Student Senate 101

 TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Mission and Purpose of the Student Senate

II. The Role of the Senate in Student Government Operations

III. The Role of the Senate in Texas A&M University Operations

IV. The Duties and Powers of the Student Senate

A. Providing for the General Welfare of the Student Body

i. Policies and Proposals: Student Senate Bills
ii. Opinions and Statements: Student Senate Resolutions 

B. Appropriating the Student Government Association Budget
C. Ratifying Executive Agreements
D. Confirming SGA Officials and University Committees
E. Reviewing Student Fee Rates and Allocations
F. Maintaining Relationships with Administrators and Student Organizations
G. Monitoring the Executive and Judicial Branches
H. Calling Referendums
I. Regulating the Student Government Association
J. Regulating the Student Senate
K. Amending the SGA Constitution

V. The Legislative Process: The Life of a Bill or Resolution

A. The Types of Bills and Resolutions
B. The Life of a Bill or Resolution

VI. The Structure and Internal Operations of the Student Senate

A. Officers and Ex-Officio Officers (Including Liaisons)
B. Committees
C. Caucuses
D. Attendance Policies
E. Student Outreach Policies
F. Record Keeping Policies
G. General Assemblies, Special Session Meetings, and Committees of the Whole
H. Rules of Debate

VII. Getting Involved in the Student Senate

 

 STUDENT SENATE 101: A SUMMARY OF THE STUDENT SENATE

This guide is for educational purposes only and is only a summary of the Student Senate's history, structure, operations, duties and powers.  It is not a substitute for legal advice.  Further details on the Student Senate may be acquired by referencing the various governing documents of the Student Government Association contained in the Student Government Association Code.  The latest copy may be referenced by clicking here.

I. Mission and Purpose of the Student Senate

Mission Statement: "The Texas A&M University Student Senate represents all students in order to enhance the Texas A&M experience within our university and communities through research, legislation, and advocacy in accordance with the core values of our institution."

Purpose: The Student Senate is the legislative branch of the Student Government Association.  It's primary purpose is to serve as the voice of the student body to Texas A&M Administration, and other entities concerned with the university.  The Student Senate establishes student body policies through legislation that is later implemented by the Student Body President and his or her executive branch.

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II. The Role of the Senate in Student Government Operations

The Student Government Association is divided into three coordinate branches of government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial.  As the legislative branch, the Student Senate is primarily responsible for passing legislation regulating the Student Government's operations and its lobbying efforts with university officials.  The operations of the Student Government, and SGA's lobbying efforts, are in turn overseen by the Student Body President and his or her executive branch.  The judicial branch, the Judicial Court, monitors both branches and resolves disputes that arise concerning the Constitution, the operations of the Student Government, and the implementation of policies and proposals enacted by the Student Senate.

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III. The Role of the Senate in Texas A&M University Operations

Student Government naturally does not directly manage many Texas A&M University processes, in fact, it manages few if any.  Thus, the primary role of the Student Senate in Texas A&M University's operations is to advise and assist the university's administration.  This role is primarily fulfilled by legislation calling for the university to take certain courses of action or to implement certain policies or proposals.  Each Senate bill passed by the Student Senate and implemented by the Student Body President has the weight of the entirety of the 50,000 member student body behind it, as the Student Government Association is the elected governing body of the students.

The success of the Student Government Association in enacting change at Texas A&M University largely hinges on the substance of legislation passed by the Student Senate and the ability of the Student Body President to implement the legislation.  These two issues require that both the legislative branch and the executive branch work in unison to achieve results.

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IV. The Duties and Powers of the Student Senate

The following are brief summaries of the various duties and powers of the Student Senate.  Further details on the duties and powers of the Student Senate can be referenced in Article III Section III of the Student Government Association Constitution, which details most of the Student Senate's duties and powers.


A. Providing for the General Welfare of the Student Body

The Student Senate has the power to enact any piece of legislation necessary to promote the general welfare of the student body.  This broad legislative power manifests itself into multiple forms of legislation: policies and proposals through Student Senate bills, and opinions and statements through Student Senate resolutions.  Each are discussed below.  

i. Policies and Proposals: Student Senate Bills

The most common piece of legislation used by the Student Senate to promote the general welfare of the student body is a policy and proposal bill.  Usually these bills are enacted by the Student Senate and implemented by the Student Body President for a set period of time, usually expiring at the conclusion of the session of the Student Senate.  Other policies and proposals, however, are codified (written down) into the Student Government Association Code (organizing document) to be implemented over the course of multiple sessions of the Student Senate.

For example, many policies and proposals have been enacted by the Student Senate relating to such topics as the MSC Renovation or Q-Drops.  These policies have only been temporary, and none to date have been codified.  However, other policies and proposals, such as the placement of students in Vision 2020 and rules governing student body elections, have been codified permanently until they are eliminated.

