The University of Memphis Student Government Association (SGA) Senate considered several bills, proposals and a budget for the fall semester at their last meeting April 4. The Senate also celebrated the graduation of several senators and also the incoming senators they would be working with during the fall semester.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
A bill was passed stating the UofM will recognize Sexual Assault Awareness month.
Registered Student Organizations cooperation
The resolution aimed to encourage RSOs to cooperate and collaborate with each other. The resolution would not force cooperation but push students to have events together and create a more diverse environment.
Questions were raised about the extent of encouragement and cooperation the resolution implies.
The resolution did not pass.
A number of environmentally mindful bills were discussed.
A bill requesting that each resident hall have at least one rapid fill water fountain installed above the existing water fountains was passed.
These fountains would allow students to quickly refill water bottles and reduce plastic waste.
An act that would provide reusable drink and food containers to UofM students with a meal plan was brought before the SGA.
The bill would provide dishwashing services for all UofM reusable containers and could be purchased for a small fee if the student did not have a meal plan. The bill also suggested a fee for students to have disposable containers. The bill was tabled for further discussion, because of the lack of precision in the implementation of the bill.
Green Fee changes
The Green Fee is an amount paid by students that is used by the UofM to push the campus toward environmental thinking.
The bill presented would allow proposals to be submitted for funding if the goal was aligned with the purpose of the Green Fee.
The fund was originally changed to increase student involvement but unintentionally led to guaranteed funding for certain student projects.
The funding will now be directed at projects that effectively increase energy efficiency, renewable resources or awareness of environmental issues.
The bill makes specific steps to ensure that no project is guaranteed continual funding and can be granted as much or as little funding as the committee decides.
The bill was passed.
Newspapers on campus
The current newspaper deal with the UofM provides 998 physical newspapers each day from The New York Times, USA Today and The Commercial Appeal and costs the UofM $85,000 per semester.
SGA considered a change to this service, giving full online access to The New York Times and potentially some print copies at a cost of approximately $34,000. This would exclude USA Today and The Commercial Appeal.
Senators were concerned about the waste of student funds and the misuse of funds because of the potential of community members taking papers, essentially stealing student funds.
Additional funds would be redirected to travel expenses for students and SGA. This would apply to all student requests, including team events, provided the expenditure was approved.
The bill was passed.
Student accountability changes, proposal for consideration
Darren Wibberding, an associate dean of students, introduced the SGA to several changes the Office of Student Accountability, Outreach and Support wanted to implement.
Some changes were presented through presentation, such as having “conduct educators” discuss issues with students rather than investigators or hearing officers talk with students.
“When you hear ‘investigator’ or ‘hearing officer,’ it puts you up on the defensive automatically,” Wibberding said. “But if you have a meeting with a ‘conduct officer,’ it might entice you to work with us, rather than be against us.”
Other changes would alter the way student disciplines and resolutions would be carried out, expanding the system from one judge, jury and sentencer to a small board of people who would decide each case.
This change would also increase student involvement, as the student council would take a larger role in settling disputes.
“If you don’t come to an agreement with the conduct educator, there is a small body that will look at this matter,” Wibberding said. “You will have an opportunity to give your full side of the story, the educator will give their full side of the story, and then the hearing body will make a determination about what happened.”
Wibberding also said he wanted to include staff in decisions, because the current system only includes faculty and students, and even then infrequently.
SGA will have several weeks to look over the approximately 50-page bill and decide what action they want to take moving forward.