Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
January 24, 2021

SGA considers role of Baltimore in undergraduate education

By LEELA GEBO | April 16, 2020

The Student Government Association (SGA) discussed changes to funding for student groups and the idea of a Baltimore-focused first-year seminar at its weekly meeting on Tuesday, April 14.

SGA members unanimously passed a bill to amend its current funding board, the Student Activities Commission (SAC) Act. Student groups who are currently in debt are no longer eligible for SAC funding. However, SAC must now inform student groups of their debt at least 30 days before funds for the next year are allocated. Senior Class Senator Chase McAdams, who introduced the bill, explained that this will give indebted student groups the opportunity to ensure their eligibility for funding the following year.

“When we give groups who are in debt money, it just goes towards paying off their debt. They can’t use it on events, so the money doesn’t go toward what we allocate it for,” McAdams said. “With this bill, once you go into debt, you won’t be eligible for SAC funds until you come out of debt. We don’t want to be funding debt, and this bill doesn’t allow us to do that anymore.” 

SGA members also considered changes to the curriculum that the Second Commission on Undergraduate Education (CUE2) proposed in February. Co-chaired by the deans of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and Whiting School of Engineering, CUE2 comprises 30 faculty, staff, administrators, undergraduates and alumni. Its suggestions — intended to revitalize the undergraduate experience and promote mental health on campus — include required participation in a first-year seminar, as well as a “Hopkins semester” of intensive study for juniors and seniors in a project outside of their major. 

Three weeks after releasing its draft report, CUE2 held a town hall discussion with Hopkins community members, where it was clarified that the Hopkins semester would not be mandatory.

At the meeting, Sophomore Class President Nathan Mudrak introduced a resolution recommending that involvement in the Baltimore community be a common theme of the first-year seminar, if CUE2’s suggestions are implemented. 

Mudrak emphasized the need for Hopkins to promote more civic engagement. 

“It saddens me that we as a community don’t talk much about Baltimore City,” Mudrak said. “We’re saying that if there’s going to be a common thread between first-year seminars, here’s a deficiency that we’ve identified in our education, and this is something that we’d like to see discussed.”

However, McAdams opposed the idea of a Baltimore-focused curriculum in first-year seminars. 

“I’m not for this. I don’t understand how it’s beneficial in a first-year seminar about biology to talk about Baltimore just because we are here,” McAdams said. “I don’t think people come here for Baltimore; they come here for Hopkins. I’ve never understood the idea of pushing Baltimore down people’s throats.” 

However, Executive President Dean Chien argued that it is impossible to exclude Baltimore from Hopkins students’ education because they are constantly surrounded by the city.

“Like it or not, the community that we are a part of, Baltimore City, is an integral part of our college experience. A good number of the workers who work here are from Baltimore City, a lot of our professors live in the community, upperclassmen living off campus live in the community,” Chien said. “It is incredibly important that we recognize the privileges we have to go to an institution in a big, diverse, urban setting like Baltimore and be able to learn from the setting that we are in.”

SGA members noted a lack of clarity regarding whether the legislation pertained to changing entire curricula or simply adding a few days of Baltimore-related discussion, and ultimately decided to table voting on the resolution.

Chien announced that he would submit SGA’s request to move their weekly meetings from the East Room of Charles Commons to the Glass Pavilion of Levering Hall. Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, SGA has held meetings over Zoom since March 23.

Mudrak believes that SGA’s current in-person meeting location is inaccessible to the student body.

“Where we are now, in the East Room, no one knows we’re meeting,” Mudrak said. “I’d like to change that.” 

Executive Vice President Mehak Ali, who suggested moving meetings to the Glass Pavilion in the future, agreed that SGA should be more open to the study body.

“We are trying to make SGA more transparent,” she said. “There’s nothing more transparent than four glass walls.”

Voting opens for the Class Council elections at noon on Thursday, April 16 at 12 p.m. and ends at 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 19.

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