting a definitive vote, the student body has been grossly underrepresented.
Regardless, the senate is expected to make informed decisions on behalf of the student body. If SG wishes to be looked upon as a decision-making organization, it needs to follow the path of other such groups, such as the faculty union, and make a solid decision.