Image Courtesy of Catholic University
By Anna Harvey
The Catholic University of America Student Government Association hosted its first meeting of the 2020-21 academic year on Monday, October 5, 2020. SGA Vice President junior Gemma del Carmen presided over the proceedings, and senators participated via Zoom, while using the poll feature to vote on appointments, agendas, minutes, amendments, and resolutions.
Session 6-01, held last Monday, formally swore in newly-elected senators and confirmed senators’ positions on committees. The session also saw two pieces of legislation regarding the quality of online education for Catholic University students and on SGA elections.
The session began with the Pledge of Allegiance and public comments, followed by an address from SGA President junior Gerald Sharpe, who wished the new senators luck during the upcoming school year and thanked them for their dedication. Secretary junior Abby Anger and Treasurer senior Brendan Civitello also addressed the senators, encouraging them to nominate a Class of 2024 Senator to the Treasury Board.
After public comments ended, Vice President del Carmen led the process of swearing in the senators for the 2020-21 academic year.
After amending and adopting the agenda for the evening, the senators confirmed Gabriel Molini, Class of 2024, as Treasury Board Director. The senators also confirmed Lauren Lake to the senate appointment for the National Catholic School of Social Work.
The agenda moved for senators to nominate and confirm each other to various positions in the senate and on senate committees. Senator Harrison nominated Senator Kilgore to the position of Chair of Rules and Administration, President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Senator Bracey nominated Senator Zentz to the position of Chair of the Committee on Academic Affairs. Zentz nominated Senator Schlee to the position of Chair of the Committee on University Services. Kilgore nominated Harrison to the position of Chair on the Committee on Student Resources. Senator Decker nominated Bracey to the position of Chair on the Committee on Campus Life.
The Senate addressed two pieces of legislation at this first meeting of the academic year.
Senator Sijgers introduced Resolution 001, which would prohibit printed materials in class — as tied to an upperclassman or off-campus freshman student’s grades — within an asynchronous, hybrid, or online format.
Sijgers stated that many professors, as a part of their online class format, require printed readings in class as a part of a student’s participation grade. Many students’ readings, she argued, are extremely long, printing of which is costly for off-campus college students to buy additional paper and ink cartridges, and some off-campus students do not have the ability to buy new printers.
To put her resolution in perspective, Sijgers included a personal example, in which she added up the total sum of paper, ink cartridges, and printer totals that she would hypothetically have to pay for the semester, which added up to be $322.
Sijgers also argued that presenting printed readings in class does not necessarily ensure that a student completed the required readings.
Senator Galassi contended that if students have difficulty with printing readings, they ought to reach out to their professors for assistance, and that the resolution might impact faculty negatively. Zentz, co-sponsor of Resolution 001, responded that a mass amount of students may not feel comfortable approaching their professor on this topic, especially if it would involve disclosing their financial situation. Zentz also explained that Philosophy majors rarely have the ability to purchase textbooks, and all of their readings tend to be posted online, which lead to a large volume of printed material.
Other topics addressed included what constituted a “printed material.” The resolution was amended three times, particularly to include off-campus and quarantined freshman as well as to change the wording to “printed material, excluding textbooks.” The resolution passed 20 yeas, 5 nays.
The second piece of legislation introduced was Bill 001 from Schlee on the bylaws of Article 7, Section 4, Clause 1, which outlines the duties of the Board of Elections. The proposed Bill would add to the Senate bylaws to require a write-in candidate, with the correctly spelled first and last name, to receive 5% of the vote of their respective class or school to be elected to the position. Schlee argued that this would address the tendency of many students to write in a non-serious name into the write-in feature of the SGA elections.
Schlee in her opening remarks, stated that since the SGA is so young, it is important to maintain diplomatic elections. She explained that a student could receive just a few votes in the write-in section from a pool of friends or as a joke, and consequently garner enough votes to be nominated to an SGA position.
“I by no means want to impair that portion of our election,” Schlee clarified, “but I believe that we really need to develop this threshold for write-in candidates so that we can make sure that a senator is elected by a more representative group of the electorate.”
The bill was amended to reflect stylistic changes, and then debated, with multiple senators citing that the likelihood of one person being selected as a joke would be very low.
Sijgers stated that having a percentage threshold would require gaining access to voting data, which currently is nearly impossible for SGA officials to obtain, and that the point of a write-in vote would be to give the last-minute option to those who would wish to seek a position within SGA. Schlee responded, stating that a write-in candidate with serious intentions would do all that they could to garner a number of votes similar to the 5% mentioned within the bill. She also explained that a write-in candidate, if elected, does not have to go through the vigorous process of being approved by the Dean of Students, and that her bill would eliminate this disparity between write-in candidates and approved candidates.
Bracey inquired into the circumstances that prompted the bill’s creation. Schlee responded by informing that the bill was formed in response to previous miscommunication on write-in campaigns and filling vacancies, specifically citing vacancies in the middle of the 2019-2020 academic year.
The bill was tabled until the Senate would next reconvene. The next Senate meeting will be held on October 19 over Zoom.