Just over a year after its inception, GUSA’s Student Commission for Unity is on the verge of dissolution.

The senate voted Wednesday night to consider a bill reauthorizing the commission, but Student Association President Pat Dowd (SFS ’09) said he plans to veto the bill.

“I’m not going to approve any bill that approves a commission without a senator as chair,” Dowd said.

The commission was founded by former senator Brian Kesten (COL ’10), who would serve as its first chair, last October after controversy surrounded what was considered as THE HOYA’s minimal coverage of a rally for the Jena Six and two alleged hate crimes against Georgetown students. The SCU aimed to work with several groups on campus to conduct a survey of issues of diversity on campus and ultimately produce a report of its findings.

Kesten said he was disappointed by Dowd’s decision and hopes that the SCU will be able to continue its work.

“Essentially, whether I like it or not, I’m the face of this project,” he said. “Regardless of what happens with GUSA, the show must go on.”

With 11 board members and five research teams, Kesten said the SCU is 90 percent done with the project.

“[We’ve put in] hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of work so far,” he said. “We don’t want to do anything to damage our ability to advocate on campus.”

Kesten emphasized his concerns about the effects of separating the SCU from GUSA.

“That would definitely diminish our ability to make change,” he said.

On Wednesday, the senate first considered amending a section of its bylaws which stated that it could only name a non-senator to chair a commission when it was created. Under the new bylaws, the senate can name a non-senator as a chair of a commission when it is re-authorized, even if a senator chaired it when it was created.

Dowd and GUSA Vice President James Kelly (COL ’09) encouraged the senators not to pass the bill, and although the senate voted 12 to 4 to pass the bill with eight abstentions, it was one vote short of the required majority.

The next bill, introduced by Senate Speaker Reggie Greer (COL ’09) and co-sponsored by Vice Speaker Brian Wood (COL ’09), reauthorized the Student Commission for Unity and named Kesten, who lost his senate re-election bid this year, as chair.

The senate debated the bill extensively, with some senators suggesting that the line naming Kesten as chair be stricken from the bill. First, though, the bill was tabled until the issues surrounding the bylaw change were resolved.

As the meeting continued past 10 p.m., a few senators who had originally abstained from voting on the bylaw change left the meeting. After a second vote, the original 12 votes in favor constituted a majority, and the bylaw change was approved, allowing the senate to move on to debate the reauthorization of the SCU.

Dowd and Kelly again encouraged senators to vote against the bill, objecting to the provision naming Kesten, a non-senator, as chair of a senate commission. Ultimately, the senate voted by a small margin to reauthorize the commission with Kesten as chair.

But Dowd announced Wednesday night that he intends to veto the bill.

“I think what is going to end up happening is a line-item veto,” Dowd said. “The SCU is definitely one of the most important things GUSA has done, but I really don’t think there should be a non-senator chairing that commission.”

Citing issues of accountability, Dowd emphasized the importance of having senate commissions chaired by senators.

“I hope Brian Kesten will still be involved, but the SCU has taken on an independent quality, which I find disconcerting.”

Dowd said he was confident the senate would introduce a new bill without Kesten as chair as soon as next week.

“It’s just one week,” he said, “and there will be essentially the same bill with a senator as chair.”

Dowd made GUSA history last week when he vetoed a bill creating six new student commissions, objecting to the creation of a Student Safety and Security Commission, making Dowd the first GUSA president to veto a bill since the establishment of the senate three years ago. This will be Dowd’s second veto in two weeks.

If the senate does not introduce the new bill without Kesten as chair, Dowd said the commission will not be reauthorized.

As of late last night, Dowd said that he has not yet received the bill from the senate, and so has not yet been able to formally veto it.

He did, however, acknowledge the possibility that the senate could override his veto.

“If two-thirds of the senators want to abdicate their responsibility, they can do that,” he said.

– Hoya Staff Writer Brian Burke contributed to this report.

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