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At the Undergraduate Council meeting last Sunday, Vice President Joshua D. Liston '95 admitted that "mistakes were made," as he quickly expelled five members from our venerable student government. Unfortunately, Liston neglected to expel himself.
After a review of council documents last week, it has become clear that Liston has failed to enforce the council's attendance policy, one of his duties as vice president. Liston neglected to record 33 absences reported to him by the student affairs committee, thus allowing members with five or more absences to remain on the council.
Another council member admitted to The Crimson that he too had missed a total of five meetings yet was not punished. According to council by-laws. "any failure on the part of the vice president to enforce the attendance policy may be regarded as substantive grounds for recall."
The motion introduced last Sunday to recall Liston failed to achieve the two-thirds majority required to eject the vice president from office. Twenty-eight members voted against, 23 for.
Liston defended himself by remarking that previous vice presidents had also failed to enforce the attendance policy; he didn't "want to take the blame for the past 24 semesters" of vice presidents. And Liston is said to have referred to the controversy as a "political with hunt."
Despite the inevitable residue from "political scandal," the council has a duty to students and to itself to not ignore its own by-laws--especially when enforcement of the bylaws directly affects the quality of student representation. As David A. Smith '94, the council parliamentarian, has said, "Those members should not have been allowed to vote at previous council meetings. It changes the number [required] for quorum."
Indeed, as council members who should have been expelled continued to vote at meetings, certain vote could easily have been distorted. Furthermore, those council members who should have been expelled and continued to miss meetings served to distort house representation, as those council spots should have been awarded to other students by special election.
The recalcitrant members who accumulated enough absences to merit expulsion clearly are responsible for their behavior, but Liston failed in another of his duties by neglecting to warn them.
At the very least, Liston was disgracefully irresponsible. At worst, he may have tried to cover up his behavior by submitting false records to The Crimson.
In addition, as vice president , Liston was the official administrator of the recent illegitimate referendum, which included council members tabling in their own houses, ballots being left unsecured and voters not being verified as they voted--all violations of proper election procedure. Despite the obvious improprieties, Liston voted two weeks, ago, along with 21 other members, to uphold the results of the woefully flawed election.
The member who made the motion to recall Liston last Sunday, Christopher J. Garofalo '94, may have been a tad hyperbolic to have worried that the "integrity has already been done serious harm. But yet another arrogant display of flouting the letter and spirit of the law is no way for the council to turn around its reputation.
The council has a duty to uphold its own bylaws. And the failure to recall Liston last Sunday indicates that most members of the council lack even a basic respect for their own constitution.
So with the possibility of his being censured during this Sunday's meeting, Liston should finally show a little respect for the council and for himself by resigning from his position as vice president.
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