Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
August 14, 2020

SGA confirms student group audit decisions, discusses transparency

By CLAIRE GOUDREAU | December 5, 2019

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COURTESY OF CLAIRE GOUDREAU

SGA tabled two bills intended to promote its transparency.

The Student Government Association (SGA) held their final meeting of the semester on Tuesday, confirming the Committee on Student Organizations’s (CSO’s) audit decisions and passing several additional pieces of legislation.

The CSO audit examined over 100 student organizations. Their decisions included deactivating 11 groups. Clubs were picked for deactivation either because of a failure to meet with SGA for the audit or an inability to pass the audit.

The organizations being deactivated are the 22nd Century Interplanetary Diplomacy Club, ERUPTION, Jam Sessions, the Mahjong Club, the Modern Dance Company, Health Guardians of America, Students for Justice in Palestine, Take Back the Tap, The Dialectic, Throat Culture and VIVAZ.

Senior Class Senator Chase McAdams, who introduced the bill, said that he stands firmly in favor of deactivating these clubs, most of which fail to meet the requirement of having 10 members.

“This was very clearly communicated multiple times throughout the semester. It’s a long-standing policy. Also, we don’t want to be giving money to orgs that have five people in them. It’s not a good use of funding from SGA,” he said.

Senior and former Editor-in-Chief of the Dialectic Caroline West told The News-Letter in an email that she accepts SGA’s decision to deactivate her organization, although she still believes in the magazine’s mission.

“This decision comes at the end of a long, tough slog on my part to keep the Dialectic alive,” she wrote. “There are privileges and advantages that come with being a formal registered student organization, but in our case, continuing to utilize university resources would have been both unfair and at odds with the informal, inactive state of the group.”

She expressed a sincere hope that future freshmen would reactivate the Christian publication.

SGA also approved the audit’s suggestion to merge InterVarsity and Athletes InterVarsity.

They then addressed a pair of bills intending to improve their transparency and communication.

The first bill, introduced by Sophomore Class President Nathan Mudrak, outlined new reporting requirements for all representatives. This would require SGA members to submit written notes or minutes for all meetings with non-SGA entities. The bill would also compile SGA’s records into a public Google Drive folder.

The bill faced opposition from several representatives, including Executive Secretary Pritika Parmar. Parmar, who would be in charge of the bill’s enforcement, expressed a concern that these requirements would clog members’ workloads, especially her own.

“This is just going to cause more problems than it’s going to solve,” she said.

McAdams agreed with Parmar, additionally worrying that the bill would make SGA overly transparent.

“Our stuff is already open to the public. Anything they want they can have,” he said. “But this is taking it a step further… and once it’s out there, it’s out there… Is it really necessary?”

The bill was ultimately tabled for later discussion.

In an email to The News-Letter, Mudrak stated that he would reintroduce the legislation at SGA’s next meeting in January.

“If SGA still wants to claim that we are a representative body, we need to do more to ensure that we’re actually engaging students in our processes. Public accountability is important, and I hope that the legislation, if passed, will help to provide that for students,“ he wrote. 

The second bill would set up a livestream to broadcast future SGA meetings.

This bill also faced opposition from several SGA members, many of whom feared it would discourage shyer representatives from speaking their minds.

Executive Treasurer Eric Armstrong made it clear that he believed that live-streaming SGA meetings would inhibit senators’ abilities to express minority perspectives.

“I was a senator last year, and I often had a lot of controversial opinions,” he said. “I definitely would have been more reticent to share those opinions if I had known that I was being live-streamed. It’s really important that those minority or controversial opinions are heard, and I think [a live-stream] is an impediment not only for the productivity of our meeting, but also for the integrity.”

Senior Class Senator Elquis Castillo disputed this, saying that SGA members, as representatives of their peers, had a responsibility to always express their views candidly, regardless of the audience at hand.

“As far as expressing controversial opinions, you are in a public office. You either put up or shut up. If you are too cowardly to express it, then perhaps you are not fit to be in public office,” he said.

Other members agreed with Castillo, arguing that representatives should not be afraid to let their constituents hear and dispute their stances.

The bill was tabled by a narrow margin of 13-11.

Additionally, SGA passed a bill establishing a Women and Gender Minorities’ Caucus. This caucus will represent cis women, trans women, non-binary people and all other gender minorities in issues relating to gender.

Senior Class Senator Chanel Lee, who introduced the bill, said that creating such a caucus would prove SGA’s commitment to equity and diversity.

“I think that there is an inherent value in creating a safe space for members of marginalized groups to come together,” they said.

Lee explained that due to the University’s Women, Gender and Sexuality Teaching Fellowships recently being cancelled, gender minority groups needed representation now more than before.

SGA also passed the Post-Election Meet-and-Greet Bylaws Amendment, which requires mandatory meet-and-greet events for newly-elected representatives within seven days of their election; the Meeting Space Resolution, which aims to find SGA office space; and the SGA Tabling Events Bylaws Amendment, which will require SGA to hold at least one tabling event every month of the academic year except December, January and May. SGA also approved revisions to the Student Activity Commission’s bylaws.

After the SGA meeting, Mudrak addressed the vacancy in the Sophomore Class Council in an interview with The News-Letter

Mudrak said that the senator position would hopefully be filled by the end of the semester, although it might get pushed to early next semester.

“It won’t be an issue because we won’t have another meeting until next semester anyway,” he said.

The Sophomore Class Council will send out an email asking for applicants within a week.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include the SGA Tabling Events Bylaws Amendment. 

Correction: The original version of this article stated that one of the transparency bills passed. Both were tabled. 

In addition, the original article identified the Meeting Space Resolution as the Transparency Resolution. As of press time, the linked Meeting Space Resolution was titled SGA Transparency Resolution. 

The News-Letter regrets these errors. 


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