In both cases, however, the Student Body President is primarily charged with implementing the policy or proposal.  The life a bill is discussed below.

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ii. Opinions and Statements: Student Senate Resolutions 

The second type of legislation used by the Student Senate is a resolution.  The primary difference between a bill and a resolution is whether the policy or proposal is binding on the Student Body President, or merely reflects the opinion of the Student Senate.  Resolutions only reflect the opinion of the Student Senate on a particular university policy or action.  They also are primarily used to thank administrators for their service, welcome guests, or recognize students and student organizations for their hard work.  The life of a resolution is discussed below.

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B. Appropriating the Student Government Association Budget

The Student Senate retains the power of the purse under the Student Government Association Constitution.  Thus, the Senate is the entity that appropriates the annual Student Government Association Budget during the month of September or October every year, as well as the various appeals by student organizations for funding from the Student Government's reserves throughout the academic year.

The budgetary process begins with a review and recommendation from the Student Body President through his or her Finance cabinet member.  This initial budget is then considered by the Student Senate Appropriations Committee through several budgetary hearings attended by entities requesting funding from the Student Government Association.  These hearings ultimately result in a draft bill that is presented to the Student Senate.  Appeals are then taken to amend the budget in the Appropriations Committee, and the bill is later returned to the floor for a vote.

The budget is drawn from the $50,000 SSFAB allocation to the Student Government Association, as well as funds that are retained in a reserve account each year.  These retained funds come from unspent monies appropriated in the previous year's budget.  Further details on the Student Senate Appropriations Committee can be found by clicking here.

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C. Ratifying Executive Agreements

The Student Senate is responsible for ratifying executive agreements entered into by the Student Body President with entities outside the Student Government Association.  These agreements take the place of statutes enacted by the Student Senate, and are useful for complex agreements that the Student Senate could not otherwise draft legislation for.  Essentially, the ratification power of the Student Senate mirrors the ratification power of the United States Senate for treaties entered into by the President of the United States.  Of course, executive agreements entered into by the Student Body President are of a far lessor degree than treaties.  The concept, however, is the same.

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D. Confirming SGA Officials and University Committees

The Student Senate is in charge of confirming appointments made by the Student Body President for various executive and judicial branch positions, as well as student positions on university committees.  Confirmation is done by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the Student Senate membership present and voting at an announced meeting.  The confirmation process typically involves a review of the candidate's application, a meet and greet, and a question and answer session on the floor of the Student Senate.  The Senate then proceeds into debate, usually closed, on the candidate and votes whether to confirm or not.

Confirmation has historically been done by a simple vote on the floor of the Student Senate, either by ballot or by a voice vote.  Currently, confirmation may also be done by a Senate resolution, providing an official document accompanying the vote of confirmation.

All nominees confirmed by the Student Senate remain in office for as long as their position entails.  Cabinet members remain in office only for as long as the session of the Student Senate, but other positions, such as certain Student Service Fee Advisory Board Members, may remain in office for multiple years.  Justices of the Judicial Court serve terms that last as long as the justice is a student in good standing at Texas A&M University and enrolled in six (6) credit hours.

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E. Reviewing Student Fee Rates and Allocations

The Student Senate is vested authority by the university to review student fee rates and allocations.  This review is conducted during the fall academic semester by the finance committee of the Student Senate, as of January 1st, 2012.  The Student Senate hears presentations at a special session in October from departments across the entire university on proposed fee rates and allocations.  The finance committee then adopts a report on the proposed increases that is approved of by a majority vote of the Student Senators present and voting at an announced meeting and that is signed by the Student Body President.  The finance committee has significant power to determine the contents of the report, and subsequently the student body's opinion on proposed fee rates and allocations, because the report may only be amended by a one-sixth second and a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the Student Senators present and voting.  The report is forwarded along to the administration of Texas A&M University as the official opinion of the entire student body.  Its provisions are usually followed by the administration.

Further rules governing the Student Senate's review of student fee rates and allocations can be found in the Student Senate By-Laws.

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F. Maintaining Relationships with Administrators and Student Organizations

As is evident by the fact that the Student Senate does not have binding power over student fee rates and allocations, maintaining relationships with administrators and other student organizations is key for the Student Senate's ability to enact change at Texas A&M University.  Administrators are the individuals who are primarily vested authority over student issues; thus, it is important for the Student Senate to have open lines of communication and honest feedback with Texas A&M University's administration.

These relationships are built and maintained by every member of the Student Senate, and especially the officers of the Senate.  The Speaker of the Senate is vested the ultimate authority to speak on behalf of the Student Senate; thus, the speaker currently meets on a semi-regular basis with the President of Texas A&M University, the Vice President for Student Affairs, and other select administrators to ensure that the Student Senate is aware of pending issues on campus.

