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Thursday, December 13, 2018

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Greek life bill causes a stir during final SGA meeting


Senators passed three bills and appointed three new students as senators and one as an associate judge during their last meeting of the semester. | Corbin Ayres/The Cougar

The last Student Government Association meeting of the year ended in a 10-minute unmoderated caucus that had senators talking over one another and raising their voices over the creation of a committee for Greek life.

The purpose of the committee would be to facilitate a lasting connection between Greek life and  SGA, allowing better methods of outreach to a population that participates heavily within campus life.

“What I’m asking is why not make this a committee for residential life on campus instead of going for a really specific subgroup,” said College of Engineering Sen. Aristotle Economon. “They’ll only be representing a really small group of people.”

When the Creation of the Greek Life SGA Standing Committee was brought for discussion as the final bill of the evening, a question arose immediately: Why this group?

After the question was asked, a majority soon voted for an unmoderated caucus, which allows the senators to talk without raising their placards and waiting for each person to finish speaking. This does not happen often.

After more than five minutes of back and forth, College of Natural Science & Mathematics Sen. Isabel Pen said the other senators were not answering the question of why this was aimed at fraternities and sororities specifically.

“They said SGA sucks, word for word they said SGA sucks,” said College of Business Sen. Kobe Terrier in response to Pen.

Economon, the most vocal opponent to the bill, said he wanted it more explicitly stated within the bill that SGA is open to forming more lasting and open relationships with other student groups.

The bill was up for a vote. Although it caused such a heated debate, it passed with four senators, including Pen and Economon, voting against and 17 voting in favor.

The first legislation that passed Wednesday night was the Religious Student Harassment Resolution, which was written after the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting that killed 11 in October. The resolution states that the SGA does not condone any harassment based on religious affiliation.

The Student Government Association urges university students and officials to work towards a more welcoming environment for all students by cultivating a culture of inclusion and making sure resources are easily accessible to students who feel unsafe on campus due to harassment,” reads the resolution.

The Committee Transparency Act was also passed. This act will place students in direct contact with their committee members by putting the member’s contact information on the SGA website. The exception would be members who are not comfortable with having their personal information online and members of some boards.

“Members of any Hearing and Review/Appellate Boards, excluding the Student Fee Advisory Committee, identities shall not be publicized due to the sensitivity of their work on these various university committees,” according to the act.

Vice President Davis Darusman said he was all for transparency but was worried the bill did not exempt enough committees.

“There’s certain committees that are not listed up there that concern me just because of the nature of those committees,” Darusman said. “Transportation Parking and Advisory Committee, I can already imagine there are going to be threats for the students that serve on these committees.”

The Judicial Review Act was up for a vote, as well. The act amended the process a complaint has to go through to be heard before the SGA Supreme Court. The court used to use the same rules as the U.S. Supreme Court, but those rules made it much harder for a complaint to be heard. The hope is the amendment will allow more complaints to be heard by the court.

“The Chief Justice has the discretion to decide whether or not the court will hear a complaint in the form of a declaratory judgement, explaining why the complaint will not be heard by the full court,” according to the act. “If four (4) Justices vote to hear the case, the complaint will move forward to a full hearing before the Court.”

A bill that would affect all students during their final exams went back to academic affairs after its second read. The Final Examination Policy Bill establishes an official final exam policy for the University. The bill would allow students who have two exams at the same time or three final exams in one day to reschedule an exam after providing documentation to the professor.

The bill would also make it so that a final project, assignment or exam worth 15 percent or more cannot be due the last week of classes, and if it is, then no final exam will be permitted for the class. The bill would also affect student and University organization attendance for the last week of classes.

“No student or university organizations will have meetings or events during the last week of classes or during the weeks of finals that require student members to be in attendance,” according to the bill.

The Creation of a Mentorship Committee was read for the first time. The bill would create a subcommittee under the Academic Affairs Committee that would have a chairperson selected by the Academic Affairs Committee Chair. The subcommittee would be responsible for creating and maintaining mentorship programs throughout every college on campus.

The bill is not expected to be ready before break and was sent back to Internal Affairs.

“What we’re trying to do is create a mentorship program within every single college,” said Speaker of the Senate Andrew Trinh. “Sort of standardize it because some colleges have them, some colleges don’t, so why don’t we have all of them have it?”

In recognition of their service to the University, the SGA Graduation Recognition Resolution would allow senators who have served to purchase a stole to wear during their graduation ceremony. 

“It will only be an SGA stole because too many colleges or departments use chords,” said Undergraduate-at-Large Sen. Kim Lorine.

Four appointments were made during the meeting. Political science sophomore Benigno Solis was appointed as an associate justice to the SGA Supreme Court, and three different College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences senators were appointed.

History and political science freshman Aidan Potts, political science and economics freshman Randolph Campbell and anthropology senior Kaitlyn Austgen are now the newest senators in SGA.

Finally, Darusman mentioned at the beginning of the meeting the “Be Visible” pride wall in the Heights that was vandalized. He has been talking with the head of the LGBTQ Resource Center and other University officials about bringing a pride wall to campus.

“We’re actually tied as the second most LGBTQ-friendly campus in Texas, which is pretty cool,” Darusman said. “I think that it would show a good sign of solidarity if we brought something like that (to campus).”

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