On September 29, TU for Bernie Sanders appeared before Senate in order to request a charter. That request was denied. Thirteen senators voted against the club, while nine voted for it.
The most commonly cited reason for the denial was a belief that the club wouldn’t be viable beyond this election cycle. The Student Organization Committee (SOC) guidelines for chartering clubs mandate that a club “uphold a viable presence on campus.”
TU for Bernie Sanders took issue with this interpretation. For one thing, the viability requirement in the SOC guidelines does not define viability in terms of a club’s longevity. They’re actually followed by a requirement that a club have at least ten members. TU for Bernie Sanders well exceeds this number.
Secondly, the club is not planning on dissolving after this election cycle. They say they plan on being around but shifting their focus after Bernie Sanders either exits the race or wins the presidency. Since they believed they did meet all the requirements of a student organization, they filed a lawsuit against Senate with SA’s Judicial Council.
Judicial Council sided with Senate against TU for Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately, the proceedings and actual opinions of Judicial Council are confidential, so few know the actual reasons for the ruling, and those who do cannot share that information with The Collegian. However, reading the governing documents upon which the Judicial Council is supposed to rely, one can make a guess of why they ruled the way that they did.
The SOC guidelines prohibit the Senate from chartering an organization with less than ten members, unless an exemption is granted by SOC. The guidelines do not, however, require that Senate charter an organization. Even if an organization meets the club guidelines, the Senate doesn’t have to give a charter.
Therefore it is irrelevant whether TU for Bernie Sanders was correct in their interpretation of the viability requirement. Senate alone has the discretion of whether or not to grant a charter. Senate can deny a charter on the silliest of reasons, let alone when senators have concerns about a viability requirement. The Judicial Council’s job is to determine whether Senate broke a rule, not whether TU for Bernie Sanders was viable after all.
In going to the Judicial Council, TU for Bernie Sanders was asking for Senate to be forced to charter an organization against its will. Had the Judicial Council done so, it would have been a usurpation of legislative power by the judiciary. A decision in favor of TU for Bernie Sanders would have rendered Senate as nothing more than a rubber stamp body for any organization that meets the minimum requirements of the SOC guidelines.
Judiciaries are tasked with interpreting the laws and rules as they exist. One can argue that Senate should have chartered the club. I probably would have voted to charter them. However, given there is no rule requiring Senate to do so, and the Judicial Council really only had one proper way to decide the case.
If one dislikes the outcome of the Senate vote, the proper responses are either to elect senators more favorable to the group or to have the governing documents amended so that the group would be chartered. Those are the processes open to a representative government. Otherwise, we are left with a government dominated by an unelected council that operates in secrecy.