The Student Senate; however, is not vested with the primary responsibility for enacting policies and proposals passed by the Student Senate.  Instead, that responsibility falls to the Student Body President and the executive branch.  Student Senators may of course assist the Student Body President in meeting with administrators to ensure that statutes achieve results, but the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that student body policies and proposals are put into force falls to the Student Body President alone.

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G. Monitoring the Executive and Judicial Branches

Because the Student Body President is primarily in charge of executing Student Senate legislation, it is necessary for the Student Senate to monitor the executive branches' actions.  This monitoring is conducted usually by the officers of the Senate for their particular subject-matter areas.  Monitoring also occurs at governance council meetings on a bi-weekly basis, where the officers of the Senate meet with the executive cabinet to discuss the status of Student Senate legislation.

Ultimately, if issues are discovered, the Student Senate may exercise its regulatory powers to require certain courses of action by the executive or judicial branches, or may exercise its disciplinary powers to impeach the Student Body President or the Justices of the Judicial Court is severe abuse is present.  This latter course of action is extremely rare.

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H. Calling Referendums

The Student Government Association Constitution vests power in the Student Senate to call referendums of the student body to render opinions on proposed statutes, or as of February 2012, proposed constitutional amendments.  These actions are not subject to the veto of the Student Body President, as the referendum is in effect a signature or veto of the Student Senate's action.  Referendums on proposed statutes must be called by a majority vote of the Student Senators present and voting at an announced meeting, and referendums on proposed constitutional amendments must be called by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the Student Senators present and voting at an announced meeting.  Both rules are provided for in the Constitution of 2012.

Statutes must be approved of by a majority vote of the student body participating in the election, and proposed constitutional amendments must be approved of by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the student body participating in the election.  Again, these rules are provided for in the Constitution of 2012.

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I. Regulating the Student Government Association

The Student Senate is vested authority to provide for any statute necessary for providing for the general welfare of the student body and any statute necessary for carrying into execution any duty or power vested in any other branch of the Student Government Association.  This latter power means, in effect, that the Student Senate is vested the power to provide for any rule or procedure regulating the operations of the Student Government Association, except those rules or procedures that would directly conflict with the constitution.  The Student Senate creates committees, commissions, and other offices for the executive and judicial branches, and is vested power to establish legislative commissions to perform a quasi-legislative function outside the Student Senate.

Regulations include such topics as the SGA election regulations, the SGA allocations regulations (governing the spending of student fee money by SGA entities), and the SGA endowment regulations (governing SGA's financial endowment account).  Nearly all of these regulations are contained within Title V of the Student Government Association Code under each particular branches' subtitle.

The Student Senate may also delegate its power to regulate the Student Government Association to any entity of the government.  For example, the Student Senate could delegate its legislative powers to the SGA Election Commission to allow for the commission to establish the SGA election regulations, rather than the Student Senate.  The statutes currently contain a general delegation clause that allows all SGA entities to enact rules or procedures necessary for executing their mission and purpose that do not otherwise conflict with statutes passed by the Student Senate.  These rules or procedures are akin to administrative agency rules under the United States federal government.

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J. Regulating the Student Senate 

The Student Government Association Constitution also vests power in the Student Senate to establish rules or procedure for regulating the Student Senate.  This power is limited by the Constitution of 2012 to only rules needed to structure the Student Senate, govern its proceedings, discipline its members, provide for an attendance policy, and provide for any other rules expressly called for under the constitution (e.g., apportionment of seats).  These rules or procedures are enacted by a bill and a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the Student Senators present and voting at an announced meeting.  Senate By-Law bills are not subject to the veto of the Student Body President; however, any other rule relating to the Student Senate outside the list of categories discussed above must be passed by a statute that is subject to the veto of the Student Body President, rather than a Student Senate By-Law bill.

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K. Amending the SGA Constitution  

Finally, the Student Senate is vested the power to amend the Student Government Association Constitution.  This power is exercised by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the Student Senators present and voting at an announced meeting.  The bill amending the constitution also must be read (presented for review) at at least two separate announced meetings.  The bill is also subject to the veto of the Student Body President, which may only be overriden by a three-quarters (3/4) majority vote of the Student Senators present and voting at an announced meeting.  Thus, it is more difficult for the Student Senate to amend the constitution than it is for the Student Senate to enact statutes that govern the operations of the Student Government Association.  Naturally, because the constitution concerns itself with the balance of power between the three branches, it is more difficult to be amended.

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V. The Legislative Process: The Life of a Bill or Resolution

A. The Types of Bills and Resolutions

It is important to understand the distinction between a bill and a resolution, a codified and an uncodified statute, an amendment and a by-law, and a rule or procedure and a policy or proposal.  The following discussion defines the difference between all of these phrases that you may have seen in this guide, and in the Student Government Association Code.

