The Student Government Association (SGA) met this past Tuesday for their weekly meeting to discuss the difficulties regarding student elections this semester, as well as SGA’s role in the Sex Week planned for April. During the public input period of the meeting, a large group of student leaders met with SGA to broach concerns with club restructuring and budget allocations with the recent audit led by SGA and Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI).
Senators expressed frustration with the lack of forewarning of the election application deadline. The Committee of Student Elections (CSE) sent out an email last Sunday that stated that mandated information sessions for candidates were scheduled for the next immediate two days.
Junior Class Senator William Cho expressed his discomfort that the election turned out to be incumbent-heavy. He questioned the possibility of a special election with write-ins.
“People only had one or two days to decide whether they wanted to run,” Cho said. “It’s important to encourage a dialogue between the student body and identify that we are not a body that secretly enjoys an election that heavily favors incumbents.”
Senior Class Senator Chase McAdams was intent on issuing an emergency injunction through the judiciary branch of the SGA to put a halt on elections.
“When judiciary puts a halt on elections, I assume that would put a halt on campaigning as well until it’s reviewed and then decided,” he said. “Yes, the injunction may just resolve in a special election anyways, but I think judiciary should work out the details of what the injunction looks like.”
Senior Class Senator Chanel Lee explained the intricacies surrounding SGA interference with CSE during the election period in an interview with The News-Letter.
“Unfortunately, while many other senators, including myself, have expressed that SGA should take some action against the CSE, requesting them to postpone elections, our hands are tied by our Bylaws, which state that we cannot interfere with the CSE or the elections during election period,” they said.
SGA members decided to send an email to the student body promoting the use of write-ins and acknowledge the CSE’s ineffectiveness in conducting this election season.
Additionally, Executive Vice President Mehak Ali introduced an amendment to the Policy Research and Development Commission and introduced new candidates for the commission. The amendment passed.
The next legislation discussed by the SGA body was the event proposal of Sex Week, presented by Junior Class Senator Addy Perlman. This would be a week-long initiative led by the Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU), Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW), and Peer Health Educators (PEEPS) to promote body positivity and inclusivity. Events would include analyzing consent in movies and a Kink 101 workshop with a dominatrix where individuals would practice consent.
Perlman cited a meeting with SARU, where the organization expressed the importance of the University offering institutional support for sex positivity.
“Having this support now, shows what we and others can do down the road. It shows that it is possible for student groups to put on massive events and feel supported while doing so,” Perlman said.
Of all the events detailed throughout the week, senators expressed reservations about the Kink 101 workshop being held in the Interfaith Center (IFC).
Executive Vice President Mehak Ali was worried about how the event might disrupt religious practice within the space.
“If you want to minimize negative media coverage from certain student groups, you might need to reconsider the location of the IFC, as it will offend people.”
SGA eventually decided to discuss Sex Week at a later point, as other senators expressed concerns regarding the location of the Kink 101 workshop.
The meeting opened into the public input period, where many student leaders had already started gathering near the back of the room to speak their grievances.
In an email to The News-Letter, former Korean American Student Association (KASA) Co-President Aran Chang shed light on the mobilization of the student leaders to the meeting.
“My original intention for attending the meeting last night was just to address re-registration and hope it’ll lead into a bigger conversation about transparency down the road,” he wrote. “But as was evident, turnout was huge.”
Chang cited the first attempts at mobilization starting last December, where he and a couple other friends involved in student organizations were frustrated for the clubs that were disbanded by the audit. He wrote an anonymous letter with the support of 35 other clubs to SGA.
Prior to attending the meeting last night, there were two meetings with fellow student leaders– interest was ignited once an email was sent to the student body identifying a new date for a modified re-registration process and subsequent confusion.
During the meeting, student leaders candidly addressed their concerns to senators regarding recent developments of sports clubs being moved under SLI, policies that have exacerbated the red tape student organizations have to face, as well as lack of transparency on the side of SGA.
Sam Chun, deputy president of the Hopkins Sport Taekwondo Club shared her experience as a student leader within a sports club as well as non-sports club under SLI.
“As someone who is a student leader in athletic club and non-athletic club, I’ve had experiences with SLI. The red tape we have to go around is ridiculous. There is a very poor job of communication,” she said.
She elaborated further on her hesitance with the attempt to umbrella all organizations under SLI.
“I don’t know if they can really extend their capacities when they can’t properly do things in the first place.”
Alice Yang, treasurer of Lan Yun Blue Orchids dance team, was frustrated over difficulty contacting SLI and not receiving help with debt solvency.
“My problem is that SLI already put us into debt and they gave us virtually no assistance in climbing out. We had to do multiple fundraisers to climb ourselves out of debt,” she said. “There are various other groups who can vouch for how their current organizations were put into debt without the fault of the current board. Yet they’re the ones that have to shoulder the burden of the debt.”
Treasurer of the Hopkins Sport Taekwondo Club Michelle Lan accused SGA of being unwilling to initiate definitive solutions, though she appreciated that SGA wanted to allocate funds efficiently and effectively.
“I see people eye-rolling. I see scowling, mocking faces and I hear condescending terms,” she said. “We need communication, and we want you to actually care about what happens to the student body.”
Chun emphasized the issue of transparency and correspondence between SGA and student organizations.
“I don’t think issues like that should be an issue. How can a student government organization be this bad? We are emailing an email that you guys don’t even use. It is not our responsibility to search for the spare email.”
The senators responded and tried to answer each of the queries from student leaders, encouraging the consolidation of policy and procedure under SLI.
McAdams identified issues with the discrepancies between how sports club purchase requests and SLI requests were handled.
“SLI is trying to streamline the procedure, and it’s better if it is all under one management. The fact there is no clear procedure in place for sports is not exactly fair as the groups managed under SLI need 14 business days in advance. I think your concerns are valid, but SLI is trying to combat it.”
Senior Class Senator Kahmil Shajihan emphasized that the new changes made to budget allocation will have long-reaching positive effects on purchase requests in the future.
“What we are hoping from this system is that there will be accountability. We can only trust the process. This is something that increases accountability, increases transparency, and increases trust with the system,” he said.
During the meeting, the new Associate Director of SLI Carolyn Harris, who was previously the faculty advisor of SGA, offered the possibility of an open channel of dialogue for the student leaders.
“As an associate director, I want to address these issues. We have been talking in a circle, and I want to start off solving questions,” she said.
Ali also broached upon another step in continuing the dialogue.
“Having a summit between SGA, SLI and the student leaders can bring more productive discussion, and more people with an impact of what can happen will be there,” she said.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Chang noted that he was not satisfied by the meeting, but was optimistic about ending the semester with actual changes. He noted the strength and bravery of the student leaders who joined him in attending the meeting.
“I was extremely humbled and amazed by the student leaders who, when originally they wanted to be as anonymous as possible, stood up, proudly announced their club affiliations and were able to speak to a room of 20-plus people about their concerns candidly and openly,” Chang said.