Image Courtesy of Catholic University
By Anna Harvey
The Catholic University of America Student Government Association hosted its fourth meeting of the 2020-21 academic year on Monday, November 16. SGA Vice President Gemma del Carmen presided over the proceedings and senators participated via Zoom, using a reusable polling link to vote on appointments, agendas, minutes, amendments, and resolutions.
Senate Meeting 6-04 addressed amending the Treasury bylaws, as well as two pieces of legislation concerning student dining services for spring semester 2021 and time zone differences for students struggling with overly early or late classes in the day.
After the Pledge of Allegiance and Prayer, the proceedings turned to public comment. Treasury Board Director William McGowan supported changing the bylaws for the Treasury to make clear Treasury proceedings, citing $20 gift certificates that are currently in place for guest speakers who come to student organization meetings. Treasury Board Director Curtis Bommer likewise supported bylaw reforms, stating that the Board ought to deny funding these $20 gifts.
After the agenda was adopted, minutes from Senate Session 6-03 were approved.
The chairs of multiple committees, including the committees of Rules and Administration, Academic Affairs, University Services, Student Resources, and Campus Life, gave updates on their work.
The proceedings then moved to discuss the amending of the Treasury Board bylaws. Del Carmen read the majority of the bylaws to give senators a review of sections that may be altered.
Executive Board Treasurer Brendan Civitello thanked the Senate, stating that amending the bylaws would fulfill a promise he made to the student body when elected. He stated that these reforms would address many comments that he and other senators have heard from their constituents.
Schlee, referring to the addition onto the bylaws, which would add representatives onto the Treasury board from different university schools, asked if it would be likely that the Treasury would manage to obtain representation from each of these faculties. She also questioned the change of funding of food and meals. She referenced that in one clause, the amount per person to be specified at $10 for an “event,” but in another clause, it would be $3 per person per “meeting”; she asked if this difference could be clarified. She also commended the addition of the deadline for allocation appeals.
Civitello first responded that with regards to an increased diversity of representatives on the Board, it would depend on the size of the applicant pool. In response to the second question, Civitello stated that a “meeting” would be regarded as a “general body meeting” or “business meeting,” that would regularly, and that an “event” would be regarded as a special event; consequently, both meetings and events would be considered separate budgets according to the Board, since regular meetings would be considered operating costs. He also stated that the higher amount is given to larger events as opposed to regular meetings, since the larger events occur more infrequently.
Senator Sijgers expressed concern over changes to Article 1, which states that the Board would be transparent, but she also cited several measures in the following clauses, which indicate a lack of publicizing the vote count, or deliberations, from Treasury meetings.
Civitello responded that the weekly Nest posts sent by SGA include the amount of funding requested by student organizations, the amount given to the organizations, and the votes on the topic. He stated that they did not post public deliberations, due to confidential financial information given by the University.
Senator Farrell questioned the difference between Article 1, Section 2, Clauses 2-3, which lists a number of groups that must be represented, and a number of groups that would ideally be represented. He pointed out that in Section 5, clause 1, it stated that a quorum of senators must be 5 in order to conduct business. He then asked why a club must deny a funding offer in order to appeal a decision. He lastly asked, with respect to SGAtaking on purchases over $1,000, whether that would include purchases made without Treasury Board funding.
Civitello clarified that the first of the two bylaws was a list of only specific groups that the Board ought to keep in mind while hiring. He stated that since the board consisted of 8 members, there must be a quorum of 5 in order to keep a majority while meeting. Civitello also said that denying funding would be the official procedure that they would be submitting an appeal, and that they would be unable to go back to the Treasury board if unhappy with the Senate’s offer. He also said with regard to the last question that anything a student organization does out of their own funding or personal resources is of their concern only.
Senator Janik addressed Section 3, Clause 3, in which she questioned why the bylaw addressed all majors except architecture; she stated that on behalf of her constituents, she would want them to be included.
Civitello apologized for the oversight; he stated that they may have grouped architecture with engineering and similar majors, and that the Board would fix it.
Senator Marsden stated that under Article V, Section 10, the bylaw discussed “outside expert assistance” going up to $500 per year, and she asked for a definition of the position.
Civitello responded that the section she addressed was a compromise between OCA and the Athletics Department, and he stated that the formal title of the position was a “coach,” but that currently, no one is allowed to have the title of “coach,” unless it was through the Athletics Department. He stated that it was someone who comes in to help them perfect the skills necessary for club participation.
Schlee contributed her own experience as a Treasurer, stating that she had never seen funding denied, and that she thought the posting of all meeting details to consequently not be necessary.
A ⅔ vote was required for a suspension of the rules. The rules were successfully suspended and the changes to the bylaws passed.
The proceedings shifted to address Resolution 006, a resolution to increase food services on campus for spring 2021. The Resolution was sponsored by Besendorfer and cosponsored by Schlee, Senator Holcomb, and Decker. The resolution would address the current dining situation of freshman students, who currently have three meal swipes per day and face long lines in the limited dining facilities, and who do not have access to the Eatery, formerly known as the Student Restaurant.