First, the Constitution vests power in the Student Senate, the student body, or the various branches of the Student Government Association to create certain types of rules.  The Student Senate is vested power to create statutes, rules or procedures, and amendments to the constitution.  The Student Body President is vested power to create rules or procedures, as is the Governance Council and the Judicial Court.  Finally, the student body is also vested the authority by the Constitution of 2012 to enact statutes or amendments to the constitution independently from the Student Senate through a referendum petition.

So, what do each of these words or phrases mean?

  • Statutes: Statutes are rules, policies, proposals, procedures, or statements of the official opinion of the student body that are passed into law either by the Student Senate or the student body through a referendum.  Statutes are effectively laws/ordinances.  Statutes enacted by the Student Senate are subject to the veto of the Student Body President; however, statutes enacted by a referendum of the student body are not.  Statutes may either be codified or uncodified.  All statutes are underneath the Constitution.
  • Codified Statutes: Statutes that are codified (placed into) the Student Government Association code are called codified statutes.  Codified statutes do not expire at the conclusion of a session of the Student Senate.  Codified statutes; however, could expire if the statute itself says when it will expire, it is repealed by the Student Senate, a later enacted codified statute supersedes it, or the Judicial Court rules it unconstitutional in a case.  Codified statutes can be found in Titles I and V of the Student Government Association Code.  Click here to see an example of a codified statute.
  • Uncodified Statutes: Any other statute is considered uncodified (not placed into) the Student Government Association Code.  These statutes expire at the conclusion of each session of the Student Senate.  Typically, a statute will be uncodified if its bill authors believe that the subject of the statute will be achieved or executed by the Student Body President before the end of the Senate session, or if merely a single statement needs to be made.  Uncodified statutes are easy to spot, because the bill that enacts them does not amend the Student Government Association Code.  Click here to see an example of an uncodified statute.
  • Rules or Procedures: Rules or procedures are effectively by-laws.  The Constitution allows each branch to enact its own rules or procedures, provided that the statutes authorize them and that the rules do not conflict with the statutes.  Thus, rules or procedures are underneath the statutes.  The statutes also allow the various committees and commissions of SGA to enact their own rules or procedures (by-laws).  Again, these rules or procedures are authorized by the statutes.  By-laws for the branches can be found in Title III of the Student Government Association Code.  By-laws for the committees and commissions of SGA can be found in Title IV of the Student Government Association Code.
  • Amendments: Finally, amendments are basically changes to the constitution.  Amendments can either be made by the Student Senate or the student body by a referendum.  Amendments typically require higher vote counts to pass; thus, they are difficult to pass into law.  Amendments alter the Student Government Association Constitution and provide for the basic structure of SGA, while statutes provide for the day to day operations of SGA.  The constitution can be found in Title II of the Student Government Association Code.

Now that we know what each word means, how are they enacted?

  • Student Senate Bills: Bills are the mediums/vehicles through which statutes, rules or procedures, or amendments pass into law.  Bills are basically the documents themselves.  Bills that enact statutes or amendments must be signed by the Student Body President in order to pass into law, but bills that enact rules or procedures (the Student Senate By-Laws) do not.  Bills that amend the constitution must also be presented at two separate meetings of the Student Senate.
  • Student Senate Resolutions: Resolutions express only the opinion of the Student Senate on some particular issue.  They also may be used to exercise another power of the Student Senate besides enacting legislation.  For example, the Student Senate could confirm appointments of the Student Body President by a resolution, according to the Constitution of 2012.  Again, however, resolutions are merely the medium/vehicles through which the Student Senate states its own opinion.  No resolution may be vetoed by the Student Body President.
  • Executive Orders: Executive orders are used by the Student Body President to enact rules or procedures for the executive branch in the Executive Branch By-Laws, or to proclaim the opinion of only the Student Body President on an issue.  These orders must be signed by the Student Body President to be valid.
  • Judicial Orders: Judicial orders are used by the Judicial Court to enact rules or procedures for the judicial branch in the Judicial Branch By-Laws.  These orders also are used to rule on cases before the Judicial Court.  These orders must be signed by a two-thirds (2/3) majority of the justices in order to amend the by-laws, and they must be signed by a majority of the justices hearing a case in order to be a binding disposition of the case.
  • Council Orders: Council orders are used by the Governance Council to enact rules or procedures for the governance council in the Governance Council By-Laws.  They must be signed by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the governance council members in order to be valid.
  • Committee Chair or Commissioner Orders: These orders are used by committee chairs or commissioners to enact rules or procedures for the committee or commission in the committee or commission's by-laws.  They must be signed by the committee chair or the commissioner in order to be valid.  These orders are codified into Title IV of the Student Government Association Code.

In short, the above documents are used to enact rules or procedures, statutes, or amendments.  One set of terms refers to the type of document used, while another set of terms refers to the contents of the document or what the document will achieve.  They are not interchangeable, and they all have specific implications.

