Keeping in line with the organization’s biweekly tradition, the Illinois Tech Student Government Association (SGA) conducted its second senate hearing of the fall 2018 semester on the evening of Wednesday, September 26 in Stuart Building 113. These senate hearings function as open forum platforms for the organization to gather as a full body and approve or deny the creation of new student organizations, discuss ongoing senator projects, hear official reports from each executive board member, vote on amendments to the organization's constitution, and hold a general open floor for members of the organization as well as for non-elected students to voice their opinions about the overall state of campus life. However, unlike most senate hearings, this hearing saw no new student organizations present.
SGA’s Executive Vice President Monica Bhagavan began this meeting by presenting a set of proposed new guidelines for SGA’s senators that would present them with three options for their involvement: follow the traditional role of joining one of SGA’s four committees and work on individual projects, become a student organization liaison and link Illinois Tech’s various official student organizations to SGA, or become an administrative liaison and be a similar bridge between SGA and the staff or faculty of the university. Bhagavan stated that she would send a form to each senator asking which of the three positions they would be interested in.
Photo by Ethan Castro (He/him)
However, a brief dissenting conversation over the constitutionality of such a change led to the final decision that SGA will need to further review how this official system can fit into the current constitutional framework of the organization, with SGA Chief Justice Erin Monforti offering the concluding statement that, if anything, this change seems to be “more in-line with the constitution” and grants “more power to us to communicate to as many people as possible.” No official action was taken on the matter besides this introductory conversation, pending an ongoing constitutional review of the structural change in senatorial duties.
The next item on the hearing’s agenda was the nomination of new Finance Board Advisor Chloe Rubinowicz. In introducing herself, she cited her prior high school experience in student government, holding the positions of president, treasurer, and the equivalent of finance board advisor during her time. The questioning period saw Rubinowicz once again cite her prior student government experience connecting students to administration, an affirmation of her knowledge of Finance Board’s purpose and guidelines, and assurance of her commitment to see “all students involved and make this school community better.” The ensuing discussion by SGA saw a mutual agreement that Rubinowicz demonstrated clear competence, experience, and confidence under pressure, and she was approved as a Finance Board advisor by a unanimous vote of 25 in approval.
Bhagavan then gave her executive vice president report and began by recounting a speech she gave to alumni for Homecoming 2018. This speech prompted her to consider looking for ways to SGA to better connect with Illinois Tech alumni, a prompt she opened to the whole floor, receiving suggestions such as a formal historian position, connecting to former SGA members, and reaching out to the Illinois Tech Office of Institutional Advancement.
Afterwards, Bhagavan then reminded the senate of the SGA Retreat that would take place on Friday, September 28 before bringing forward the suggestion of a possible SGA fundraising event, similar in style to the Residence Hall Association’s annual Boat Cruise event, which is not technically a fundraiser. The idea of an SGA-led prom event for Illinois Tech led to a healthy discussion of finance board stipulations and other possible ways for the organization to generate revenue and publicity.
In the final part of her presentation, Bhagavan informed the body that she will be meeting with Provost Peter Kilpatrick on October 7 and asked for suggestions on what topics to discuss with him. Suggestions from the audience included asking about Kilpatrick’s plans to the increase the undergraduate population of the university, its impacts on Illinois Tech’s small school status, how he would go about ensuring the university’s capacity could even sustain increased undergraduate numbers, and what plans currently exist for the former Idea Shop space once it fully moves into the new Kaplan Building.
The vast majority of the senate hearing revolved around President Eric Scott’s report. He began by attempting to reach a consensus on a new time for senate and committee meetings to occur. Based on the partial results of a form he distributed to all SGA members, he presented the options of moving SGA meetings to Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m., Thursdays at 9 p.m., and Saturdays at 2 p.m. None of these options were able to gain a decisive consensus from the SGA body, with Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. coming closest at 22 votes (out of 25). The ensuing discussion brought up a myriad of concerns related to moving SGA meeting times, including accommodating differing class schedules, accounting for commute times, being able to use a room capable of livestreaming, accessibility for disabled students, and other ethical considerations over making meetings visible and accessible for all Illinois Tech students. Once again, no decision was actually made to change meeting times, but SGA will continue to consider all of these concerns in looking for alternatives to its current meeting structure, including the possibility of simply lowering meeting durations by making certain elements of it “read-only” through online mediums before the actual hearing.
Photo by Ethan Castro (He/him)
Scott then gave a brief recap of the most recent meeting with President Alan Cramb and Provost Kilpatrick through the President’s Student Advisory Council (PSAC). More detailed coverage of this meeting between select representatives of the student body (including Scott) and the university’s top administration can be found in the September 18 edition of TechNews under the article “PSAC discusses transparency of information on campus, more at first meeting of semester” on pages one and four.
