At its meeting Monday night, the Student Association Assembly voted to appeal the Judicial Board’s recent decision that the student group New York Public Interest Research Group be fully reinstated. The Assembly had previously attempted to order NYPIRG to vacate its office and to remove its charter.
On Feb. 14, Assembly Speaker Randal Meyer announced that the Binghamton University chapter of NYPIRG had been de-chartered for failing to comply with an order from the Assembly Rules Committee to vacate its office in the New University Union. Last week, the Judicial Board overturned NYPIRG’s office eviction and subsequent de-chartering on the grounds that the Rules Committee had overstepped its authority under the SA’s bylaws by holding a hearing on NYPIRG’s office use and also denying members of the group equal rights to speak before the Committee.
Near the beginning of Monday’s four-and-a-half-hour Assembly meeting, Meyer took a straw poll of Assembly members after asking if they wished to appeal a Judicial Board decision that had reprimanded the body. A majority of the Assembly members present supported the appeal by a vote of 16-8, and Meyer announced his intention to file an appeal with the Judicial Board Tuesday.
When asked why he was appealing the Judicial Board decision, Meyer said he had to carry out the will of the Assembly as its chief officer. The straw poll was non-binding, however.
The dispute surrounding NYPIRG’s status on campus began when Meyer, acting as the chair of the Rules Committee, notified the group on Feb. 1 that the Committee would conduct a hearing on Feb. 3 to determine whether NYPIRG deserved to keep its office. At the hearing, the Rules Committee voted 7-2 to order NYPIRG to vacate its office, and the Assembly voted 16-14 to approve the Rules Committee’s decision at its next meeting on Feb. 7.
Instead of leaving, NYPIRG leaders filed grievances against the Rules Committee and Assembly with the Judicial Board in which it argued that the SA acted outside its constitutional authority and denied the group due process, among other claims.
The Judicial Board ruled on Feb. 23 that the Assembly had committed “egregious offenses” of students’ rights under the SA’s constitution in its treatment of NYPIRG.
“I thought the decision was very clear and laid out multiple grounds on which to dismiss the SA’s actions,” said Brenden Colling, who is a regional campus supervisor for NYPIRG and is not a BU student.
Colling said he did not know what the procedure was for appealing Judicial Board decisions to the Judicial Board.
Meyer also said he was not sure what the outcome of a second Judicial Board hearing would be.
“They should hear the case in the next five or six days and will rule whatever they rule,” Meyer said.
Kevin Fischer, one of the Judicial Board members who heard NYPIRG’s grievance last Wednesday, has since resigned his position. His replacement, Brian Parente, was confirmed at Monday’s Assembly meeting.
A motion was also put forth at the meeting by Nick Valiando, the SA elections chair, to impeach Mark Zakariya, the chair of the Judicial Board, for allegedly not following the constitution in his handling of NYPIRG’s grievance against the Assembly.
Valiando, who has previously tried to impeach members of the Judicial Board after rulings that reprimanded the Assembly, said he had found 17 instances in which Zakariya violated the SA constitution, though nine of the alleged violations were from last semester. Valiando, however, only named a handful during the meeting, the foremost of which included Zakariya’s failure to put written notifications in the office mailboxes of SA officials, as is required by the SA constitution. Zakariya sent out e-mails to the whole student body through the SA-Line and B-Line stating when and where the hearing on NYPIRG’s grievance would take place.
After a lengthy floor debate, the Assembly voted 19-4 against impeachment.
“We need to send a clear message to the J-Board,” Valiando said. “It’s getting to the point where the J-Board will give up its necessary moral authority to rule. They won’t accept any exercise of discretion by the Assembly.”