The UC Santa Barbara Associated Students Senate convened at the University Center Flying A Studios Room on March 1 to swear in two new Senators and discuss a bill proposing the adoption of the Westminster parliamentary system, a style of governance where executive officers are internally appointed.
The bill classifies all five executive officers as voting Senators. Candidates run as Senators during the general election, and once the Senate is elected, executives are internally appointed through a majority vote. The bill was tabled indefinitely at the meeting’s end.
Third-year political science major Amruta Baradwaj was sworn in as an Off-Campus Senator, and fourth-year economics and mechanical engineering double major Elvy Yao as an On-Campus Senator.
Following the appointments, third-year psychological & brain sciences and sociology double major Ava Gurwitz resigned as a College of Letters and Science Senator and third-year economics major Ehsan Varnous was removed as an On-Campus Senator.
Internal Vice President (IVP) and third-year economics and communication double major Sydney Kupsh said Varnous had seven absences during this quarter, exceeding the five absences permitted by Associated Students (A.S.) Standing Policy 10, making him eligible for removal.
Varnous did not immediately respond to requests for comment on his removal.
“I let Senator Varnous know about the removal process … [and] there was the option of a resignation or making a plan for attending meetings, but neither of these options were taken up,” Kupsh said.
Kupsh said during the meeting that Varnous’s removal was to be reviewed by the Judicial Council on March 7. In a statement to the Nexus on March 8, the Judicial Council said “a decision regarding this matter was not allocated to JC,” and deferred to IVP Kupsh. Kupsh did not immediately respond to inquiries on the status of the removal.
Kupsh told the Nexus there is precedent for removing Senators due to repeated absences, though she was “not sure the last time a removal has taken place.” Kupsh did not respond to further requests for comment on the removal.
The Senate then discussed several pieces of legislation, including the bill, ‘A Proposed Amendment to Adopt the Westminster Parliamentary System’ — which is currently utilized by Britain, Canada and New Zealand. The bill was authored by Off-Campus Senator and fourth-year political science major Granger Cruz-Brenneman
Prior to the discussion, A.S. Solicitor General Indigo Albani-Bombard gave a statement during a public forum against the bill on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General, taking issue with the internal appointment of executives and possible impacts.
“A speaker appointment by fellow Senators could bring the issues of corruption and nepotism to [A.S.],” Albani-Bombard said. “Furthermore, government formation through an internal Senate vote would create a larger disconnect between A.S. and the student body.”
“What is being presented is, in effect, a new Constitution. We oppose this passing and strongly urge Senators to consider the ramifications of each and every change this bill poses,” Albani-Bombard continued.
The bill was largely met with disapproval from the Senate, with several Senators deeming it as “undemocratic.” College of Letters and Science Senator and third-year political science and communication double major Tessa Veksler said shifting from a mode of government that constituents are familiar with reduces the accessibility of A.S. as an institution by UCSB students.
“It would change the accessibility of A.S., considering that the system of government we use here is something more people can understand,” she said.
Veksler also took issue with UCSB being the first American institution to implement the system, citing a lack of precedent and concern over its potential shortcomings.
When questioned on the intent of the bill, Cruz-Brenneman said the proposal was sincere but not wholly developed.
“It was a serious proposal, but given the lack of time and lack of overall support, I wish to rescind it,” Cruz-Brenneman said.
The Senate tabled the bill indefinitely following discussion.
The Senate passed two pieces of legislation during the meeting: ‘A Resolution to Establish a Temporary Controls and Compliance Committee’ and ‘A Resolution in Support of Extending the Pass-no-Pass Deadline.’
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the March 9, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.