SGA debates referendum to increase engagement

By TRISHA PARAYIL | February 1, 2018

At their first meeting of the second semester, the Student Government Association (SGA) discussed topics ranging from increasing participation at athletic events to creating a new student center.

The meeting opened with Assistant Director of Athletics Kelsie Gory proposing a partnership between SGA and the Athletics Department to increase student involvement and attendance at home games for the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams.

Gory mentioned that the home game on March 3 would be a “Blue-Out,” with the first 500 people receiving free blue shirts.

SGA members proposed a number of ideas, including holding a tailgate with a hot chocolate bar, bringing rescue dogs and making Jay, the mascot, more prominent on campus.

Senior Class Senator Sarah Zappone suggested several ways to increase student engagement.

“A way to boost attendance would be to partner with student groups,” she said. “Maybe we can invite multicultural organizations to cook food and sell it, instead of having food trucks.”

Executive Vice President AJ Tsang also met with the Student Life Subcommittee of the Second Commission on Undergraduate Education, who expressed their support for building a new student center. Sophomore Class Senator Olivia Cigarroa and Freshman Class President Sam Schatmeyer worked with the Subcommittee to write SGA’s proposal and resolution for the student center.

Junior Class President Ash Panakam explained that the representatives, along with a faculty advisor, drafted and signed a contract for the junior class boat cruise that will be held on April 5.

Sophomore Senator Dean Chien described a new grant initiative spearheaded by the sophomore class council.

“Given the restrictions to student organization budgets, the sophomore class representatives will be giving out individual grants that will be based on… areas of need: Mental Health, School Spirit, Involvement in the Baltimore Community and Civic Engagement,” he said.

Grants of $200 will be available to projects that will benefit the sophomore class in each of those four categories.

SGA members then discussed the possibility of holding a spring referendum to gather student input on the issues of a smoking ban on campus and the construction of a student center.

Tsang explained that 900 signatures are needed to hold the referendum, after which at least a third of the student body has to vote on it.

“The SGA is bound to the outcome of the vote and has to recognize it as statistically significant, that this is what the student body wants,” he said.

The SGA members debated merits of having the students vote on the smoking ban and the construction of the student center on the same ballot.

Schatmeyer and Senior Class Senator Tatiana Sorenson both agreed that the topics were too dissimilar to appear on one referendum.

However, Senior Class President Kwame Alston disagreed, citing the difficulties of getting students to answer two separate referendums.

Executive Secretary Rushabh Doshi stressed that having a diversity of issues on the referendum would prompt more to participate.

“More people will come, because they may be more opinionated on one topic than the other,” he said.

Panakam did not believe that one issue should be excluded in favor of the other.

“As long as the issues are a priority for the SGA, it should be a priority on the referendum,” she said. “Hopkins should give their students the voice to decide what to do. [The smoking ban] can be a priority 50 years into the future if that is what students want.”

SGA members briefly discussed the University’s newly released guidelines on free expression but decided to move further discussion to next week’s meeting.

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