In a vote ending on September 15th, the student body voted in favor of an amendment which would add six seats to SGA. While 68% of the student body voted, 57% of them voted in favor of it. This is a significant difference compared to the unanimous vote inside the SGA. The SGA Constitution has no requirement on the participation rate of the study body, but does require a majority vote in order to pass any amendment.
The recommendation for the amendment was introduced when a senior representative, Lola Fakunle, proposed the idea to SGA last year. The council quickly began discussing options for the amendment and edited throughout all of March last year. As the amendment is defined, six organizations will now be guaranteed a seat on SGA: Diversity Student Union, International Student Association, Centre Pride, New Horizons, Posse, and Grissom. First, in order to have proper representation, each organization will nominate three candidates to SGA through internal processes. Next, the whole student body will vote on the chosen candidates for placement as an SGA representative.
There has been significant controversy surrounding the amendment, which only increased after it passed. At the time of publication, a discrimination complaint has been filled for excluding religious groups and people with disabilities and is being reviewed by the administration. The amendment is waiting for a Board of Trustees’ vote before it can be implemented in the spring. Students can expect to see representatives from those six organizations as early as the Spring election.
President Kirby Fitzpatrick admitted that the turnout of the vote was lower than expected, noting that only 57% percent of those who voted were in favor of it. “I’m very excited about it,” she said, “but it is definitely not going to do enough for SGA.” In her email to the six groups after the vote, she stated, “Our next step is outlining the time table of what is to come…to brainstorm.” She indicated that SGA has no schedule for further improvement and development of diversity at the moment, but will be working on it in the near future.
Fitzpatrick assured that, “SGA is going to have several discussions” as soon as six representatives join the group in the spring semester. Fitzpatrick hopes that, “this amendment would give these groups more inspirations and feeling that they could do it.” Kirby remains optimistic about this amendment. International Student Association Co-President Michelle Guo, another supporter among other student leaders on campus, asked international students to vote in an email: “We need half of the campus to vote ‘yes’ for the amendment to pass. Go vote and tell all your friends to vote too!”
Stephen Swan, the international student advisor, stated that he was neither in support for or against this amendment. First, he stated, “I did not get enough information about the amendment from SGA.” He believes that diversity is essential, but doubts that this would be the solution. He further explained, “There are about 110 international students on campus and roughly 85 of them are from China.” Stephen is unsure how could one person represent all international students, “especially for those who are not from China.”
Although there would be an international representative on SGA after the amendment, Stephen said it, “ may just bring us back to where we were before.” Moreover, he stated, “Every person is an individual.” He worries that the amendment might even further marginalize some students such as students from Germany, Korea, etc. His suggestion to SGA is to spend more time encouraging people with different backgrounds to run for office and educate people on what SGA does. As a staff member, he stays neutral on this amendment and would like to see more on how this amendment affects SGA’s decisions and activities the future.
Without doubt, this new amendment has sparked discussion among Centre students over the past few weeks. Kirby Fitzpatrick and the rest of SGA are eager to make important changes on campus. This new amendment may be a step in the right direction for increased diversity and inclusion on campus.