After months of build-up, the University Senate failed to vote Friday on a resolution that would ban smoking on much of the Morningside Heights campus, because too few senators attended the plenary to meet quorum.
The senate's bylaws require the presence of at least half of its members for a quorum. Only 42 senators were present at Friday's plenary, less than the 47 necessary to hold a vote.
"Something like this is quite rare, which is interesting because we had many people that were here at the beginning, from unions and such," senator Justin Carter, GS ’14, said. "It's surprising that it happened on a day that was so heavily publicized."
During the debate over the resolution on Friday, senator Mark Cohen—a Business School professor who has spent several years lobbying for a full smoking ban—proposed an amendment to eliminate the designated smoking areas described by the resolution. He called the plan “impractical, unworkable, and ineffective."
Eighteen senators vote for and 23 senators voted against Cohen's resolution, with only one senator abstaining. It was following this vote that senator Richard Sun, CC ’13, asked if there was quorum.
Despite attempts by O'Halloran to keep the process moving toward a final vote, another senator called for quorum and was seconded. It quickly became clear that fewer than half of the senate's 93 members—15 of the 108 seats are currently vacant—were present. Robert's Rules of Order, the parliamentary guidebook, states that once a call for a quorum fails, "no motion is in order, even by unanimous consent, except motions relating to the call."
The vote on Cohen's amendment passed, but the senate could only adjourn its meeting. Sun said he was told after the plenary that the senate is, in fact, allowed to conduct business as long as no one calls a quorum. If he hadn't brought up the lack of a quorum, then, the resolution probably would have proceeded to a vote.
"I don't think anybody expected anything like today,” Carter said. "I think we'll all be happy to get it over with, whichever way it goes."
Also at the plenary, University President Lee Bollinger invited questions from the audience, and he acknowledged the presence of approximately 30 yellow-clad Student-Worker Solidarity members.
Bollinger said he was under "stern and sharp restrictions" about what he could say about on-going negotiations with Faculty House workers. He limited himself to saying that the University has had "a wonderful success rate in reaching agreements that we think reflect our care for employees and our respect for unions."
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the vote on Cohen's amendment was nullified. Spectator regrets the error.