On Wednesday, February 13, 2019, at 9:15 p.m. in Stuart Building 113, the Illinois Tech Student Government Association (SGA) kicked off its third senate hearing of the spring 2019 semester with a distribution of festive Valentine’s Day candy. This hearing was the first legislative session held by this senate. Instead of approving proposed student organizations and being audience to the executive board’s reports of meetings with faculty and various projects, the meeting held more of a focus on passing new legislature onto the school’s administration and discussing the powers, responsibilities, and purpose of the senate. At this particular hearing, a new College of Science senator was sworn in, the Undergraduate Faculty Council (UFC) “Cold Weather” legislation was passed by the senate, and debate was focused on the purpose of the Student Activity Fund (SAF).
Beginning the hearing, senator nominee Rishi Shukla presented himself to the senate. As a computer science major running for a seat representing the College of Science, Shukla wants to be more involved on campus, and give a voice to students. He has four years of volunteer experience, was a member of student council in high school, and is currently the Vice President of Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp), a fraternity that the SGA recently reinstated during the fall 2018 semester. Additionally, Shukla is already involved with SGA and has volunteered for the Events Committee since fall. During questioning, Shukla assured attendees that workload would not be an issue because he already balances his volunteer work with his current schoolwork and involvement in other student organizations. He would love to continue to work with the Events Committee. When the senate entered a discussion period, only positive things were said about the nominee, who passed and was sworn in with 18 votes yes, 1 vote no.
Next, President Eric Scott presented the UFC “Cold Weather” Legislation to the senate, which essentially requires the university to warn the student body and provide a standard outline of university policy about foreseeable threatening events such as extreme weather. This legislation is not intended to police the university but to set a guideline as to what the standard procedure should be in these unusual circumstances, such as what happened a couple of weeks ago when the university shut down due to extreme cold. That event is actually what spurred this legislation — students were concerned that the university did not say anything in the days leading up to the shutdown, and looked to the SGA to resolve the issue. If the university does not follow this policy, the administration could be held accountable by a public student announcement, even when there is no official action that could be taken. During the hearing, the only change made was to number the subsections instead of bulleting them. The UFC “Cold Weather” Legislation passed in the senate, and Vice President of Academic Affairs Erin Nelson will be taking it to the next UFC meeting to get it instated in university policy.
After the UFC “Cold Weather” legislation passed, a discussion of the purpose of the SAF began. Finance Board Chair Jorge Morin defined the SAF as a fee paid by all students at the university for sponsoring student activities on or off campus. Finance Board aims to fairly allocate the SAF among student organizations. President Eric Scott clarified that Finance Board currently has a policy to limit the amount of money spent on off campus conferences. Following this, senators and Finance Board members debated whether or not the SAF should be spent on conferences, with the arguments being that conferences allow Illinois Tech to represent itself in the nation, but the conferences also cost a lot and not all students attend them. No final decision was reached, and the discussion and most other discussion topics scheduled for the night were tabled for later meetings due to the amount of time the discussion took up.
Vice President of Student Life Lin Abu-Amara announced that the meal plan policy has changed for the coming years — every incoming first year student to Illinois Tech is required to have an unlimited meal plan. Additionally, only commuter students are allowed to have the Hawk 50 meal plan, but students who currently live on campus and have the plan are allowed to keep it. Any concerns with the meal plan can be directed to Abu-Amara and Food Advisory Board, who is currently trying to work this issue out with the university to find a middle ground. She also announced the scheduled opening of the new Bailey residence hall, which will be in fall 2020. These will be pod apartment style dorms modeled similarly to Carman Hall.
Finally, a few senators had things to share in the open floor session. Senator Jackson Lapp mentioned that he would like to expand the mental health assistance, as he feels the Student Health and Wellness Center (SHWC) should have more staff to help students in a more timely manner. He was directed towards the Student Health & Wellness Center Advisory Board, a group of students and SHWC staff who meet to discuss issues and topics related to the center. Then, Senator Derek Rhea discussed the fact that the senate has more power than it realizes to regulate the Executive, Judicial, and Financial Boards, and should exercise this power when necessary.
The meeting minutes can be found online on the SGA Facebook page, and anyone with questions or comments regarding SGA can direct them to [email protected]