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B. The Life of a Bill or Resolution

Generally, the life of a bill is as follows:

  • Introduction: The idea for a bill may come from either a non-senator or a Student Senator.  Generally, before a bill is introduced, it is researched thoroughly and discussed with relevant administrators and members of the executive cabinet to ensure that the issue cannot be resolved without legislation.  If legislation is necessary, the student or Senator will draft the bill, seek out co-authors and co-sponsors, and revise the draft of the bill into a final format.  The bill is then introduced to the Student Senate by an email to the Speaker of the Senate at least four (4) days before the Student Senate meeting.  Currently the deadline for legislation submission (introduction) is Friday at 5:00PM before a Student Senate meeting.  Legislation submitted after this deadline may be added to the agenda only by either a vote of the officers of the Senate, or a motion to consider in open session during the Student Senate meeting.
  • Placed on Consent Agenda: All new legislation that is timely submitted to the Speaker of the Senate is placed on a consent agenda for new business.  Legislation placed on the consent agenda is automatically referred to a legislative committee; however, any Student Senator may object to the placement of a bill on the consent agenda.  
  • First Reading if Objection: Any bill that is objected to must be presented by its authors.  A question and answer period will also follow.
  • *Amendments and Debate if Emergency Legislation: Bills that are introduced may alternatively be designated as emergency legislation by the officers of the Senate, or by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the Student Senate on the floor.  Any legislation that is designated as emergency legislation automatically proceeds to amendments and debate as discussed below.
  • Committee Assignment: Bills are referred to one or more of the Student Senate's legislative committees by the Speaker of the Senate (academic affairs, community relations, constituency affairs, finance, legislative affairs, student services, or rules and regulations).
  • Committee Review and Action: Bills that are referred to legislative committees are considered at the committee's next meeting.  The bill will be discussed only if the bill's authors are present.  A period of questions usually follows, and students may come and comment on the bill.  Amendments are then made by the committee.  Finally, a majority vote is taken on whether to retain the bill, postpone the bill, or pass the bill to the floor.  A bill that is retained is automatically considered at the next committee meeting.  Postponed bills are not considered again until the committee votes to do so by a majority vote.  Passed bills are sent to the floor to be considered at the next Student Senate meeting.
  • Second Reading, Amendments, and Debate: Bills that have passed out of committee are placed under old business on the Student Senate agenda for the next Student Senate meeting.  The bill is presented by its author(s), questions are taken, and the bill is then debated on the floor.  During debate, Senators may propose amendments to the bill which are considered by the body.  Amendments typically require a majority vote; however, amendments to certain bills (such as fee bills or budget bills) require a one-sixth (1/6) second and a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the Student Senate membership present and voting.  All debate is conducted pursuant to the rules of debate (see below).
  • Vote of the Student Senate: After debate, the Student Senate moves into a vote by electronic voting device on the bill.  Alternatively, a vote may be taken by a voice vote if two-thirds (2/3) of the Student Senators approve.  Or, the vote may be taken by a roll call vote if one-sixth of the body seconds such a motion.  All voting records except voice votes are recorded and placed into the Cody T. Vasut Archives of the Senate.
  • Review by the Student Body President: Bills that are passed out of the Student Senate are certified by the Speaker of the Senate within two (2) class days and are then submitted to the Student Body President for his or her review.  The Student Body President has a total of one (1) week to veto or sign the bill.  A bill that is vetoed is automatically placed on the agenda for the next Student Senate meeting; otherwise, a signed bill or an un-signed bill after one (1) week passes into law and must be implemented.  It is important to note that by-law bills and resolutions are not subject to the veto of the Student Body President.
  • Veto Override by the Student Senate if Bill is Vetoed: Vetoed bills are considered by the Student Senate at the next Student Senate meeting.  The Student Body President will give a presentation on the veto, and the Student Senate will proceed to debate the veto override.  No amendments are allowed.  After debate, the Student Senate votes to override the Student Body President's veto.  A two-thirds (2/3) vote is required to override a veto on a statute, and a three-quarters (3/4) vote is required to override a veto on a constitutional amendment.
  • Implementation/Delivery of Bill: Any bill that passes into law by signature, time, or veto override is implemented by the Student Body President, or the particular individual or entity of the executive branch charged with implementing the bill.  Typically this involves meeting with administrators, sending letters, or putting on programs or services to the student body to address the issue that caused the bill to be introduced.  Bills are also traditionally delivered to certain officials and administrators in order to advise them on the official policy or proposal of the student body.

