Campus lighting, new appointments, and student fee allocations among the issues discussed
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Due to staff and schedule changes, The Journal hasn’t been able to cover the last three meetings of the Student Government Association. This story combines coverage of the those meetings – separated by date – as the student body prepares to vote in the upcoming election.
All SGA meetings are recorded and available for viewing from the Information Technology Services website.
In the last meeting before spring break, SGA appointed a new senator-at-large, officially appointed a new chairperson to the Student Activities Committee (SAC), and received an address from Chancellor Susan Koch.
SGA members unanimously voted to appoint Jarley Ventara, a senior majoring in global studies, as a senator-at-large. In her address to the association, Ventara noted that her time serving on Lincoln Land Community College’s SGA offered her experience that would serve her well on UIS’s SGA.
The association also voted to officially appoint Kayla Foster-Griffin, a junior communication major, as the chairperson to SAC, an SGA committee.
Foster-Griffin has been acting as chair since mid-October, following the departure of her predecessor. Since she took the position, SAC has added 11 new members.
After the appointments, the SGA heard a report from Koch, who updated the students on various campus matters.
Koch also spoke about some of her “active, ongoing concerns,” particularly with undocumented students.
“We don’t necessarily know who they are, because we don’t ask student identify as undocumented, though some willingly do that,” she said.
As mentioned in the campus senate piece from March 28, Koch met with some undocumented students to discuss their concerns.
“We are doing everything we can to protect our undocumented students,” she said, noting that campus police do not ask about students’ statuses and that there is a specific staff member on campus “who has a particular assignment to work with undocumented students.” Though she did not provide the staff member’s name, Koch stated that undocumented students “know who she is.”
After Koch finished her address, several SGA members offered questions.
Grace Rosado, internal vice president, asked about the campus lighting concerns, which the Office of the Chancellor previously allocated “a sustainable grant” to improve. Rosado stated, however, that the SGA is still hearing concerns about it.
“If you know of areas of concern, my suggestion is that you send me an email,” Koch said. “Tell me where that is, copy it to Pat Sanchez. I will forward that to facilities and say ‘you need to get on that right away.’”
After answering questions brought forth by other SGA members, Koch received a commentary from audience member Sean Blackwell. [Full disclosure: Blackwell is a former employee of The Journal.]
Blackwell brought up concerns about the current location of the Career Development Center, which is located in the Student Affairs Building on east campus.
Blackwell said that the Career Development Center is “one of the main mechanisms” for helping students figure out their next step. “I think that we’re not doing a very good job when it comes to that. And I think that part of that is because the Career Development Center is not as accessible to as many students as it should be.”
While Koch agreed that students come to UIS to earn a degree and get a job, she said, “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t remind all of us that there’s more to a university education than getting a job.”
Koch continued, “… I hope that, besides pursuing your classes, that you’re going to something once in while that’s kind of enriching your soul, too. Because becoming an educated person is more than being employed.”
After Koch left and the SGA members offered their reports, the association began working through their resolutions.
Resolution 019, sponsored by Senator Yamundow Camara, was first brought to the floor Jan. 22. The resolution, which called for more cooperation between Human Resources Center and Health Services to better aid international students, was adopted.
Resolution 031, sponsored by Senator Wei Jin, was first brought to the floor Feb. 19. This resolution called for the relocation of the Career Development Center to the Student Union upon the buildings completion.
The resolution faced heavy debate during the Feb. 19 meeting and was subsequently suspended. On March 5, Jin put forward a motion to deny the resolution after considering the comments offered during the last debate.
Jin said, “The point is how to make the Career Development Center more accessible to students.”
Jin’s motion was unanimously approved, meaning the resolution was denied.
Resolutions 032 and 033 were new business.
Resolution 032 adjusted the town hall requirement from once a month to twice a semester to allow the association proper time to address the issues brought up in the meetings.
Resolution 033 offered formal recognition of the U of I sesquicentennial, which is the celebration of the university’s 150th anniversary.
Both resolutions were adopted.
SGA next met on the Sunday closing out spring break. The meeting was sparsely attended and there were few reports offered.
Nathan Hoffman, student representative to the Board of Trustees, reported that UIS health fees would be decreasing by $72 a semester. He also reported that the IPAC bill was amended to state that 85 percent of state funding to the U of I system would be put toward financial aid for in-state students.
