The Student Government Association (SGA) hosted its final meeting of the semester on Tuesday, Dec. 8. At the meeting, members discussed spring tuition, standardizing SGA committee and council meetings, a special forum on Greek Life and a pen pal initiative.
Freshman Class Senators Benjamin Scherzer, Harvey McGuinness and Elaina Regier introduced the Tuition Decrease Resolution, which passed unanimously. If the University follows the resolution’s request, each undergraduate student would be given a grant equal to 10% of their tuition before scholarships and financial aid — about $2,850.
Although students were given a 10% tuition reduction during the last semester, the University does not currently have plans to decrease tuition for the spring.
McGuinness argued that this decision places additional hardship on students, many of whom are struggling financially due to the pandemic.
“Even though the stock market is doing better, students certainly aren’t,” he said. “What is a reasonable amount of money to charge a large student population, regardless of their location, for classes that are predominantly online in the midst of an economic crisis and a pandemic?”
McGuinness and Scherzer pointed out that other schools, including Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgetown University, have already instituted year-long tuition decreases, stipends or grants.
According to Scherzer, grants are more useful to students than tuition reductions, especially students on financial aid.
“As a tuition reduction, for somebody on 75% financial aid, 75% of that discount ends up going to the school, so it ends up helping the students and their families a lot less,” he said.
The resolution also insisted that the grants would not be responsible for any layoffs or furloughs of University employees.
Next, Senior Class Senator Julia Zeng and Junior Class Senator Megan Chien presented the Lottery for Diverse Perspectives Bill, which was introduced during last week’s meeting. This bill would formally create improved public input periods during SGA’s general body meetings, which would last 10 minutes and feature randomly selected students.
Zeng also introduced the Long Term Ad Hoc Committee on Open Input Period Bill, which would create a committee to oversee the public input periods.
The committee’s responsibilities would include conducting a lottery to pick student speakers, determining which questions are asked and moderating the open panel. Committee members would also meet each month to discuss how to address student concerns and write a summary of their findings.
Senior Class President William Cho endorsed both of the bills, arguing that public input periods would provide great chances to hear student voices.
“An ad hoc committee to cover public input would be really efficient and help... better connect us to the public,” he said.
Both bills passed unanimously. The committee will consist of Zeng, Chien, Regier, Executive Vice President Mehak Ali and Junior Class Senator Subha Batta.
Freshman Class President Kobi Khong also presented a special forum proposal to discuss recent scandals involving Greek Life, including accusations of druggings at Delta Phi (St. Elmo’s) fraternity. The proposal was originally presented during the SGA general body meeting on Nov. 22 but was tabled in order to verify and recollect Khong’s petition signatures.
The forum proposal was unanimously approved. The event will be held sometime during the spring semester.
Zeng and Senior Class Senator CiCi Zhang also introduced the Committee and Council Meeting Standards Bill, which would standardize the structure of SGA’s council and committee meetings.
Junior Class President Nathan Mudrak expressed concerns about the bill, arguing that different committees worked best with different structures.
“I worry that we’re doing this one-size-fits-all committee structure when a lot of our committees do really different work,” he said. “Different leaders have different ways that they want to run their committees, and I don’t think we should mandate something saying every committee needs to have a timekeeper or that no one can talk off-topic.”
Kalahasti echoed Mudrak’s concerns, adding that occasionally going off-topic at committee meetings could be good for morale and team-building.
“It makes committees feel less personal if we’re saying that you can’t talk about things that are not on a committee docket,” she said. “People should look forward to committee meetings and should enjoy spending that time together. They’re more likely to want to do their work if they don’t feel like they are being yelled at every time they go off-topic.”
Zhang disagreed with Kalahasti and Mudrak, arguing that a formal meeting structure would make the committees more productive. She also noted that committee heads currently have to design their own structures, which makes their jobs more difficult.
“The intention of this bill isn’t to take away individuality... It doesn’t mean ‘don’t have fun’ or ‘don’t joke around,’ it just means ‘keep it to SGA-related matters,’” she said. “It’s still important to have universality to a certain extent.”
Freshman Class Senator Raj Bhatt agreed with Zhang, stating that a consistent structure would simplify the jobs of SGA members on multiple committees. The bill was tabled.
Senior Class Senator Ananya Kalahasti introduced the Handwritten Homewood Bill, which would create a pen pal program at Hopkins. Students would be able to fill out a form about themselves and their preferences and then receive a designated pen pal over intersession. The bill passed unanimously.
According to Kalahasti, this program will help spark social connections within the student body. She explained that the program will be available through both traditional mail and email in order to make it accessible for all students.
“Hopkins has a lot of social isolation — COVID made that bad,” she said. “A lot of the experiences we had freshman year... aren’t going to be options for freshmen. Even if a ton of people don’t participate in [the pen pal initiative], if a few do they can benefit from it.”