SGA Passes Five Pieces of Legislation, Asks Administration to Add Mental Health Days

Image Courtesy of Catholic University

By Anna Harvey

The Catholic University of America Student Government Association hosted its seventh meeting of the 2020-21 academic year on Monday, February 8. 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 6-07 addressed five pieces of legislation and also informed the students of an event on February 9, sponsored by the SGA Diversity and Inclusion Initiative.

After the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer, the proceedings turned to public comment. Chief of Staff Chris Carey encouraged the public to attend an event hosted by the SGA Diversity and Inclusion Initiative: “Recenter, Refocus, Remind: A Conversation on the Consistent Ethic of Life,” featuring Dr. Ansel Augustine and Ms. Leticia Ochoa Adams. 

Senator Regina Brennen gave support to Senator Sijgers’s Bill 003, which would amend write-in voting, as well as Senator Lucardi’s Resolution 014, which would provide clearer information on comprehensive examinations. Taskforce Associate Devin O’Donnell likewise supported both Sijgers’s and Lucardi’s bills, but expressed concern over Resolution 013, which would add extra mental health days to the spring 2021 semester. 

After the agenda was adopted, minutes from Senate Session 6-06 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.  In particular, Chair of the Committee on University Services Senator Schlee stated that they would be focusing on dining legislation and the implementation of lounge appliances. 

The proceedings then moved to Resolution 012, “A Resolution to Increase Students’ Ability to Receive Internship Credit in the School of Arts and Sciences,” which was sponsored by Schlee and cosponsored by Senators Besendorfer, Lucardi, Ahearn, Zentz, Marsden, and Sijgers. The resolution would increase opportunities for students of different years to apply for 4-credit internships before upper-division courses.  

In her statement, Schlee stated that she had heavily revised this version of the resolution, incorporating other senators’ opinions to include other departments within the School of Arts and Sciences. She stated that the University’s current program pales in comparison to other D.C. universities’ programs for 4-credit internships. 

“This has been an issue for several years, and this resolution will ultimately improve the university as a whole,” Schlee said. “It will make us more competitive up against other big-name D.C. schools, but also give individuals the opportunities that they’ve been yearning for.”

Harrison asked to rename the title of the resolution, as reflected above, seconded by Senator Sijgers.

The resolution passed with 24 yeas and 0 nays.

The proceedings then shifted to Resolution 013, “A Resolution to Add Mental Health Days into the Spring 2021 Semester,” sponsored by Senator Hermann and cosponsored by Senators Marsden, Harrison, Farrell, Kilgore, and Paviglianiti. This resolution would add several days of no academic obligations into the spring semester. 

Hermann stated that since spring break was cancelled this semester, several days should be given off to students throughout the semester, citing similar policies at several other universities.

Sijgers argued that with the variability of class assignment due dates, it may present more stress to students and professors to add random days throughout the semester, since professors might add more homework assignments in place of the extra day off. Similarly, Schlee argued that, due to the university’s rigid adherence to administrative Mondays, they may not want to add extra days into the university calendar.

Hermann responded that with the flexibility demonstrated throughout the past year, it would not be impossible to negotiate to give extra days. In addition, Harrison added that, similar to snow days, the university has the infrastructure to handle several days off. Senator Marsden responded that some professors have already put mental health days into their syllabi, and that they themselves could use a mental health day off. Senator Lake followed up to confirm that mental health days already exist within the School of Social Work, and she advocated for a similar policy in other schools.

The resolution passed with 24 yeas and 0 nays.

The proceedings then turned to Bill 003, sponsored by Sijgers and cosponsored by Senators Lucardi, Kilgore, Paviglianiti, Bracey, and Schlee. This bill would clarify the rules and procedures for write-in candidates of future SGA elections. The bill would also resolve any issues surrounding writing in an incomplete name or a nickname for a particular candidate. 

Sijgers referred to a bill from Schlee last fall, of which she was “a major detractor” and stated that she decided to write her own, but stated that Schlee’s name was on the bill as a co-sponsor. She stated that she believed that most individuals wrote their name in complete seriousness, but to ensure that scenario, she created an oath of office to solidify the position. 

She said that the write-in candidate would not have to put in their full legal name in the write-in slot, due to the fact that some candidates, such as Senator Paviglianiti, ran as a write-in candidate, but the original rule caused some hurdles for these write-in candidates during their campaign.

Senator Farrell asked for clarification on the wording of the bylaws, and the changes were consequently approved. 

The bill passed with 23 yeas and 0 nays.

The proceedings then shifted to Resolution 014, sponsored by Lucardi, “To Improve or Clarify Comprehensive Examinations or Equivalent Cumulative Assessments Across the University.” The resolution would make clearer the nature of final assessments at the beginning of a student’s college career. The resolution argued that material on the examination often was not communicated to students throughout their departments’ classes. It would require departments to publish study material before students’ comprehensive examinations or cumulative assessments. 

Lucardi thanked the 12 co-sponsors of the resolution. He stated that in addition to publishing the appropriate study material, each department ought to have a representative who would regularly update material and who would provide syllabi for the appropriate courses to students studying for comprehensive examinations. 

The resolution passed with 23 yeas and 0 nays.

The proceedings then shifted to Resolution 015, “A Resolution to Encourage Professors to Post on Blackboard,” sponsored by Schlee and cosponsored by Senators Besendorfer, Birth, and Buckley. The resolution would request that professors use the gradebook function more often and that Technology Services would establish a point-of-service to handle Blackboard-related functions.

Schlee said that with professors not using the gradebook function, many students remain uninformed throughout the semester on their grade within the class. She also stated that with many professors complaining about a surplus of email communication, that Blackboard could provide useful tools to help professors as well.  

Harrison expressed concern over the amount of pressure that could put on professors. 

Schlee stated that the resolution would not be forcing professors to do anything they did not want to do. She also reiterated that by establishing communications over Blackboard, professors could prioritize important email communications. 

Senator Galassi inquired whether professors would be obligated to use Blackboard with reference to the resolution, as several professors within the Business School use a different platform. He asked whether the point-of-contact within Tech Services would be a new hire, or someone equipped to use Blackboard. 

Schlee stated that the point-of-contact would not be a new hire, as it would not be cost effective. Sijgers and Senator Birth likewise advocated for the resolution.

The resolution passed with 22 yeas, 0 nays, and 1 abstention. 

The proceedings then shifted to Vice Presidential updates. Del Carmen reported that Resolution 011 by Sijgers on professors ending and beginning classes on time was sent to appropriate channels within the administration. She also encouraged SGA members to attend the event on Tuesday night hosted by the Diversity and Inclusions Initiative board. 

During Open Floor, Marsden advocated against the Abby Johnson event hosted by the College Republicans, stating that attending the event could appear as racist. Senator Ahearn, Farrell, and Harrison also advocated for individuals to come to the SGA event. Senator Holcomb advocated for students to adhere to the mask mandate at the school, as he witnessed students not wearing masks around campus. 

After public comment ended, the meeting was adjourned. 

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