Keith Williams II, the freshman student senator, reported that he was continuing his investigation in the food poisoning controversy surrounding the Capitol Grille in Founders Residence Hall. Williams began this investigation in February after hearing multiple students complain about becoming ill after eating at the Grille.
The meeting saw two new resolutions, 034 and 035.
Resolution 034, sponsored by President Austin Mehmet, would require the chairs of SAC and the Student Organization Funding Association (SOFA) to report to SGA on a bi-monthly basis. Currently, the chairs report with no notable frequency.
“A lot of people don’t realize that SAC and SOFA are underneath SGA and that we give them a quite substantial amount of money,” Mehmet said.
The resolution was adopted.
Resolution 035, which was sponsored by Senator Peabody, called for “an easily understood allocation summary” from UIS regarding how student fees are spent. The summary would be posted online at least once per fiscal year.
The resolution was adopted.
Sunday’s SGA saw fuller attendance, more reports, and heavier debate than the meeting before.
Hoffman and External Vice President Edwin Robles discussed the events of Lobby Day, which occurred on March 29. According to Hoffman, about 175 students from all three U of I schools attended the event, which heavily focused on the current status of the IPAC bill.
“The IPAC bill continues to see good feedback, for the most part.” Hoffman said. He noted that he was “hopeful that we can get a vote on the floor for this bill in the spring, still.”
Robles said, “All the senators and representative that I spoke to are in favor of IPAC, so it’s looking pretty good right now.”
According to both Mehmet and Robles, a similar event is planned for late April, though exact information is not currently known.
Peoria Campus Senator Dan Kelly reported that concurrent enrollment is no longer available in Peoria, and that this change was made without notifying students.
According to Kelly, the fact that concurrent enrollment was taken away from Peoria wasn’t his biggest concern about the matter. “The issue was more that Peoria wasn’t notified that they were taking it away,” Kelly said.
Kelly explained that he refrained from writing a resolution about the matter until he does more research.
“Ultimately,” Kelly said, “I would prefer to have concurrent enrollment be offered for Peoria students again.”
After the senators finished offering their reports, the association moved on to the two resolutions of the night.
Resolution 036, sponsored by Rosado and co-sponsored by Mehmet, proposed a constitutional amendment adding a new senator position to SGA. The new position would represent campus residents, specifically.
“One of the problems we have every year is housing,” Mehmet said, speaking on the resolution in result of Rosado’s absence.
Previously, students took their complaints to the Resident Housing Association (RHA). However, as the SGA noted, RHA was significantly “dwindled” this academic year. RHA was seemingly replaced by community and hall councils, as stated by Williams, though the meetings are sparsely attended.
While some concern existed over whether or not a Campus Resident senator would overlap too much with the other senator position, the association eventually came to the conclusion that on campus residents have specific needs and don’t currently have an avenue through which to have their voices heard.
Hoffman argued that if the SGA is going to add a Campus Resident senator, they should add an Off-Campus Resident senator, as well. This point was heavily debate for roughly 30 minutes, as about half of the senators agreed while the other half argued that off-campus residents don’t have the type of problems that SGA could address, like on campus residents do.
“What interests are exclusive to off-campus students that are actually addressable by SGA?” asked Brandon Klages, senator for public affairs and administration. Examples of a lack of off-campus housing options and transportation options were provided throughout the debate, though questions over whether or not SGA could actually assist in those were brought up.
Parliamentarian Grant Gustafson asked, “Isn’t it kind of telling that the largest population of the student body [commuter students] hasn’t come forward with all these problems?”
On the other hand, Kelly noted, “Maybe we haven’t been hearing the concerns of the off-campus students because they don’t have specific representation.”
Konner Beer, senator for business and management and a student who commutes roughly 45 minutes, said, “If I ever had an issue, I would go [to my advisor] and I would say ‘who can I speak to?’”
“I think,” he continued, “even if we had this senator … I’m not sure that there would be much communication between the people that commute and that senator, because they’re probably going to go to their advisor … just because that’s who they know and that’s who they’re familiar with.”
In the end, Hoffman’s proposed amendment to the resolution was denied in a 6-to-8 vote. The original resolution was adopted, with Hoffman and Kelly being the only “No” votes.
Because it is a constitutional amendment, the addition must be voted on by the student body. The amendment is on the April 12-13 ballot.
Resolution 037, sponsored by Gustafson, changed the half-time student enrollment minimum from four hours to five hours to reflect the change in UIS’s current enrollment criteria. The resolution passed.