Generally, the life of a resolution is as follows:

  • Introduction: Resolutions traditionally thank individuals or organizations or recognize the efforts of individuals or organizations.  A student or a Student Senator may propose the resolution, but a Student Senator must either be an author or a sponsor on the resolution for it to be introduced.  Resolutions generally are researched, drafted, and edited before introduction.  Resolutions are introduced by email to the Speaker of the Senate subject to the same rules as bills.
  • Placed on Consent Agenda or First Reading with Amendments and Debate if Non-Consent Resolution: All resolutions are usually placed on a consent agenda and are passed by unanimous consent.  Student Senators, including the resolution's author(s) may object to the placement of a resolution on this consent agenda.  Any objected to resolution is considered according to the same provisions governing the amending and debating of bills pursuant to the standing rules of debate.
  • *Referral to Committee or Other Action: The Student Senate may, rarely, refer a resolution to a committee or table to resolution on the floor, effectively delaying or killing the resolution.
  • Vote of the Student Senate: Consent resolutions are adopted by unanimous consent.  All other resolutions are passed by electronic device, voice votes, or roll-call votes according to the same provisions governing bills.
  • Implementation/Delivery of Resolution: All resolutions are certified by the Speaker of the Senate within two (2) class days, and are implemented by the Speaker of the Senate.  Generally, implementation only involves providing a copy of the resolution to the individual or organization named in the resolution.  In certain cases, this presentation may occur in a formal ceremony.

Further details on the life of a bill or resolution can be found in the process documents by clicking here.

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VI. The Structure and Internal Operations of the Student Senate


A. Officers and Ex-Officio Officers/Liaisons

The Student Senate is composed of Student Senators and ex-officio officers.  Student Senators and ex-officio officers may also serve as officers of the Senate; however, the primary distinction is only between Student Senators and ex-officio officers in terms of rights and privileges.

Officers of the Senate are Senators who are elected to serve as chairmen of legislative committees or as Speaker of the Senate or Speaker Pro-Tempore of the Senate.  All officers serve on the internal affairs committee.  The following are descriptions of each of the officers of the Senate under the current Student Senate By-laws:

  • Speaker of the Senate: The Speaker of the Senate is effectively the Student Body Vice President.  The Speaker oversees all operations of the legislative branch of the Student Government Association, chairs its meetings, and represents the Student Senate to external entities, such as Texas A&M University's administration.  The Speaker is primarily in charge of overseeing relations between the Student Senate and the Student Body President, the Chief Justice, and other entities outside of SGA.  
  • Speaker Pro-Tempore of the Senate: The Speaker Pro-Tempore of the Senate is second-in-command of the Senate, and the legislature's chief administrative officer.  The Speaker Pro-Tempore is vested with the responsibility of overseeing all internal operations of the Student Senate, including the development of Student Senators, the organization of official records, and managing Senate spending.
  • Rules and Regulations Chair: The Rules and Regulations Chair chairs the Rules and Regulations Committee of the Student Senate and serves as the Student Senate's parliamentarian, although final rulings regarding rules of procedure rests with the Speaker of the Senate.
  • Other Chairs: The following are a list of the other officers of the Senate, which are primarily in charge of their particular legislative committees:
    • Academic Affairs Chair
    • Community Relations Chair
    • Constituency Affairs Chair
    • Finance Chair (effective January 1st, 2012)
    • Legislative Affairs Chair
    • Student Services Chair

Ex-officio officers of the Senate include the Executive Director of Operations and the members of the Operations Committee, which are tasked with assisting the Speaker Pro-Tempore in managing the internal affairs of the Student Senate.  Other ex-officio officers include liaisons appointed by the Speaker of the Senate to promote communication between the Student Senate and other entities.

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B. Committees

As of January 1st, 2012, the Student Senate is composed of seven (7) legislative committees and two (2) special committees.  These committees are discussed in detail below:

