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UISG abstains from decision on 21-ordinance

BY LILY ABROMEIT | OCTOBER 30, 2013 5:00 AM

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University of Iowa student-government leaders decided taking a stand on the 21-ordinance was not within their jurisdiction, tabling pieces of legislation to both repeal and endorse the ordinance.

UI Student Government senators and executives met Tuesday for a heated debate over supporting or opposing the 21-ordinance, and as the meeting came to a close, they found themselves at a standstill.

“We couldn’t pass both … and passing one over the other was going to be quite a decision to make in a very short time,” said Saranya Subramanian, the speaker of the Senate. “It’s really hard when we have to decide between doing what’s best for our constituents and what the constituents think is best.”

Within 10 minutes of opening discussion into the matter, UISG Sen. Sam Wampler moved to table both pieces of legislation, saying it was a “personal issue” and should not be discussed in a UISG setting.

Wampler received a majority of support, causing the meeting to end with no official position from UISG.

UISG Sen. Brendan Power was disappointed with the decision. He told the senators the ordinance is “the most relevant issue this school year,” and he saw it as the duty of UISG to repeal the motion.

“There was a lot of discussion to have been had that was kind of shut down,” Power said. “That was a cop-out on both sides.”

Power cited pressures from UI officials as a reason for UISG senators failing to reach a decision.

“The university thought that UISG supporting a repeal of the ordinance would look bad for the university’s administration,” he said. “[Officials] made it a point to circumvent any discussion from UISG … [and] to stifle discussion altogether.”

Tom Rocklin, the UI vice president for Student Life, said he was unaware of any pressure from the administration.

“This kind of thing has come up before and … I respect the student government too much to try to influence it,” he said. “They wouldn’t serve a useful function if they were doing what the university wanted them to do.”

UISG President Katherine Valde said she did not believe taking a side was UISG’s place.

“I think there are some things that come under the realm of UISG, and some things that don’t,” she said. “It shows that we’re mindful about where we step in and where we don’t.”

Valde said she thought the decision to abstain “makes sense,” because it is an issue that clearly divides students.

“How UISG votes … won’t change the results on Election Day,” she said. “We have such a divided [student] body that any vote wouldn’t represent the entire student population.”

Ben Gillig, president of the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students, cautioned UISG against announcing a position — saying he believed the senators did not have enough information to make an informed decision.

“The collective voice of [the Executive Council] and UISG is a very powerful thing … I worry that by wading neck deep into the political quagmire that is the 21-ordinance that the voice of student government will be somewhat diminished,” he said. “Student government ought to let the voters decide; we ought not to interject our views into what is ultimately the voters’ decision.”

UISG Vice President Jack Cumming said he was surprised the senators did not make a decision but said he hoped the senators would participate in today’s forum hosted by *The Daily Iowan* and UISG to discuss the 21-ordinance in more detail.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to hear both sides,” he said. “Not a lot of them have had the time to hear both.”


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