SGA discusses topics for dinner with President Daniels

By ISHA RAI | October 25, 2018

Student Government Association (SGA) members brainstormed potential discussion topics for their annual dinner with University administrators, including President Ronald J. Daniels, during their weekly meeting on Tuesday.

SGA aimed to use the discussion to shortlist three core topics of conversation for the dinner scheduled for Nov. 27. Because the discussion continued for too long, however, SGA decided to postpone the official vote. 

Sophomore Class Senator Madelynn Wellons encouraged SGA to consider sexual violence as a key issue to discuss with the University administration. According to her, The News-Letter’s “On their own” article and the sexual violence statistics that the University released earlier this fall reveal significant issues in the way Hopkins handles sexual assault cases that need to be addressed.

“We should talk about sexual assault at Hopkins, because it’s been a really big issue, and nothing has been done,” she said. “Cases are still going on forever, and people that are on this campus should not be on this campus.” 

Junior Class Senator Miranda Bannister agreed. She brought up a conversation she had with a member of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) regarding the Office’s response to recent sexual assault allegations against some students in fraternities. 

Bannister said that she asked FSL what their plans were to address future sexual assault cases and whether they had a strategy to address issues of sexual violence with fraternity leaders.

“Their answer was no — ‘We don’t have any plan. No, we don’t have any rules. And no, I can’t tell you anything about the internal meetings because they are private,’” Bannister said. “So it seems like offices that should be really responsible for things like assault are not.” 

She believes that the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), which addresses accusations of sexual violence, allows the University to outwardly show concern for students who report. In practice, however, she thinks OIE has too few resources and ends up leaving justice-seeking students waiting for months.

“OIE is oftentimes a buffer for the University to avoid getting accused of failing to comply with federal law,” she said.

Bannister emphasized that the dinner would be an opportunity for SGA members to look Daniels in the eye and ask him for answers to questions important to the student body.

Senior Class Senator Gianni Thomas agreed with Bannister and Wellons, adding that their argument might be better supported if SGA’s Policy Research and Development Commission (PRDC) were involved in doing background research leading up to the dinner.

Twenty-five SGA members supported bringing sexual assault prevention and survivor support to Daniels and other administrators’ attention at the annual dinner.

Next, Sophomore Class President Sam Schatmeyer raised the subject of the potential Hopkins private police force. He felt that it would be valuable to discuss how the University went about introducing the private police force bill to Maryland legislation last spring. He thought the way the University went about the process could have been improved.

In addition, Senior Class Senator Jenn Baron felt that another aspect of student safety that SGA should bring up is active shooter training. Baron did not believe the Hopkins campus and its students would be prepared if a potential active shooter situation should it arise.

“Essentially, on campus, there are no locks on doors,” she said. “Not many students [even] know how to properly barricade doors.”

Senior Class President Zanir Habib felt that SGA also needed to bring persisting mental health concerns at the University to administrators’ attention.

“SGA has made a lot of strides in terms of mental health,” he said. “But that’s a problem we need to continue working toward.”

Following the debate on potential discussion topics with University administrators, two members of the Hopkins volleyball team brought the Dig Deep Funding bill to SGA. Junior Hannah Korslund explained that Dig Deep is a charity volleyball tournament that had 150 participants last year and raised $1,500 for the Jed Foundation. The Jed Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to improving mental health in adolescents. 

Korslund added that while in the past the event has been popular among student athletes, she and her team hope that co-sponsoring it with SGA will increase representation among the larger Hopkins community.

“By having the Counseling Center and other resources present at the tournament we are also hoping to spread the word and increase the accessibility of mental health resources, which is something that the University could also work to ensure by partnering with the Jed Foundation,” Korslund said.

The funding bill passed, with SGA allocating $480 to Dig Deep.

Finally, SGA members also amended the internal rules that govern SGA itself. Changes included reducing the use of technology at meetings in order to make sure SGA members are more focused.

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