The Student Government Association (SGA) senate held its most recent hearing on the evening of Wednesday, March 28. During this hearing, two potential student organizations presented. The first potential student organization to present for the senate was the Global Languages Organization (GLO). The purpose of this organization, the student presenters described, would be to cultivate foreign language learning on campus. There are currently no foreign language classes offered at Illinois Tech; however, there is a great percentage of bilingual students, the presenters explained. Why not tap into this resource that this campus already has so that students may learn from each other?
The students mentioned that they realized there were already a great number of culturally-focused organizations on campus, and although cross-cultural dialogue would surely be a byproduct of the creation of this group, GLO would be a distinctly different organization due to its focus on language instead of culture. Some programming ideas that the group proposed included workshops on language acquisition strategies, regular “study groups,” a mentorship program, “friendsgiving dinner,” multilingual movie nights, and talent shows. There were already 40 students interested in being involved, with many of them willing to teach a mother tongue different from English. GLO’s budget totaled an approximate $2,000, with costs including food at meetings, language workbooks, printing, and “swag.” When asked why GLO should be a separate organization instead of a subset of the International Students Organization (ISO), the presenters explained that they would like to cater to domestic students as well as international students, and that GLO would be a language-focused group as opposed to a culturally focused one. Senators seemed generally impressed by the amount of passion expressed by the student presenters and were hopeful that incoming international students would find this organization particularly interesting. The organization passed the senate with 17 votes for yes, one vote for no, and no abstentions.
The second potential organization to present for the senate was a student chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), which is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps people to build relationships with their elected representatives in order to influence climate policy. The organization’s primary focus is on education, to get general information about climate change itself out, and to help people understand the impact of climate issues and why they should care. The organization would also help train people to become more confident speakers in order to help them make their voice heard on matters of public policy. An Illinois Tech student chapter of CCL would work with both high school and college students to help them understand the steps they could take to affect change, as well as teach them the basics of energy auditing. The group has already worked with the Office of Facilities and Maintenance on campus to learn about Hermann Hall and how energy audits work; during the course of one week, a team of 14 students identified and proposed measures to decrease waste that would save approximately $100,000 per year. Their proposed budget totaled about $2,000, with costs including an annual conference trip, printing, and food. This organization also passed the senate, with 15 votes for yes, two votes for no, and one abstention.
Following this was a report by SGA President Morgan Peters, who announced that the request for proposal (RFP) for new on-campus housing was in, and that a new food vendor should be announced very soon. She also announced that President’s Student Advisory Council (PSAC) applications were opening soon, and interested parties should watch out for that. Peters explained that progress was being made on the search committee for a new permanent Provost, and stated that she was excited for the future of Illinois Tech. She also reminded those present that SGA executive board elections will occur from April 5 until April 11. Full candidate profiles will be available at sga.iit.edu, and articles describing the candidate debates are available in this issue of TechNews. Peters then announced progress on the discussion of "safe spaces" that began during a previous senate hearing. If students, faculty, or staff hear about a speaker coming to campus that they have objections to, they may soon be able to put in a notice, at which point a body will meet and voting will occur on whether the speaker will be allowed or not allowed on campus. Details were not provided about what specific form this notice, body, or vote would take, since discussions about its composition are ongoing.
There was then a brief discussion regarding how much class attendance should impact final grades. Peters explained that some of her classes had as much as 20% of the final grade based upon attendance, which negatively affected her grade due to many missed classes which she pinned to SGA activities or other unavoidable events. Peters was of the opinion that reducing this percentage greatly would be beneficial; however, some senators said that they relied on participation points in order to raise their grade. One senator brought up that Illinois Tech is one of the only universities that includes attendance as part of the final grade in 300 or 400 level classes. Another senator brought up that online classes would solve this problem completely, with those that had troubles making classes having the opportunity to watch lectures remotely. Although there may have been budget cuts recently that have reduced the amount of online classes available, this may be even more of a reason to bring this issue up to the Undergraduate Faculty Council (UFC), a student said.
Vice President of Academic Affairs Golzar Shobeiri reported next, announcing that there was now a second ombudsperson for the university, an ombudsperson being an independent, neutral individual who investigates facts and mediates complaints brought up by students. Vickie Tolbert serves as the campus student affairs ombudsperson, and should be reached out to by students who are having difficulties with administrative departments. Melisa Lopez serves as the campus academic affairs ombudsperson, and should be reached out to by students who have difficulties with academic affairs. These two women can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected], respectively.
Vice President of Communications Nathan Jones then stood to address the senate, first announcing that the newest SGA commercial was finished and had received generally positive feedback. Jones also gave updates on the Student Liaison Encouragement and Engagement Project (SLEEP), saying that the relevant interviews for the project were completed, an event for all student organizations was currently being planned, and the wiki mentioned in previous TechNews coverage of SGA was being finished.
The Vice President of Student Life Trixie Weiner reported briefly, announcing that Residence Hall Association (RHA) election nominations were open until April 9, and a nomination link would soon be sent to every student living in the residence halls. Weiner also announced that Public Safety Week will occur the week of April 2 to April 6, with programming meant to bring awareness of the services offered by campus officers.
Finance Board Chair Nina Tamras then addressed the senate, explaining that the April Finance Board hearing had now been pushed back to April 21, with advising to occur from April 9 to April 13. Applications are also open for Finance Board advisors, and interested parties can reach out to [email protected] for application.
Judicial Board Chair Citlalli Bueno gave those present a quick reminder that executive board candidates must follow the campaigning rules stated in candidate packets. For example, she explained, candidates cannot endanger persons or damage property, cannot use student organization money to campaign, may only spend up to $100 of their own funds (and must document all expenditures), and must abide by campus posting policies.
Events Chair Mahmod Kahack then briefly announced that the once-a-semester President and Provost Forum will occur on April 6, with that being the last event from SGA this semester. The President and Provost Forum is a traditional event open to all students at which the university's top administrators are available to publicly answer questions brought forth to them.
During the next section of the meeting, open floor, there was then a discussion regarding the fact that athletes and students with disabilities have lost the weekend they previously held for priority class registration. Many senators expressed the opinion that giving these students an extra few days to register does not impact the rest of the student body at all, that the change in policy merely limits the accommodations given, and that the decision should be reversed. While some senators were confused why a whole weekend was needed and a day was not sufficient, others explained that time was needed to work out scheduling conflicts with coaches, plan accommodations for classes, and more. Additionally, students may run into issues registering, such as a hold on their account, and find themselves unable to register before the classes they had needed to take fill up. At the end of the discussion, the senate seemed generally agreed that this decision should be reversed.
As a reminder, SGA senate hearings occur on a biweekly basis, with the next hearing scheduled to be held on Wednesday, April 11, beginning at 9:15 p.m. in SB113. All students are welcome to sit in on hearings to learn more about the projects SGA is currently working on, participate in discussions, or voice concerns.