  • Legislative Committees: Legislative committees are charged with considering bills and resolutions referred to the committee by the Student Senate, researching campus issues, and monitoring relevant entities of the Student Government Association.  Legislative committees are the primary mediums through which the Student Senate accomplishes its mission.
    • Academic Affairs Committee: The Academic Affairs Committee is tasked with studying issues and considering bills and resolutions relating to the academic experience at Texas A&M University, including legislation concerning teaching, curriculum, research, campus administration, advising, and academic policies.
    • Community Relations Committee: The Community Relations Committee, previously the External Affairs Committee, is tasked with studying issues and considering bills and resolutions relating to the Bryan/College Station community, and the immediately surrounding area.  Example issues include: student representation on city councils, City of College Station policies concerning city elections and un-related roommates, traffic fines, and zoning.
    • Constituency Affairs Committee: The Constituency Affairs Committee is tasked with studying issues and considering bills and resolutions relating to student organizations at Texas A&M University that are not otherwise covered by the other legislative committees.  
    • Finance Committee:  The Finance Committee, previously the Appropriations Committee and the SGA Fee Committee, is tasked with studying issues and considering bills and resolutions relating to student fees, tuition, financial development activity, Student Government Association finances, and the Student Government Association Budget.  The Student Senate's budget that is appropriated by the Finance Committee, however, is managed by the Speaker Pro-Tempore.
    • Legislative Affairs Committee: The Legislative Affairs Committee, previously the External Affairs Committee, is tasked with studying issues and considering bills and resolutions relating to governmental entities outside the Bryan/College Station community, including the Texas State Legislature and the United States Congress.  Issues considered by Legislative Affairs include: Texas A&M University system policies, state higher education legislation, and federal higher education legislation.
    • Student Services Committee: The Student Services Committee is tasked with studying issues and considering bills and resolutions relating to on-campus services at Texas A&M University, including: dining services, parking issues, athletics, and bus routes.
    • Rules and Regulations Committee: The Rules and Regulations Committee is tasked with studying issues and considering bills and resolutions relating to the Student Government Association Code, including the Constitution, the various rules and procedures, and statutes that are not otherwise under the perview of one or more of the other legislative committees.  The Rules and Regulations Committee is also primarily responsible for recommending changes to Texas A&M University student rules and amending the Student Government Association Code.
  • Special Committees: The Student Senate also has at least two (2) special committees that are tasked with overseeing the operations of the Student Senate, rather than legislation.
    • Internal Affairs Committee: The Internal Affairs Committee is composed of the officers of the Senate and the Executive Director of Operations.  The Internal Affairs Committee assists the Speaker of the Senate in organizing the agenda, designating legislation as emergency legislation, coordinating the Student Senate's operations, and handling disciplinary issues within the Student Senate.
    • Operations Committee: The Operations Committee is tasked with assisting the Speaker Pro-Tempore and the Executive Director of Operations with organizing Student Senate meetings, maintaining the Student Senate's records, maintaining the Cody T. Vasut Archives of the Senate, and with updating the Student Senate website.  All members of the Operations Committee are ex-officio officers of the Student Senate.
  • Ad-Hoc Committees
    • The Student Senate by-laws allow the Speaker of the Senate to create ad-hoc committees that may meet for any limited purpose called for by the Speaker.  Currently there are no ad-hoc committees in the Student Senate, but prior ad-hoc committees include the "Murano Task Force" in the 60th Session and the "Student Led Awards for Teaching Excellence Task Force" in the 61st Session.  Both ad-hoc committees were charged with researching a particular topic and writing a report to the Student Senate.

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C. Caucuses

Every student, both undergraduate and graduate, at Texas A&M University is represented by at least two (2) types of Student Senators, residency and academic.  The total number of residency area Student Senators is equal to the total number of academic college Student Senators.  Residency area and academic college seats are apportioned according to the twelfth (12th) class day enrollment figures each academic year, subject to a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the Student Senate membership present and voting apportioning the next session.  Freshmen at Texas A&M University also have freshmen Student Senators that are elected during the fall academic semester, providing for triple representation.  Previously, caucuses selected caucus leaders who would serve on the Constituency Affairs Committee; however, in 2012 that system will change, eliminating the traditional caucus leader position.  The following is a list of the current caucuses of the Student Senate for the 64th Session (2011-2012).  

  • Residency Area Caucuses (37 Student Senators)
    • Northside Residence Halls: Two (2) seats at-large from: Clements, Davis-Gary, Haas, Hobby, FHK (Fowler, Hughes, Keathley), Lechner, Leggett, McFadden, Moses, Neeley, Schuhmacher, and Walton
    • Southside Residence Halls: Two (2) seats at-large from:  Appelt, Aston, Briggs, Dunn, Eppright, Hart, Wells, Krueger, Mosher, Rudder, Spence, and Underwood
    • University Apartments: Two (2) seats at-large from: University Apartments complex.
    • Corps Residence Halls: Two (2) seats at-large from the Corps dorms.  Residents of the Corps dorms may only vote for the Corps representatives and may not vote for Southside Student Senators.
    • Off-Campus Residences: Twenty-nine (29) seats at-large from all residences off-campus not falling into one of the above caucuses, including housing in the Bryan/College Station area, off-campus apartments, off-campus greek housing, and other commuters.  Off-campus members of the Corps of Cadets also vote for Off-Campus Student Senators.
  • Academic Area Caucuses (37 Student Senators)
    • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Five (5) seats.
    • College of Architecture: Two (2) seats.
    • Lowry Mays School of Business: Three (3) seats.
    • College of Education: Four (4) seats.
    • The Dwight Look College of Engineering: Eight (8) seats.
    • College of General Studies: Three (3) seats.
    • Colleges of Science: Two (2) seats.
    • College of Geo-Sciences: Two (2) seats.
    • College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences: Two (2) seats.
    • College of Liberal Arts: Six (6) seats.
  • Freshmen Caucus (2 Senators)

Thus, the Student Senate is composed of seventy-six (76) Student Senators.

