SGA debates freedom of expression policies

By VALERIE CHAVEZ | April 6, 2017

Dean of Student Life Terry Martinez opened Tuesday’s Student Government Association (SGA) meeting. She discussed the University’s new “freedom of expression guidelines” and the mental health taskforce.

Martinez has been working with the SGA and other students since last semester to update and revise the guidelines.

The new policies will soon be finalized, shared with organizations and be made available on the student life website.

“We want to make sure that students can hold their protests, rallies and demonstrations,” Martinez said. “And given where we are as a nation, I anticipate that, or I hope, that we will see more student activism on campus. So we want to make sure students know how to go about doing that.”

Some of the new policies will include requiring students to reserve the campus spaces they use for rallies and protests.

The administration cited a need to ensure the fair allocation of campus spaces for why the new policy will be implemented. The University also wants to ensure that rallies do not block access to campus and building entrances and exits or interrupt classes.

Martinez also provided updates about the Task Force on Mental Health and Well-Being. The group has been working to understand the needs of the student body and to improve access to resources, not only for the Homewood campus but also for the entire University.

The committee has finalized their documents and, according to Martinez, they will be made public in the next few weeks.

“We want to start implementing changes,” Martinez said. “We’ve made some recommendations around education, training, structure access and staffing.”

Freshman Class President Anthony Boutros and sophomore Ash Panakam, senators on the SGA health and safety committee, announced that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. They discussed the need to have events that address the stigma surrounding mental health and the relationship between cultural background and mental health.

“We want to raise awareness,” Panakam said. “We want to create a sense of unity, generate conversations and promote well-being.”

Some of their recommendations included placing the Counseling Center on the freshman security walk for next year and developing an online scheduling system for the center.

The SGA discussed and approved six bills to provide funding for student groups and events on campus.

The first bill approved was to provide the Johns Hopkins Outdoors Club (JHOC) $750 for their Earth Week film series. According to JHOC, the group will be working in collaboration with the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) to screen three movies that discuss the past, present and future of environmental justice.

Senior McHenry Lee, a brother in Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI), presented his fraternity’s request for funds to offset the costs of their Push Event.

The event happened last Friday, where teams of eight pushed a Humvee across the practice field. Proceeds from the event went to the United Services Organization (USO), a nonprofit that supports U.S. soldiers and their families.

The fraternity’s request for $500 was approved by the SGA.

Kwame Alston, junior class senator and brother in Alpha Phi Alpha, put forth a bill to provide funding for the Intercultural Greek Council (IGC).

The SGA approved the bill, which will provide $700 toward funding food for a community event during alumni weekend.

“We’d really like to have this event so we can be a cultural hub as part of alumni weekend,” Alston said. “Especially because the IGC provides the social platform for a lot of multicultural students. So we want them to feel at home and, of course, everyone is welcome.”

Freshman Class Senators Edo Ighodaro and Boutros presented a bill to provide the Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU) funding for educational materials about sexual awareness month.

The SGA gave the group $250 to purchase posters that will be placed around campus. These posters will inform students of their Title IX rights and they plan to reuse them in the future.

United for Music will be hosting Music Under the Stars. The event will take place on Friday, April 14 and will showcase student musicians. The SGA approved their request for $866 to help pay for setting up a stage on the beach.

Trevor Lee, junior class senator and member of A Place to Talk (APTT), presented a bill to provide funding for APTT. The group was given $837 to help pay for three new couches in their offices in Wolman and the AMRs.

“The couches are in bad condition,” Lee said. We’ve been using those couches for about 12 years. I’ve heard numerous complaints that they smell, and I think it is time to provide APTT with new couches.”

The SGA estimates that after the meeting they have a budget of around $6,000.

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