The Missouri Students Association Senator Devin Kelsey proposed a new bill, named Bill 53-1: “An Act to Permit Any Member of the Missouri Students Association to Speak during MSA Senate."
This bill would permit any student to attend full Senate meetings on Wednesday and, if recognized by Senate Speaker McKenzie Morris, bring proposals and opposition to the floor.
Currently, any non-senator who wants to speak during full Senate must ask a senator to defer his or her speaking rights during the meeting, Kelsey said.
“I definitely support open dialogue,” Kelsey said. “I thought it would be a good idea for Senate to be able to hear from anybody on campus without some deferment process as it currently stands.”
Ben Levin, campus president of the Associated Students of the University of Missouri, held an advisory role in the formation of 53-1.
“Devin had an idea, which I thought was a good one, and so we talked about what the justifications were and what the potential critiques would be,” Levin said. “He showed me a text of the bill, and I gave him my input there.”
The current system, implemented by former Senate Speaker Jacob Sloan, was put in place in an effort to professionalize the Senate. It is often viewed as too complex and restrictive.
“A lot of times individuals who aren’t members of MSA Senate don’t understand how to follow that procedure and go about getting deferment rights to speak,” Kelsey said.
Bill 53-1 would radically simplify the process.
If the bill is passed, “(students) would just raise their hand, and I would simply recognize them,” Morris said. “It’s a lot more informal.”
Levin, in response to concerns that the bill will inspire pandemonium and inefficiency during meetings, said he thinks that a disciplined Senate with a strong speaker will transcend these problems.
“I think that there are concerns that when you let potentially 30,000 students speak that meetings could get a little out of hand, but I think that it is clear that the Senate Speaker (McKenzie Morris) will still have full control over the Senate floor,” Levin said. “I don’t think that critique has much merit.”
Morris said she is confident than she can use her authority effectively so that the Senate remains professional and productive.
“It could quite possibly make meetings longer if more people come in to speak, but as a representative student government that’s a risk we need to take,” Morris said. “If it makes our meetings longer, but more fruitful, it’s absolutely worth it.”
Levin explained that students and faculty will have no greater speaking rights than senators, and that they will not possess any voting rights.
“I think that students are going to show up when Senate picks up legislation that could affect them,” Levin said. “That's going to have to do with more than whether they have the ability to speak or not. As far as getting students more involved with MSA Senate, I think it has less to do with speaking rights and more to do with doing important work that concerns them.”
Kelsey, confident that the bill will pass, said he has practical expectations for the future of student involvement within the MSA.
“Last year there were a lot of concerns with the MSA budget, and while I did support the MSA budget as it was, there were a lot of people there who would have liked to express their concerns but didn’t fully understand how,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey said he is not concerned that current Senate procedures will be hindered by the passage of this bill and enthusiastically awaits the addition of new voices in Senate discussions.
“It’s not going to be where Senate is going to become all of campus showing up and talking every session, but there are going to be times … when the student body actually takes interest in what the MSA Senate is doing,” Kelsey said. “When those times come up, I’d love it if those individuals were able to express their concerns and opinions.”
Senate Bill 53-1 will have its second reading and be decided upon Wednesday, Sept. 11.