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D. Attendance Policies

Student Senators and ex-officio officers, including liaisons and members of the Operations Committee, are subject to the following attendance policy:

  • Attendance Requirements
    • Senate Meetings: Student Senators and ex-officio officers must attend all Student Senate general assembly meetings and special sessions.  An absence from a Student Senate meeting counts as either a one-half (1/2) excused or unexcused absence for each roll call missed (there are two roll calls per meeting).
    • Development Days: Student Senators and ex-officio officers must also attend all Student Senate development days.  An absence from a development day counts as either one (1) unexcused absence or one-half (1/2) excused absence.
    • Committees: Student Senators must serve on one (1) legislative committee for attendance purposes.  Ex-officio officers may also be required to serve on a legislative or special committee, depending on their role.  Officers of the Senate also accrue one-half (1/2) unexcused or excused absences for every Internal Affairs Committee that they miss.
    • Governance Council: Additionally, officers of the Senate are required to attend all Governance Council meetings between Student Senate meetings.  Absences are one-half (1/2) unexcused or excused.
  • Absence Limits
    • Unexcused Absences: Student Senators and ex-officio officers may accrue a maximum of three and three-quarters (3.75) unexcused absences.  Upon incurring the fourth (4th) unexcused absence, the Student Senator or ex-officio officer is automatically removed from office.
    • Excused Absences: Student Senators and ex-officio officers are allowed up to two (2) excused absences.  Excused absences include any university excused absence, an exam conflict, and any other absence the officers of the Senate deem of merit.  Any absence beyond this limit is considered an unexcused absence automatically.
    • Committee Re-Assignment: A member of a legislative committee who accrues two (2) unexcused absences in a row may be removed from that legislative committee by the committee chair.  Such members must be re-assigned to another legislative committee.
  • Absence Forgiveness
    • Student Senators and ex-officio officers may have their absences forgiven for completing certain tasks or attending certain meetings as set by the Internal Affairs Committee.  The maximum number of absences that can be forgiven is four (4) unexcused absences.

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E. Student Outreach Policies

All Student Senators are expected to meet with their constituents on a regular basis in at least some form.  Currently, Student Senators may also receive absence forgiveness for certain actions that result in student outreach, such as attending student organizational meetings and holding office hours.  All absence forgiveness opportunities for student outreach are at the discretion of the Internal Affairs Committee.

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F. Record Keeping Policies

The Cody T. Vasut Archives of the Senate exist to organize and maintain all records of the Student Senate.  Currently, nearly all records created by the Student Senate must be placed on the Student Senate website, placed into hard copy binders in the SGA Office, stored on the Student Senate file system, and submitted to the Texas A&M University Archives yearly.  Such records include: final bill and resolution copies, voting records, agendas, minutes, open forum sign-up sheets, attendance records, updating copies of the Student Government Association Code, reports and proposals considered by the Student Senate, memoranda submitted to the Student Senate, and all orders adopted by the Student Body President, the Judicial Court, and the various entities of the Student Government Association.  Further details on the Cody T. Vasut Archives of the Senate can be accessed by clicking here.

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G. General Assemblies, Special Session Meetings, and Committees of the Whole

The Student Senate meets regularly during the fall and spring academic semesters in general assembly meetings that are provided for by the Speaker of the Senate traditionally in the prior spring academic semester at the beginning of the session.  General assembly meetings typically occur on a bi-weekly basis on Wednesday evenings in the Koldus Governance Room.  Additionally, the Student Senate may be called into special session during the fall or spring academic semesters by the Student Body President, the Speaker of the Senate, or one-third (1/3) of the Student Senate membership signing a petition.  Special sessions are only called for limited purposes laid out in the order or petition calling the special session.

The Student Senate may also meet as a committee of the whole during the summer months to adopt non-binding resolutions that expire at the conclusion of the summer.  Attendance is voluntary.

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H. Rules of Debate 

All Student Senate general assembly meetings and special sessions are conducted according to the established rules of debate for the Student Senate, unless the Student Senate modifies the rules of debate by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the Student Senate membership present and voting.  The rules of debate govern the allocation of time between all parties during the presentation of bills and resolutions, periods of question and answer, and periods of debate.  The following are the currently established rules of debate for the Student Senate:

  • Presentation Rules
  • Question and Answer Rules
  • Debate Rules

All other rules of debate are provided for either in the Student Senate By-Laws or in Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (latest edition).  In cases where the Student Senate By-Laws are silent, Robert's Rules of Order governs.  An unofficial summary of Robert's Rules of Order can be referenced online by clicking here.

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VII. Getting Involved in the Student Senate  

Interested in getting involved in the Student Senate?  Please click here for further details on how students can get involved with their Student Senate.

Suggestions or comments regarding this guide?  Contact the Speaker of the Senate with any questions, comments, or suggestions by clicking here.

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