Council Members Say Phone Voting Violated Policy

Two members of the Undergraduate Council yesterday charged that a recent phone vote on a new constitution for the student government was inappropriate and violated council policy.

James L. Doak '94, a North House representative, said council leaders had selectively reinforced the body's attendance policy in an attempt to win approval for the new constitution. Rene Reyes '95, chair of the council's finance committee, said he too was troubled by the enforcement of the policy.

And Reyes charged that phone balloting on an issue as serious as a constitution "seriously undermines the legitimacy of the process."

"We are making a mockery of ourselves," Reyes said.

According to Council policy, all representative with more than five absences may be dismissed from the council and, thus not permitted to vote.

During the council's final meeting of the year, the constitution was presented and voted upon by some members. But without a quorum, vice chair David Hanselman '94 decided to conduct the rest of the balloting over the phone, which is permitted by council policy.

Doak, who had missed more than five meetings, said Hanselman dismissed only those members who might have opposed the constitution Doak said he himself was dismissed and did not learn of the vote until he read about it in last Friday's criticism.

In an interview, Hanselman acknowledge he did not inform members of their expulsion from the council. He said the phone vote, in light of poor attendance at the council meeting, was both within the constitution and necessary. He denied any selective use of the absence policy.

"I did not bother to call anyone who had missed more than five meetings," Hanselman said.

But two first year council members, who had exceeded the minimum of allowed absences, were allowed to vote, and cast ballots for the constitution.

Sourav Goswami '96, who by his own estimate had missed at least five meetings, cast an absentee ballot from his hospital bed. Sheldon Reid '96, who said he had missed more than five meetings this semester and was already on probation from the council, voted at the final meeting for the new constitution.

"The phone poll itself is suspicious," said Doak. "It is extremely out of the ordinary. It may be appropriate to resort to phone poll for some emergency votes but not for the revision of an organization."

Some council members said they worried about how well informed representatives were when they voted. The constitution was presented, they noted, in the body's last two meetings, which were attended by fewer than half of all members.

"It was a rushed meeting," Emmeline Li '96 said of the final meeting, which was a hastily called emergency session. "It was a whirlwind of stuff."

Members said council secretary Randall A. Fine '96 passed out copies is of the constitution, but few representatives picked up copies.

Hanselman said he believe two meetings was enough to properly inform council members. "I assumed people would vote only if they were well informed," he said

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