The senate hearing then consisted of discussion and voting on a number of proposed amendments to the SGA constitution. In keeping with constitutional obligations and processes, these amendments were all made available to SGA members exactly one week before this hearing to allow proper time to review and to be ready to discuss and vote. By SGA's constitution, amendments require a 2/3 majority vote in order to pass. The first amendment brought forward, dubbed the Representation Amendment, looked to change the status of the VanderCook College of Music within SGA by giving it a full senate seat as opposed to the “special senate seat” the current constitution grants the college. In addition, this amendment would remove all mentions of Shimer College from the SGA constitution, since the institution moved from Mies Campus to join North Central College in June 2017. However, the ensuing discussion on this amendment revealed that a number of other related changes were still needed, such as removing mentions of the erroneous “Institute of Psychology” as an academic college. The suggestion by Chief Justice Monforti to table this amendment, make the necessary edits, and return to voting in the future closed this first amendment’s discussion.
The second amendment Scott brought forward was much smoother in its overall process. The Executive Assistant Amendment would simply change all uses of the term “secretary” within the SGA constitution to the term “administrative assistant.” Scott justified this amendment on the grounds of “administrative assistant” being a more neutral term, less prone to preconceived gender notions. In addition, as a general rule, Illinois Tech staff and faculty departments shy away from using the term “secretary.” By a vote of 18 in approval, six against, and one abstention, this amendment passed.
The final amendment brought forward for discussion was the Ambassador Amendment. In response to constitutional requirements from the national SGA organization, the American Student Government Association (ASGA) Chicago branch, this amendment would add two new positions to the SGA constitution: the senior ambassador (to be held by a current SGA senator) and junior ambassador (to be held by any member of SGA, prioritizing senators). The holders of these positions would be responsible for representing the Illinois Tech SGA in external affairs related to ASGA, erroneously referred to as the non-existent Student Government Coalition of Chicago in the amendment. The following discussion brought forward the concerns that the amendment has no set timelines for filling these two positions and that, by current constitutional rules, the senators filling these positions would still be expected to serve on one of SGA’s four committees and carry out projects in addition to these new external duties. By a vote of 10 approvals, six rejections, and 10 abstentions, this amendment failed and will likely be revisited in the future.
The final part of Scott’s report saw him welcome Finance Board Jorge Morin to the floor for him to bring forward a potential impeachment charge against Chief Justice Monforti and remove her from her position. Further information on Morin’s official charges, Monforti’s testimony, and the discussion by SGA about the matter has been provided in its own article, titled "SGA finance board chair brings forward impeachment charge against chief justice" on pages one and three of this issue. This concluded President Scott’s report.
Vice President of Academic Affairs Erin Nelson then gave her report and began by discussing how Provost Kilpatrick has expressed his support for a change in transfer credit policy that would allow students to substitute the transfer of two 200-level courses for one 300-level course. She added that the Illinois Tech Undergraduate Studies Committee (UGSC) stated that similar arrangements already happen on a “case-by-case basis” but that official documentation to have this as a codified process is still in the works.
Nelson then discussed the status of a change to official universal policies known as the Guest Speaker Amendment. Passed during the 2017-2018 academic year, this policy was meant to disallow hateful or discriminatory speech by guest speakers on campus. In her update, Nelson stated that this amendment is currently under review to potentially be revised with language that is more in with the university’s overall diversity and inclusion positions. Nelson then concluded her report with the statement that, at a meeting, she was shown a financial transparency document from the university’s Chief Financial Officer, Michael Horan, and that she would see what she could get done to have this kind of financial information shared with SGA and the rest of the student body.
In his report, Finance Board Chair Morin discussed how the first Finance Board hearing on September 15 saw over $250,000 allocated to the various student organizations of Illinois Tech. As part of his efforts to make Finance Board more transparent in its decisions, he also stated that the specific allocations made can be viewed in person by any student upon request by setting up an appointment with Finance Board (Morin can be reached via email for this purpose at [email protected]). Looking forward, Finance Board will be holding its next round of advising from October 1 to October 5, with the next hearing being on Saturday, October 13, beginning at 9 a.m. in MTCC 516.
The final report of the evening, Events Chair Henry White had a single announcement: the semester’s President and Provost Forum will be held from 12:45 to 1:45 p.m. on Wednesday, October 24. However, White also had a piece of advice to SGA that they should “put their money where their mouth is,” and attend other student organization’s events, just as SGA encourages students to attend their events.
Due to time constraints, Vice President of Communications Narkis Garcia III, Vice President of Student Life Lin Abu-Amara, and Chief Justice Monforti elected to skip their reports and will instead hold more in-depth discussions with their committees at the next round of committee meetings on Wednesday, October 3, beginning at 9:15 p.m. in the MTCC colored rooms. As always, the organization can be reached any time with other questions at [email protected].