Besendorfer stated that this was an issue she has heard from many of her constituents, and that opening the Eatery would help to alleviate some food-related concerns for many students. Besendorfer also acknowledged that the current food selections are limited, particularly with the amount of fruits and vegetables offered.
“In addition, with the current plan to introduce more students back to campus for spring semester, this will affect more students,” Besendorfer said. “During peak meal times, lines can be out the door, and this can only worsen when you double or even triple the amount of students on campus.”
Lucardi voiced his support for the resolution and asked if Besendorfer had met with anyone or had conducted research to gain more insight into this problem.
Schlee stated that President Garvey had previously spoken to this issue at multiple SGA events, specifically with opening the Eatery by next semester. Schlee stated that based on those conversations and based on the current situation, they did not feel it necessary to meet with other administration officials.
Senator Scott asked what the current situation was like in the Pryz, particularly with regards to the lines and availability of other food options.
Besendorfer stated that the POD, known among freshmen as the Pryz Marketplace, on the first floor opens at 3 PM and closes late at night, but the majority of students’ entrees come from the fast-food area in the Pryz.
Senator Lake supported the resolution, and expressed concern on behalf of the Social Work major about the potential for unhealthy eating habits, as well as unhealthy non-eating habits to develop.
Besendorfer collaborated to this statement, with students coming to get two meals at lunch or avoiding breakfast and lunch altogether, in order to avoid the lines.
The resolution passed with 25 yeas, 0 nays.
The agenda next addressed Resolution 007: a resolution to accommodate students in different times zones. The legislation was sponsored by Sigjers and co-sponsored by Holcomb and Marsden. The resolution stated that students are required to take classes synchronously, despite living in different time zones in the U.S. or across the globe, which would require students to begin classes as early as before 5 AM. The resolution also stated that there would be other means for students to learn material, such as students scheduling a regular meeting with the instructor, instructors recording classes and posting them on Blackboard, or instructors requiring regular Blackboard discussion posts. The resolution would consequently ask the University to petition on the students’ behalf.
Sijgers said that this legislation was prompted by the comments of her constituents and by the careful deliberation of Holcomb and the Academic Affairs Committee.
“My resolution would ask academic departments and professors to reconsider their accommodations for students living outside of the Eastern Time Zone,” Sijgers said. “It leaves the exact enactment of this resolution up to interpretation, since there are department-specific needs and solutions, and these solutions would also be dependent on the students and the professors, but it asks for more mercy to be shown to our students.”
Sijgers also stated that although a majority of students live in EST, many students live outside of that time zone.
“…We also have 8% of our student population living in Central Time Zone, 4% in Mountain & Pacific Time Zones, and 8% from a foreign country, meaning that 22% of our population is living and taking classes in a time zone different in which they live,” said Sijgers.
Sijgers also reported that many professors are unwilling to make accommodations, and are still requiring their students to attend class, despite the fact that several students would have to get up between 2-4 AM, depending on their time zone.
Holcomb stated that this legislation would also impact freshmen after they return home by Thanksgiving for the remainder of the semester.
Lucardi on the Academic Affairs Committee mitigated concerns about giving students too much slack by stating that the solutions in the resolution are merely a suggestion, and that professors would implement the resolution as they see best.
Schlee asked whether taking exams under this suggestion would involve students taking exams at different times during the day, presenting a potential for cheating and students telling others about exam material. She also referenced the passage of Resolution 003, which would ban third-party proctoring sites at the University, out of concern for the risks of student data breaches. Schlee expressed concern whether professors would be able to properly monitor exams within this resulting climate.
Sijgers responded that exams were a matter different from Resolution 007, and that accommodations may not be made for these tests that occur only a few times per semester. She also stated that this resolution wouldn’t impact the majority of students: only the 22%.
The resolution passed with 25 yeas, 0 nays.
The proceedings then turned to reserved time for Senator Marsden to address National Black Catholics Month. She encouraged students to educate themselves on the history of Black Catholics around the U.S., as well as to recognize the experiences of Black students at CUA.
“Equity and representation and education is something that is so directly tied to existence and experience,” Marsden said.
In particular, she referenced the CUA Black Student Alliance Instagram, and she advocated that students continue to fight against racism at CUA. She encouraged senators to “listen, advocate, and amplify.”
The proceedings then turned to Vice Presidential updates. Del Carmen reported that Resolution 003 and Resolution 005, which would ensure student success on comprehensive exams, were both sent to the Provost, who will bring these items before the Academic Senate on December 2nd. The Executive began conversations with mailroom officials, as well as with Dean Amy Kerr, concerning Resolution 004, which would deliver mail to students isolating from COVID-19.
Del Carmen also announced that she would be opening a student publication for students to explore their identity: submissions would involve essays, poetry, and art.
After public comment ended, the meeting was adjourned.