Senator Jake Biller introduced an amendment during Student Government Association’s (SGA) Wednesday meeting that would make it easier for gallery observers to participate in floor debates.
The proposed “Senate Meeting Inclusion and Transparency” amendment would open floor debates to gallery observers without having to be yielded time by a senator, as the current structure requires.
If passed, the amendment would provide speaking time to senators who wish to comment in a debate, after which the vice president moderating the debate would ask if anyone in the gallery would like to add their comments.
“Discretion would be left up to the president of the senate as to when and how often they would ask the gallery for comment,” Biller said. “I envision it being a time for senators to speak, then a time for the gallery to speak, then back to the senate if the chair wishes.”
Biller said the idea for this amendment came from his service on Goshen, Indiana’s, city council as its youth advisor.
“The [Goshen] Council would always take public comments throughout the meeting, and I felt like that was one thing we were lacking in SGA,” Biller said. “When we have had big or controversial legislation, many people come to the gallery, and they always want to speak.”
He said SGA senators want to hear their ideas so they can better represent the student body.
The senate held a Q&A session on the amendment, during which Biller said he thought gallery members could raise their hands when they wanted to speak but left the details up to the executive slate on how the new process would work.
SGA will vote on the “Senate Meeting Inclusion and Transparency” at its next meeting Feb. 19.
Also in the meeting, SGA voted to pass “The Elimination of Classes the Monday before Exams” resolution beginning in fall 2024, which was introduced by Academic Affairs Chair Ruby Yantz last week. The resolution passed 42-0.
Also addressing unfinished business, senators discussed the amendment to reduce the required President Pro Tempore GPA from 2.8 to 2.5. After floor debate on the amendment, it failed to pass 19-22.
Finally, in his executive report, SGA President Aiden Medellin said he and Black Student Association (BSA) President Jalen Jones met with President Geoffrey Mearns and university leadership Tuesday to discuss developing the university’s new Inclusive Excellence Plan to include diversity and racial equality plans after the classroom incident between Sultan “Mufasa” Benson and his marketing professor, Shaheen Borna.
“[I] don’t think that this professor Borna thing is being swept under the rug,” Medellin said when addressing the senate. “I spoke on behalf of everybody who was at the forum and told President Mearns that students feel they’ve been undermined and disrespected.”
Medellin said university leadership will release a statement on their plan to address the incident and how they will edit the inclusive excellence plan by Thursday. He said SGA senators may write legislation, but the quickest way to address the incident is to continue meeting with administrators.
“It can take six to 12 months or even longer for legislation to make it out of SGA,” Medellin said after the meeting. “If students want immediate change, the most direct way is to have conversations with administrators or student leaders.”
Also in his executive report, Medellin said he scheduled an agenda meeting with Greek life leaders to discuss the “Zero-Tolerance Policy” legislation and its effects on the relationship between SGA and Greek life.
“I think our relationship has been fragmented, so I want to ensure we have a better understanding of why the bill was created,” Medellin said.