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Blind Ballot Resolution Falls One Vote Short in Student Assembly

After postponing a vote from last week, the Student Assembly (SA) of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College revisited the Resolution Concerning the Secret Ballot on Tuesday night. The resolution could not be passed because the two-thirds majority of the 23 present voting senators was not achieved.

The resolution, sponsored by Aneeb Sheikh, MCAS ’20, was presented last week and calls for a change in the SA’s standing rules in which the Assembly can call a two-thirds majority to write votes on paper so that senators cannot see each others’ wills.

“I feel that [the secret ballot] was abused last year,” Sheikh said. “People will know how [senators] discussed, whether [they] are for or against a resolution. The blind vote allows an individual in the SA to be completely silent the entire time, not contribute to the dialogue that improves resolutions and amends them, and then just vote against it.”

The debate which preceded Tuesday night’s vote was streamed on UGBC’s Facebook live.

Sam Szemerenyi, MCAS ’20, spoke about negative social responses toward a student who wrote a letter to the editor for expressing her beliefs.

“While I would happily go through that to defend my own beliefs, I don’t think any person should go through that,” he said. “While that is still a reality on this campus, that people want to express what they want to say, I do think we need to keep the [secret ballot].”

Other senators agreed with Szemerenyi, feeling that their decision-making process in the SA is contingent upon possible negative reactions from the school community. On a pro-life activism resolution vote last year, the secret ballot was used to protect senators from these threats on their opinions, one member said.

Michael Proietta, MCAS ’19, believes that in the face of a challenging vote, there needs to be public discourse, and, he said, a blind vote directly prohibits that.  

“Voting with a secret ballot tarnishes what we are trying to do here,” he said.

The Heights was mentioned at times during the debate, especially in matters of transparency and the public image of the SA, and some members noted that The Heights only printed the results of UGBC debates.

“Even if the end result is a [secret ballot], you still know who spoke against it,” Sheikh said. “If you really want [the secret ballot as] protection, then you would also be arguing for The Heights to not be in the room and not publish what goes on.”

Due to time constraints, the debate moved into a vote, and Tt King, UGBC executive vice president and MCAS ’18, called roll of all present voting members. Twenty-three senators were present and eligible to vote, and therefore to achieve the two-thirds majority and pass the resolution, 16 votes were required. 15 senators voted in favor of the resolution, seven voted against, and one senator abstained.

King said that a vote on the resolution may happen again at another meeting.


Editor’s note: an earlier version of this article has been corrected to reflect that a student who wrote an LTE and received negative social responses is not a UGBC senator.

Featured Image by Heights Staff

September 28, 2017