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SGA proposes Juneteenth be a university holiday, brings up senate constitution amendments

SGA proposes Juneteenth be a university holiday, brings up senate constitution amendments

SGA proposes Juneteenth be a university holiday, brings up senate constitution amendments
February 17
13:36 2022

During its Wednesday meeting, the Student Government Association brought up three pieces of legislation, approving two, and reviewed multiple proposed amendments to its constitution.

The first piece of legislation brought up was unfinished business from the senate’s previous meeting. R2022-B1, or the “Senate Standing Committee Event Requirement,” which would require senate committees to organize and host one event every semester.

Senators began with a period of questioning, allowing its author, College of Science Senator Gracy Schulte, to continue to explain the bill to the assembly.

“I tried to make [the bill] very straightforward,” Schulte said.

Some senators were concerned Schulte’s proposed bill would create hostility among committee members, especially for members who would hypothetically be stuck doing a majority of the work to organize an event. College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Senator Kaylen Ruiz hoped the scenarios she brought up in discussion would help the bill become more concrete.

“I have nothing against the bill in its entirety, I actually like the bill,” Ruiz said. “However, I think that it’s important to highlight if there’s any way that we can avoid and relieve some vagueness within some bills and just make it more fortified and concrete, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Schulte does not believe the bill would cause any of the hypothetical issues brought up by the senate.

“There’s so many possibilities,” Schulte said. “If a committee already isn’t meeting, already there’s different levels of senators doing their work, some not doing their work, that happened before this bill. That didn’t happen because of this bill.”

Despite the “doomsday scenarios” brought up by some senators, the bill passed after a brief period of voting.

The next piece of legislation, S2022-R3, titled “Juneteenth Day of Rest,” was introduced by College of Education Senator Aalyhia Shillow as a recommendation to the university to close on June 19 during the 2022 and 2023 summer terms. Class assignments would also not be allowed a Juneteenth due date.

“I want to be very intentional about what legislation I brought before the senate,” Shillow said. “I wanted to make the first one representative of a community I was a part of.”

Juneteenth has been celebrated as a Texas holiday since 1980 and a U.S. federal holiday since 2021, marking the date enslaved peoples in Texas learned they had been freed under the Emancipation Proclamation.

Shillow’s legislation is classified as a resolution, not a bill, meaning the University of North Texas is not required to follow it and can reject it. However, UNT has closed on Juneteenth before and the Board of Regents has been planning to make it an annual university holiday starting 2024, Shillow said.

“There’s something in motion on a higher admin level where they’re putting something together starting 2024 already,” Shillow said. “This would cover all that time between now and then.”

The senate voted to upgrade the legislation to emergency status to allow an immediate vote. After some minor changes, such as adding Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Joanne Woodard to be a recipient of the resolution, it was approved unanimously.

“A resolution is not binding,” Muñoz-Sarabia said. “However, if the SGA is passionate about something, I think, regardless of the language, if we’re demanding something then we’re demanding it.”

The second and new piece of legislation was S2022-B2, “Revision of the Constitution.” As mentioned in the bill’s title, it proposed revisions to the SGA constitution to be more transparent and cohesive.

President Devon Skinner presented the bill to the senate, outlining multiple contradictions or confusing sentences in the existing document he wished to change.

“I’ve been in SGA since 2018,” Skinner said. “I’ve seen different situations in which ambiguity has caused problems in terms of how do we proceed and what’s the right thing to do.”

Changes included clarifying the job descriptions of members on the senate’s legislative, executive and judicial branches, as well as including an outline of how senate meetings should be run.

While extensive, the amendments would be a way to help the next administration, Skinner said.

“I’m trying to create a foundation for future administrations to advocate in a proactive and successful way,” Skinner said. “The organization needs to evolve beyond this document.”

The constitution and its amendments will be voted during the SGA’s next meeting on Feb. 23.

Featured Image: SGA senators listen to a speaker during their meeting on Feb. 16, 2022. Photo by Belle Maucieri

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Alex Reece

Alex Reece

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