On Wednesday, February 27 in Stuart Building Room 113, the Student Government Association (SGA) commenced its fifth senate hearing of the spring semester. At this legislative session, where speakers are invited to present ideas to the senate, amendments to the constitution and bylaws were presented and voted on, the procedures of SGA were discussed, a representative from the Institute of Design spoke, an Amendments Amendment was voted on, and debate about the purpose of the Student Activity Fund (SAF) took place.
To start out this senate hearing, Professor Anijo Mathew of the Institute of Design presented to SGA to update them about opportunities at the new space that just opened up in the second floor of the Kaplan Institute. For those unaware of the Institute of Design's, purpose, Professor Mathew gave a quick synopsis. By attacking problems from the point of view of human need, the Institute of Design helps brands with their messages. The Institute of Design, accredited by Professor Mathew as one of the best in the country, offers lots of opportunities for undergraduates and wasn't to empower innovation and entrepreneurship. Professor Mathew is open to having a panel discussion with Illinois Tech graduates who currently attend the Institute of Design for graduate school, as well as offering graduate students at the Institute of Design to mentor and guide students, specifically in the upcoming Pitch idea competition put on by Intinium. Finally, there are a small number of courses undergraduates can take at the Institute of Design, but they are only offered to fourth-year students, as the Institute of Design really is a graduate school. If anyone has questions, they can direct them to Professor Anijo Mathew at [email protected].
After this presentation, President Eric Scott gave an overview of the rules related to the legislative session that would soon follow. Topics unrelated to the agenda need to wait until the next hearing, discussions cannot be opened without a time limit, and all comments, questions, etc. must be addressed to the chair.
The first thing on the agenda was the Amendments Amendment, created by the ad hoc Governmental Affairs Committee and presented by President Scott. This amendment mainly changes the way the senate can amend the bylaws and election code, specifically by changing the voting requirements for amendments to the bylaws from a two-thirds vote to a majority vote. Additionally, it lowers the amount of time necessary for an amendment to be presented to the senate before it can be voted on and expands the time frame for the Executive Election code.
Following the presentation, the SGA entered a discussion period in which concerns and assurances about the amendment were brought up. Some were concerned that the bylaws could be considered higher in power than the constitution, and asked whether the senate should be given the power to change it so easily; in the past, the bylaws were changed too quickly, and an alternative method could be to create policies that are not set in stone and easily adaptable. Another concern was that 48 hours are not enough for senators to read and discuss the proposed amendment. Finally, the amendment was considered a violation of the bylaws themselves because the Executive Election Code cannot be amended during this time period.
In response to the above concerns, the following points were brought up. A majority vote is what is required by the United States Congress as well as the Illinois General Assembly to modify their bylaws. Additionally, the amendments sent out to senators are not hundreds of pages long; they are typically one page documents of about 200 words. SGA members also expressed that the current student government should not always follow what has been done in the past because times are always changing, and the current members should decide what is currently best. Finally, there was a motion to suspend the bylaws in order to amend them, which passed with 16 out of 18 votes. With 15 votes yes, three votes no, and one abstaining member, the Amendments Amendment passed.
In continuation of the last legislative session, a discussion of the purpose of the SAF followed the approval of the Amendments Amendment. The discussion centered around a motion to add a refined purpose statement for the SAF to the previous version, which currently reads “Finance Board aims to fairly allocate the Student Activity Fund (SAF) to promote student life and increase student involvement at Illinois Tech.” To summarize the proposed, narrower purpose, it stated that the purpose of the SAF is to provide resources to students and to aid students in their development outside of curricular activities.
Members of the Finance Board argued that the new proposal does not mention Finance Board anywhere, and is too narrow. The ambiguity of the current statement allows the Finance Board to help any student as it places no restrictions. However, Finance Board can more or less allocate the SAF however they choose based on their own guidelines currently, whatever those may be. Additionally, the ambiguity may be harmful if put in the wrong hands. Eventually, the SGA realized that there already exists a statement about the SAF in the student handbook in "Section C. Student Activities Fund" under "Category V. Mies Campus Student Organizations: Policies & Regulations." As the discussion came to a close, President Scott motioned to kill this proposed new SAF purpose, as one already exists in the student handbook, and a better one may be proposed later. The motion passed, and a short five minute recess followed.
Finally on the agenda, President Scott proposed that a method of stenography may be used in the future at all SGA meetings – senate hearings, Judicial Board hearings, and Finance Board hearings included. The cost would be around one dollar per minute of audio or video.
During the open floor session, President Daniel Medina of Intinium mentioned that faculty is interested in helping undergraduate students get into research, and hopes senators can get involved in this project. Additionally, the provost of research is putting together a group of professor to help talk to students about making these research opportunities more available to students.
The meeting minutes can be found online on the SGA Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/iitsga/), and anyone with questions or comments regarding SGA can direct them to [email protected]