SGA discusses future plans for fall referendum

By RUDY MALCOM | May 3, 2018

The Student Government Association (SGA) held their final meeting of the 2017-2018 academic year on Tuesday in Charles Commons. At the meeting, SGA passed their 40th piece of legislation, which is double the combined number of bills passed in the past two years. Members of the SGA also gave their final reports.

SGA voted to pass the Powers and Authorities Resolution. Executive Vice President AJ Tsang, who authored the legislation, explained that the resolution would allow SGA to expand its influence in University decisions. 

In the legislation, Tsang calls for shared governance between SGA and administrators and advocates for the incorporation of young trustees and alumni who have graduated no more than three years ago into the Board of Trustees.

Sophomore Class Senator Dean Chien believes that SGA relies too heavily on maintaining a friendly relationship with the departments that financially support them. Chien voiced his support for the stipulation of the Powers and Authorities resolution that requires administrators to meet with specific SGA committees. 

“This resolution would be an important step towards increasing our role on campus and advocating better for students’ rights,” he said.

The SGA confirmed the appointment of sophomore Ivan Zhang to the Judiciary. The judicial branch is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the SGA’s constitution and by-laws. Zhang, who previously worked on the Undergraduate Academic Ethics Board, plans to improve communication between the Judiciary and SGA and raise awareness of the Judiciary as a resource for conflict adjudication to the student body. 

SGA approved all eight nominations to the Ethics Board. Director of Student Conduct Dana Broadnax gave introductory remarks. 

SGA also passed the Indigenous Recognition Resolution. This resolution finds that Hopkins has failed to cultivate an inclusive environment for Native-American students on campus and encourages the administration to redesignate Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Homewood Campus. Other universities have passed similar resolutions. The resolution also demands that the administration officially recognize the Maryland tribes that first owned and occupied the land on which the University was built. 

Senior Class Senator Joshua Bertalotto hopes that October 8, 2018 will be the first Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

SGA also passed the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Guatemala Funding Act, which first went to the floor a month ago. This bill delegates SGA’s remaining funds to the EWB, who will use these funds to return to Chicorral, Guatemala, where they plan to implement an improved water system.

Tsang then presented on the fall referendum, which will encompass multiple issues, such as covered grades, the tobacco policy, increasing the number of class senators from six to 10 and adding an activities fee to students’ tuition to increase funding for student groups. 

The petition to have a referendum will be open on Hopkins Groups during the summer and will require 900 signatures to pass. Voting on the referendum would happen in the fall over a three-week period, from the first day of classes in August to the middle of September. For the referendum to be successful, the number of votes in favor of an issue must outweigh the number of votes opposed to that issue. Additionally, there must be at least 2000 votes in favor of a question. 

Freshman Class Senator Aspen Williams summarized the achievements of the Civic Engagement Committee this year. She mentioned the Civic Engagement Committee’s involvement with the March for our Lives and the rally against the private police force. 

Freshman Class President Sam Schatmeyer addressed his plans for the coming year, given the imminence of the 2018 midterm elections.

“We need to be active in getting people... not only registered to vote, but super pumped up about voting and engaged on this campus and leaving C-level and coming out and making their political viewpoints heard, no matter what,” he said. “2018 is definitely going to require change and the voices of young people.”

Junior Class President Ash Panakam discussed her meetings with Toni Blackwell, the senior associate dean of students and the interim dean of student life, and Provost Kumar. 

Panakam explained that the mindfulness meditation app, Calm, is popular among students. The administration is working on funding the app in its second year, as its free trial will end soon. This project may cost upward of $8,000.

According to Panakam, Blackwell said that many faculty members are unsure of how to respond correctly to students who they are concerned about. Panakam announced the implementation of the Student Distress Faculty Resource guide. This guide will be given to all faculty to clarify their role in students’ mental health. 

Panakam noted that A Place to Talk, a peer listening group for the Hopkins community, will be given their own space in the library. Panakam hopes that counselors will eventually be stationed there. 

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