At their weekly meeting on Tuesday, the Student Government Association (SGA) approved a petition calling for a referendum after getting 910 signatures. Nine-hundred signatures were required in order for SGA to be allowed to hold the referendum.
A referendum allows the electorate to vote directly on specific issues. In order to hold this vote SGA must recieve signatures from a sixth of the student body on a petition that it opened in May. Students were also able to specficy which issues they wanted to see on the referendum on the petition.
At Tuesday’s meeting, SGA also made amendments to a clause regarding conflict of interests in SGA and held a forum for freshmen intending to run for SGA.
As part of its mission to represent the voice of students, SGA formed a referendum organizing team composed of Executive Vice President AJ Tsang, Executive Secretary Aspen Williams, and Sophomore Class President Sam Schatmeyer in June.
Through efforts including a video, consistent social media posts and personal messages, the team collected a total of 910 student signatures by August 31. The petition will allow SGA to hold a referendum.
On one of his social media posts, Schatmeyer expressed his gratitude toward everyone who took part in the effort and signed the petition.
“There has been energy for change on this campus for a long time, and it makes me so proud to see students working towards that change,” he wrote.
A report following the referendum petiton showed that the most common issues students wanted to see as a question on the referendum included building a student center, whether or not the school should have a private police force, improving health and mental health on campus, and divestment from fossil fuels.
Other popular issues included increasing services for students, smoking on campus, student representation in University decisions, and covered grades.
The preliminary data from the 910 responses and yes or no questions on campus policy will be used in order to create the questions on the referendum. All students will then be allowed to vote on these questions.
Schatmeyer stressed the importance of having as many students vote on the referendum as possible. The petition required only a sixth of the student body’s vote in order to pass, while the referendum will require a third.
“For the petition, we had to get to 900 signatures this summer, and it took all summer and a lot of work,” Schatmeyer said. “We have to put in much more effort than we did in the petition, each of us stepping up and making sure to fulfill our responsibilities.”
SGA also discussed conflicts of interest that arise in the Association. Students discussed the protocol of what should happen if a member pushes for a bill for a student organization that he or she is a part of and could be biased towards.
Tsang stated that in the past, SGA had problems with senators introducing bills that benefited other clubs of which they were a part. He expressed the need to decrease the possibility of that happening again.
“We have encouraged SGA members to work with as many students as possible to get funding and sponsor events,” Tsang said. “In order to ensure a reduction in conflict of interest, we ask SGA members to refrain from writing bills for their organizations.”
Several SGA members questioned what counts as being in a club, specifically the difference between being members of a club and being involved in a club without being a formal member.
Tsang replied that students are a part of a group if they are listed as a member on Hopkins Groups.
Some SGA members, including Sophomore Senator Lauren Paulet, disagreed on the idea of refraining from writing bills for an organization.
“My view is that we should be allowed to introduce a bill but then abstain from voting,” Paulet said. “This would allow for more transparency and will ease the process for other students reaching out to us.”
She explained that it would be easier for students to approach SGA members they know through their clubs.
“Many of us are involved in many different organizations on campus. Individuals that are part of the organization generally may feel more comfortable approaching you when it comes to approaching SGA for funding,” Paulet said.
Many SGA members agreed with Paulet and amendments were made accordingly to clarify the clause and to reduce possible of conflict of interests in the future.
At the end of the meeting, SGA members allowed freshmen intending to run in the upcoming elections to ask questions.
Along with the freshman elections, senior special elections will also be happening this semester. Currently five out of the six senior class council seats are still open. SGA is planning to have new senior members by Sept. 18.