SGA holds first Senate Hearing of semester, discusses new student organizations and plans for year

Date: 
Fri, 2017/09/08
By: 
Ethan Castro

On the night of Wednesday, August 30 in Stuart Building room 113, the Illinois Tech Student Government (SGA) held its first Senate Hearing of the semester. These biweekly meetings function as open forums where the elected leaders of the Illinois Tech student body gather to discuss their projects, events, and the approval of prospective student organizations. Presided by the Executive Vice President of the Illinois Tech SGA, Alyssa DeLuca, the hearing began with the formal call to order and a recap of “Alyssa’s rules,” a series of rules on orderly speaking and retorting meant to facilitate smooth and efficient discussions.

The next items on the hearing’s agenda were the proposals of three prospective student organizations wishing to attain official university status as student organizations. By being an official student organization (as opposed to an unofficial collection of like-minded friends), a group of students gains access to the services provided by the Office of Campus Life (such as the ability to reserve meeting spaces on campus) as well as the ability to apply for funding from the Student Activity Fund (SAF), a portion of every student’s tuition that is used to finance student organization events, supplies, and even trips.

The first of these presentations was for the Chicago Scholars Leadership Network (CSLN). A proposed Illinois Tech chapter of this organization was presented by students Karen Miguel and Golzar Shobeiri. Their presentation went on to define the CSLN as a program that begins in junior high school for Chicago students that is meant to provide them with opportunities for college access, success, and leadership. Many of the Chicago students in this program are financially under-resourced, first generation students, and have demonstrated leadership potential. At the time of the presentation, it was stated that 31 current Illinois Tech students are scholars in the program. Yet, the main problem address by this presentation was that many students in this program have few ways to connect with other student scholars. Thus, the Illinois Tech chapter of CSLN seeks to provide an inclusive community for these students to network and develop their leadership skills as well as their academic excellence. In terms of becoming a student organization, CSLN mainly sought to gain access to the SAF to fund food for the organization’s meetings, as well as for the ability to reserve meeting spaces and a HawkLink page. Following the presentation came a period of questioning, where the organization’s exclusive nature was drawn into question. The reply from the speakers was that although the CSLN is a formal organization with official members drawn from the city of Chicago, the events and meetings held by the Illinois Tech chapter would still be open to all students.

Later on during the meeting, the Senate discussed CSLN’s presentation and voted on its approval. The point was made that although the organization is somewhat exclusive in its nature, this campus does have a strong precedent of other organizations that are also exclusive, such as the various honors societies within majors. The only financial requests of CSLN were for food at its meetings, and the presentation did also state that its events would still be open to all students, regardless of whether or not they are officially in the CSLN. Thus, with a vote of 10 approvals, 2 denials, and 1 abstention, the Illinois Tech chapter of the CSLN was approved.

The second organization brought up for consideration at this Senate Hearing was the Illinois Tech Parliamentary Debate Team, led by student Brigette Mora. Desiring to participate in inter-collegiate debate tournaments across the state of Illinois, this team seeks to provide Illinois Tech students with an opportunity to increase their rhetoric skills. The presentation stressed the team’s differences from the existing Ethical Debaters team at Illinois Tech (officially known as QED: The Ethical Debaters, from the Latin “quod erat demonstrandum,” meaning “that which is to be demonstrated”). After questioning and discussion, this organization was also approved by a unanimous vote of 13.

The third and final organization for review at this Senate Hearing was for the Illinois Tech National Parks and Recreation Club, presented by students Aaron Grudowski, Avery Peck, and Brandon Simons. The primary purpose of this club is to gather Illinois Tech students for off-campus outdoors activities, such as kayaking, rock climbing, camping trips, and more. Already having a full executive board and trips planned for the semester, the club showed it had a strong base of support in the Illinois Tech student body, even without student organization status. Just like with the prior two student organizations, this club would benefit by having SAF access to finance its trips, the ability to reserve meeting spaces on campus, and more legitimacy in advertising on campus and its digital communities. This organization was also approved by another unanimous vote of 13 affirmations.

After the student organization presentations, the next order of business was the swearing in of new officers for both Finance Board and Judicial Board. For Finance Board, two new advisors were sworn in - Jillian Edwards and Samadrita Sengupta. These advisors, under the leadership of Finance Board Chair Nina Tamras, are in charge of allocating the SAF to all student organizations, following a codified set of guidelines. Both advisors showed a commitment to Finance Board and to proper allocation of the SAF, so they were both approved by a vote of 11 approvals and a single abstention. Also up for swearing in was the new Chief Justice of the Judicial Board of SGA, Citlalli Bueno. Already having experience as a Justice of Judicial Board, Bueno demonstrated her experience with SGA and her understanding of its constitution and bylaws, so she, too, was approved by a vote of 12 approvals and a single abstention.

The second half of the night’s hearing consisted of the individual reports from SGA’s executive board. President Morgan Peters began her report with an update on the President’s Student Advisory Council (PSAC), which (as SGA President) she occupies a seat on. A group of students that meets monthly with the President of the University, Alan Cramb, PSAC is now looking for applicants to join its ranks for the new academic year. Interested students are implored to ask for the application via email at psac@iit.edu. Her report also asked for an Illinois Tech representative to attend a Illinois Board of Higher Education meeting on September 9, which Vice President of Student Life Trixie Weiner filled in. The final aspect of Peters’s report was that the next batch of student Senators would be elected in the coming weeks, with the assumption that the current batch of Senators would help with the election process.

The next reports came from the heads of each of SGA’s individual committees. Vice President of Academic Affairs Golzar Shobeiri announced that the next batch of Senators would facilitate a project from last year in which they visit the Intro to the Profession course of their respective majors to talk with first-year students about SGA and their roles as Senators. In addition, she provided brief updates that an investigation into updating student course evaluations is underway by her committee and that her committee is also discussing the changing criteria for graduating with honors.

Vice President of Communications Nathan Cooper Jones mainly reported that he spent the summer updating the SGA website as a space for finding the contact information for all members of SGA across all three branches. In addition, his project to create a student organization “wiki” for compiling information for student organization members about how to run their organizations and coordinate with various campus resources. Jones is also currently managing all SGA social media, including the Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

The last committee chair, Vice President of Student Life Trixie Weiner, gave a list of updates from her committee that included her regular meetings with Dean of Students Katherine Stetz, inquiries with Illinois Tech Facilities about gender neutral bathrooms on campus, student involvement in the upcoming campus dining contract negotiations, and collaboration with the Student Health and Wellness Center. Weiner’s committee will continue to take in student input regarding all aspects of campus life that require updates and student input.

The final three reports of the night came from the Finance Board Chair, Nina Tamras, the newly sworn-in Chief Justice Citlalli Bueno, and Events Chair Adeena Ahmed. Tamras reported that she would be training her new advisors to be up to date on the SAF and Finance Board guidelines, in addition to ongoing efforts to review those guidelines. Bueno reported her efforts over the summer to work with the Office of Campus Life to review the SGA constitution, to work with Finance Board to create a better system for students to make appeals and communicate with SGA. She made her goals clear: to improve communication both within and to SGA, to increase the board’s accountability, and to increase its outreach and training. Ahmed’s report included a recap of the Town Hall forum with the Office of Technology Services and a mentioning of an upcoming Town Hall with Public Safety.

Thus concluded the first Senate hearing of the academic year. Students are encouraged to contact any Senator with suggestions on what else can be done to improve the quality of campus life, either at these hearings or over email. The next such meeting will be held at 9:15 p.m. in Stuart Building 113 on Wednesday, September 13.