SGA introduces idea for a Community Council

By RUDY MALCOM | October 18, 2018

The Student Government Association (SGA) discussed the idea of a JHU Community Council (JCC) at their weekly meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 16. 

The JCC was introduced as part of SGA’s Power and Authorities Initiative to expand its influence over University decisions. Executive Vice President AJ Tsang said that SGA hopes to create meaningful and tangible change through the JCC. 

Tsang elaborated that the JCC would include equal numbers of staff, faculty, student, alumni and potentially Baltimore community leaders. He explained that SGA came up with the idea for the JCC while looking at similar plans at peer universities.

“Princeton University, in 1969, in the midst of the civil rights movement, executed this committee... showing America as a whole what democratic and shared governance would look like,“ Tsang said. “The president established their committee to be a permanent representative body of constituencies of the University.”

He added that although the JCC would initially only be launched at Homewood, it could be expanded in the future to include other University campuses.

According to Tsang, because the administration has numerous divisions across multiple campuses, there is no platform for other University stakeholders to weigh in on issues like fossil fuel divestment and the creation of a private police force. Tsang believes that the JCC would offer a large-scale solution to the University’s decentralized administration and promote shared governance in the long term.

He added that the JCC would allow various committees and advisory groups across the Hopkins community to discuss intersectional issues that affect them in different ways.

Senior Class Senator Akshay Bhamidipati questioned why SGA could not incorporate the JCC’s responsibilities into the existing role of student government at Hopkins instead of forming a new committee. Tsang, however, emphasized the importance of incorporating the voices of faculty, which would not be possible only within the scope of student government. 

Senior Class Senator Gianni Thomas raised concerns that the JCC could undermine SGA’s own authority and power.

“I want us to be very wary of creating a horizontal organization that has similar authority as we do,” Thomas said. “If they have [more accessiblity to President Daniels] than we do, they would innately have more power than us in creating the change that they want.”

Tsang explained that the JCC, which University President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost Sunil Kumar would lead, would include a fixed number of each different demographic of council member. 

Sophomore Class President Sam Schatmeyer recommended adding an undergraduate representative who would serve at the same level of leadership as Daniels and Kumar. Sophomore Class Senator Isaac Lucas believes that the committee should have more undergraduate student representatives than graduate students and alumni. Tsang, however, reiterated that the voices of all University stakeholders should be represented equally. 

Next, SGA discussed the bill passed last week to fund the Homewood Brick Rally. This rally would promote the construction of a new student center. Although Junior Class Senator Mohamad Elgendi initially introduced the bill, he called for the initiative to be reconsidered after he met with Dean of Student Life Smita Ruzicka. 

Elgendi explained that during their meeting, Ruzicka expressed strong opposition to the rally scheduled for Oct. 22. He said that Ruzicka advised SGA to redirect its focus to raising funds for a student center instead of organizing a needlessly provocative protest. According to her, a student center would realistically take at least three to five years to build.

Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI) Director Kirsten Fricke encouraged SGA to develop a multi-year plan that would engage both current and future students.

“What would be some strategies to get people interested; to get buy-in with the students; to see it as a long-term goal; and to keep people excited about something they might not necessarily directly benefit from as currents students?” she said.

Sophomore Class Senator Coco Cai argued that the Brick Rally would still allow students to feel like they were contributing to a long-term project. Lucas agreed, adding that the Rally could make SGA appear more effective. 

Though SGA did not decide whether or not they would cancel the Rally, Schatmeyer said it was imperative that SGA move away from the initial plan for the Rally. He felt that last week’s plan lacked institutional support and created too much internal divide within SGA for them to go through with it.

“We’re not giving up the idea of the event; we’re changing it to be inclusive of more stakeholders,” he said.

Tsang announced that SGA’s Policy Research and Development Commission (PRDC) has begun analyzing the results of the Office of Institutional Equity’s (OIE) first report on sexual misconduct, discrimination and harassment. He aims for SGA to provide a summary and list of recommendations based on the report. 

Though SGA passed a resolution calling for a smoking ban at Hopkins earlier this semester, Tsang said that the PRDC would evaluate the merits of smoking policies at peer institutions before discussing what the implementation of a smoking ban at Hopkins would look like.

The PDRC, he added, is investigating how peer institutions deal with student protests and activism. 

Senior Teach for America (TFA) at Hopkins Ambassador Osiris Mancera attended the SGA meeting to advertise TFA’s mission and programs for underclassmen. She explained that the organization focuses primarily on children from low-income communities, often students of color, who are almost three times less likely than their more affluent counterparts to be prepared for their futures. 

SGA reconfirmed junior Howard Senior to the Committee on Student Elections (CSE). Senior discussed the 2018-19 SGA Class Council elections in May, after which the CSE conducted a recount when a change in the voting system left 10 seats vacant. He attributed these vacancies to student apathy toward SGA and urged students to apply to CSE for a more functional and representative body of government.

Sophomore Class Senator Sam Mollin raised concerns about the relationship between CSE and SGA, as the CSE originally denied SGA’s request for a recount.

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