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SGA senators debate LGBTQ+ solidarity bill, constitutional changes

SGA senators debate LGBTQ+ solidarity bill, constitutional changes

SGA senators debate LGBTQ+ solidarity bill, constitutional changes
March 03
19:25 2022

At the Wednesday meeting, the Student Government Association discussed lengthy pieces of legislation, approving one and finalizing its constitutional amendments.

Shortly after the meeting began, Grant Johnson, a senator for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, brought up S2022-R6, a “Statement of Solidarity with the LGBTQ+ Community,” as a late addition to the night’s agenda.

The resolution, if passed, would post a statement on all SGA social media platforms and its website showing the senate’s support of university LGBTQ+ communities similar to ones posted recently by other university groups like the Union, Latina/o and Mexican American Studies department and the Pride Alliance.

Multiple senators quickly voiced their disapproval of the extra resolution.

“I think this legislation is duplicitous and it is lukewarm,” College of Music Senator Beige Cowell said.

The resolution felt performative instead of making “actionable legislation” students could benefit from, Cowell said.

“Trans students are upset because everybody is giving statements of solidarity, saying ‘we stand with you,’ while nobody has done anything to actually protect and defend them,” Cowell said.

The fact the bill was a late addition, said some senators, also meant the resolution could possibly be too rushed to be considered alongside the already-discussed legislation from the week before.

“As nice as it is to see some statements of solidarity, it’s really not what [we] as the trans community needs right now,” Honors College Senator Lauren Allen said.

After voting, the addition to the agenda was denied.

The next discussion centered around S2022-B2, or “Revision of the Constitution.” One approved change added a sentence allowing future changes to the constitution if needed.

Another amendment mandated an “absolute two-thirds,” not a “simple two-thirds,” would approve future document changes. An absolute majority meant a two-thirds majority of the entire senate, present or not, while a simple one would use the majority of senators at the meeting.

After updating the document to reflect the changes, the senate skipped ahead to S2022-R5, “Food for All Students,” as one of its authors, Muslim Student Association President Mustafa Syed, had to leave early.

College of Science Senator Gracy Schulte brought up a Bruce Residence Hall Cafeteria program, “Menus of Change.” It was not included in the legislation but was an existing university program working toward food diversity on campus.

For co-author and CLASS Senator Alejandro Castellanos, the program was not worth including in the legislation as it focused on healthier food options only.

“From what I looked at, there wasn’t anything for religious dietary needs,” Castellanos said.

Schulte disagreed, stating the program’s mission as a “menu of change” meant it had the potential to help the legislation. The program also stated its goal to “support student’s growth by cultivating an inclusive environment,” said Schulte. Johnson weighed in by saying the university had not been doing enough and this legislation would start a needed conversation.

Discussion of whether or not to include Kosher foods on the legislation was also addressed but the main focus would ultimately be on halal food, the senate decided.

“The preferred response would be that UNT would see [the legislation],” Syed said. “They would see the support behind it, between MSA and [SGA] and they would go forward with working to implement halal options on this campus.”

After some debate over whether or not to postpone the legislation, it was referred to the SGA legislative affairs committee.

The senate was then able to move back to S2022-B2 and its constitutional amendments for the next two hours.

When Muñoz-Sarabia reached a proposed section to create the Office of the Inspector General, SGA Advisor Christa Coffey spoke in opposition of it. A similar proposal was vetoed by then-President Michael Luecke in the fall of 2020.

“I think it’s an unnecessary function that’s only going to add red tape and reduce efficiency,” Coffey said.

For Coffey, weighing in on a senate discussion was so rare she could not remember the last time she did it but the OIG’s potential to stop senators from acting as student advocates worried her.

“Personally, seeing SGA over the past 6-7 years, I think SGA is becoming too complicated,” Coffey said.

President Devon Skinner spoke in support of the OIG, stating it was a needed extra check, but the half-hour debate ended with the complete removal of the OIG from the constitution.

Another amendment, this one for the legislative branch, would limit each college’s senators to four with some overflow ‘at large’ senators. CLASS senators objected, stating their ability to represent their large college depended on the current 11 seats.

Senators representing smaller colleges believed the amendment would help all colleges including CLASS.

“As the one senator for the College of Music, I’m definitely drowning in things,” Cowell said.

Cowell also stated the ‘at-large’ overflow section which would actually add seats.

“We are more than just one college,” Muñoz-Sarabia said.

The amendment passed. The next, covering senate removal, was updated after some discussion to delete a section giving senators the ability to approve or deny an executive decision to remove a senator from the organization. If a removed senator did object, they would still have the option to plead their case to the SGA supreme court and be reinstated.

A final vote by the senate approved the entire document. Applause for finalizing it two weeks after its introduction was cut short by moving to S2022-R4, “Door Decorations Policy Within Residence Halls.” Despite having been tabled at the last meeting, the legislation was postponed again until the senate’s next meeting on March 9.

Several senators raise their hands during a period of discussion in the SGA meeting on March 2, 2022. Photo by John Anderson

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Alex Reece

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