SGA passes bill to promote civic activity

By VALERIE CHAVEZ | April 13, 2017

The Student Government Association (SGA) held its weekly meeting in Charles Commons on Tuesday. SGA members discussed three major initiatives, which included implementing a new online voting system and funding a student consulting group.

After beginning the meeting by congratulating the winners of the executive board elections, the SGA passed two bills and debated amendments to the bylaws.

Freshman Class President Anthony Boutros presented the first bill to implement the program, TurboVote, on campus next year.

TurboVote is an online system that operates through the University and makes it easier for students to register to vote, print absentee ballots and stay informed about election dates. The system is already in place at over three hundred universities around the country.

“This should be a student-run initiative to increase civic engagement on campus.” Boutros said. “We should create a culture on campus where students fight for their rights, vote and get engaged in politics at the school level, local level and national level. We would simplify the process so they can have their voices heard.”

Boutros pointed to the low voter turnout among U.S. citizens, particularly college students.

He emphasized that both the University and SGA has a responsibility to help students stay informed and facilitate their participation in the democratic process. Boutros has been working with the Dean of Student Life Terry Martinez to research and implement this initiative.

“Dean Martinez was surprised we didn’t have it, and was also excited,” Boutros said. “Dean Martinez will be funding half the cost of TurboVote, and said that in future years she’d even been willing to fund it all.”

SGA passed the bill and the University will begin using TurboVote on the Homewood campus next semester. The SGA and the Office of Student Life will split the $2,500 cost of the new system.

The next bill was related to revising the SGA bylaws. AJ Tsang, sophomore class senator, presented a new draft of the bylaws, and members examined several sections.

They first addressed the section requiring SGA members to go through mandatory training programs like diversity and inclusion training from the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Office of Gender Equity and safezone training from the Office of LGBTQ Life.

“So essentially [the training] would give SGA members the resources they need to serve the student body,” Tsang said.

SGA members debated whether the provisions of the bylaws were transparent, concise and necessary. After revising some of the wording and content of these articles, SGA voted to approve reviewed sections.

Finally, SGA approved a bill to retroactively provide $500 of funding for a consulting networking event hosted by the Johns Hopkins Undergraduate Consulting Club at the Hopkins club.

Senior Class Senator Jonathan Brown defended the bill, saying that many Hopkins students go into consulting careers.

“Consulting is one of the largest career routes that Hopkins students go into,” he said. “I’m pretty sure everyone has a friend or two or three who will become consultants for a couple of years.”

The SGA meeting closed with announcements from SGA advisor, Kirsten Fricke. She informed them that the deadline for student groups to register for next year is April 15 and that an alarmingly small number of student groups had registered out of the 409 total groups on campus.

“I checked this morning and we have 150 groups re-registered,” she said. “If you are a part of organizations we have not re-registered, make sure you’re doing that, and encourage folks to be paying attention to that.”

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