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SGA approves halal dining legislation and senate seat redistributions

SGA approves halal dining legislation and senate seat redistributions

SGA approves halal dining legislation and senate seat redistributions
March 24
12:18 2022

The Student Government Association approved two pieces of legislation during its Wednesday meeting, one reallocating its many senate seats and another requiring the university to serve halal meat on campus.

S2022-B4, or “Senate Apportionment for 2022 Elections,” was introduced first under emergency status by President Devon Skinner as a follow-up to a recently approved constitutional amendment.

“Apportionment is something that happens every year,” Skinner said. “It basically makes sure there is a democratic process for the distribution of the seats.”

The bill would create a new minimum of two senators per college and a maximum of four. For example, the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, which currently has 11 members, would be reduced to four. Smaller colleges, such as the College of Music and the College of Information, which currently have one senator each, would both gain a seat.

CLASS Senator Grant Johnson had spoken against the proposed changes at a previous SGA meeting, saying the college needed all of its 11 seats to represent its more than 7,000 students.

“I’m not a huge fan of it,” Johnson said. “As the largest student population on campus […] I just don’t like how we’re going from 11 to four.”

Despite not being a fan of the bill, Johnson was still one of the votes approving it.

“I understand the logic and reason behind it,” Johnson said.

There would also be additional groups added to the senate – an “at-large” section, which would allow five senators to represent the university unattached to their specific college. The Mayborn School of Journalism would also be re-added to the SGA with its own two senators for the first time since it was absorbed into CLASS in 2019.

During a brief period of questioning, CLASS Senator Ethan Gillis asked Skinner how a hypothetical Mayborn School of Journalism student would be classified in the organization if they won a CLASS senate seat before the reallocation was in effect. Skinner said the decision would ultimately fall to the SGA election board.

“Because there might be a couple of those students who are classified as Mayborn, I think the election board will need to make a determination of whether it makes sense for them to be a Mayborn senator versus a CLASS senator,” Skinner said.

The legislation passed unanimously and is waiting for further certification. Next week, a referendum will be on the SGA election ballot for students to vote on the seat apportionment.

“The idea is that the election commissioner would certify the referendum first,” Skinner said. “Then once the referendum has been certified, the contingency portion of this bill would go into effect.”

After the successful vote, CLASS Senator Kaylen Ruiz brought up S2022-R5, “Food for All Students” in front of the senate as a late addition to the agenda. The resolution had been brought up many times since its first introduction a month ago at the Feb. 23 meeting.

“It’s a worthwhile cause – one that’s a little overdue,” CLASS Senator and co-author Alejandro Castellanos said.

The resolution aims to provide halal meat to Muslim students on campus and had been sent to a legislative affairs committee before spring break to be worked on outside of SGA meetings. The bill had not made much progress beyond “slight grammatical changes” and had been waiting for approval long enough, said College of Engineering Senator Andy McDowell.

“There were questions about the bill that the committee wasn’t able to answer,” McDowell said. “Given the timeliness of the bill and how long it’s been sitting in committee, we felt it was only fair to bring it up.”

The authors also wanted the bill approved as soon as possible to have a chance of being implemented before Ramadan begins next week.

“Although, yes, the timeline is short, at least perhaps at some point during the month of Ramadan, […] we can get something in the dining hall for students that would be appropriate,” said Mustafa Syed, College of Science senator and co-author.

Even if the university could not begin serving halal meat before Ramadan, the resolution would benefit future Muslim students and allow them to break their fast on campus, said Syed.

“Muslims will be fasting from dawn to sunset every day for the 30 days of Ramadan,” Syed said. “It’s important we have some types of options on campus as soon as we can.”

After being upgraded to emergency status, the resolution was amended further with small changes such as updating its existing word choice. The resolution then passed unanimously.

“The student government is behind the Muslim student population and we’re going to put pressure on [UNT Dining] to get this implemented as quick as possible,” Johnson said.

After the resolution passed, senators moved on with the rest of the agenda to add newer members to its handful of standing committees. The senate also unanimously approved an appointment to its election board, welcoming art history junior Ginger Beebe to the election board as its newest and only member apart from the election commissioner.

Featured Image: CLASS Senator Grant Johnson speaks during the Student Government Association meeting on March 23, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane

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Alex Reece

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