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Student Government Association discusses virtual classes, inclusive ID legislation

Student Government Association discusses virtual classes, inclusive ID legislation

CLASS Senator Grant Johnson asks a question during a Senate meeting on Oct. 13, 2021.

Student Government Association discusses virtual classes, inclusive ID legislation
February 05
18:58 2022

The University of North Texas Student Government Association held its Wednesday meeting virtually as senators discussed two pieces of legislation on mandating virtual class options and adding pronouns to student IDs.

Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Elizabeth With briefly joined the meeting to update senators and continue answering questions regarding COVID-19.

“If you take a look at the [university COVID-19 dashboard], you’ll see the number of cases we had last week dropped dramatically from the week before,” With said.

With cited positivity rates from residence halls as evidence, UNT is benefitting from the current COVID-19 procedures in place.

“As of last Friday, we had 22 infectious cases in the residence halls out of 6,200,” With said.

While UNT will remain closed until Feb. 4, With said “skeleton crews” will keep facilities such as the Student Health and Wellness Center open for students but will not be able to administer COVID-19 tests until the university reopens due to limited staff.

“We have a skeleton crew on campus when we have a snow day or when the university is closed on days that we are normally open,” With said.

With also discussed updates to the university COVID-19 dashboard to include more specific positivity rates for students.

“You’ll be able to see the weekly positivity rate and still see the overall positivity rate that began back in August,” With said.

With will also attend next week’s SGA meeting on Feb. 9 to answer future questions and concerns.

Legislation S2022-R1, titled “Online Learning Options,” was presented by College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Senator Peyton McFarlain and SGA President Devon Skinner.

As McFarlain read the bill to the senate, they included several anonymous comments from individuals who signed an online petition, which currently has more than 4,500 signatures, asking the university for more virtual learning options.

Comments varied from mothers concerned about their young children’s safety, immunocompromised students anxious about being near other classmates and students contemplating leaving the university altogether in favor of their health.

“My health and safety is more important than in-person classes,” stated one comment McFarlain read aloud.

Also included in the bill were multiple anonymous complaints from students regarding some professors’ behavior during in-person classes, including one statement describing a professor allegedly coughing into a microphone after reportedly telling their class they were “getting over omicron.”

While complaints against professors were included in the document, senate members do not want university faculty to feel threatened by it.

“While this legislation could be seen as an attack, it isn’t,” Skinner said. “It’s to highlight the issues that students are facing.”

During discussions, Skinner said there could be challenges when enacting the changes the legislation suggests but he wants to put representing the student body above those issues.

“A lot of our discussions has gone into logistics, how does this become implemented,” Skinner said. “We have to make sure that logistical challenges do not hinder our responsibility to represent the voices of students who are speaking.”

The legislation was upgraded to emergency status at the beginning of discussions to allow the senate to vote during the meeting. It passed unanimously and is scheduled to be sent to multiple university faculty members, including President Neal Smatresk.

“Listening is important, and just as important is action,” Skinner said.

The second piece of legislation, S2022-R2 or “Pronouns on UNT Student IDs,” was presented by CLASS Senator Grant Johnson and College of Music Senator Beige Cowell. The bill would allow students to include preferred pronouns on their university student identification cards.

While the senators agreed pronouns are not typically something included on an ID card, it would allow students to showcase their identities in a new way.

“It’s just a tangible object that says, ‘this is me,’” Johnson said. “‘This is who I am.’”

Adding pronouns to an ID card would not be mandatory and the space can be left blank if a student does not want to add any, according to the legislation. The bill also stated obtaining a new ID with pronouns would be free for students the first time and then would cost a small fee for every other copy in compliance with existing university rules on replacing an ID card.

“For a name change, a new ID is free,” Cowell said. “My intention is for pronouns to work the same way.”

The senate plans to vote on the bill during its next meeting on Feb. 9. Senators Johnson and Cowell also plan to continue pushing for inclusive reforms for LGBTQ+ students on campus in the future.

“This is just the first domino to fall,” Johnson said.

In addition to discussing legislation and several guest appearances of SGA members’ pets, senators also approved political science sophomore Daniel Garcia to join the SGA as a CLASS senator.

Featured Image: SGA senators react during a senate meeting on Oct. 13, 2021. Photo by John Anderson

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Alex Reece

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