Senators in Agreement: All Four Resolutions Passed


Image Courtesy of The Catholic University of America

By Chanel Cole

With a successful first meeting in the books, SGA held its second senate meeting on October 17 at 8:15 pm. The meeting began with Vice President Fahey relaying some reminders regarding senatorial procedures and processes. Fahey also reminded everyone of the Town Hall meeting with Dr. Kilpatrick on October 25 from 6:30-8:30 pm, saying it is an opportunity for students to voice their concerns to the student government as well as the University President. Additionally, another senate meeting will take place next week in Heritage Hall.

All senators were in attendance with the exception of Senator Tamayo. Afterward, the chairs of each department gave an overview of their committee meetings. 

Vice President Fahey then introduced the first resolution of the night, Resolution 004, which was sponsored by Senator Martin and co-sponsored by Senators Curioso, McCarthy, Kruger, and Zayas. The resolution sought to address the issue of a lack of cooking necessities in the residence halls. According to Senator Martin, if basic cooking equipment such as pans and baking sheets were available to students, the cooking facilities on campus would be in use more often. 

Prior to the pandemic, students had these resources readily available to them, but now in order to acquire cooking equipment, students have to ask RHOs. The problem with this is that most students don’t even know that this resource is available to them. Although RHO hours are from 9 am-7 pm, this is not enforced partly due to a staff shortage. Furthermore, many students cook at later times, when the RHO is not open. To address this problem, Senator Martin proposed a two-month-long pilot program in which one pan and one pot will be available in the kitchens of one floor of Opus, Regan, Unanue, Gibbons, and Reardon. The disproportionate selection of girls-only dorms was justified by Senator Martins based on the fact that women tend to cook more than men. Moreover, this selection acts as an honor system to test how the program will work before its complete implementation. In addition to the pan and pot provided, there will also be a sponge that will be replaced regularly as well as dishwashing soap so that the provided supplies can be properly cleaned after each use.

With this, the resolution was sent to the floor for debate. Senator Musick expressed concerns about the prevention of stealing. She also asked if other cooking utensils such as spatulas will be provided with the pilot program. Senator Martin reminded her that her proposal is only a pilot program and that if cooking equipment were to be stolen, no investment would be lost to the university. On the matter of utensils, Martins replied that the idea could be something that is later implemented if the program succeeds.

Like Senator Musick, Senator Foley also raised concerns about the equipment. Senator Martin stated that since the pilot program is an honors system, the likelihood of damage or reports of stolen equipment is less likely. If the entire program goes poorly, then there will still be the option of reinstalling the old check-out system with the RHOs.

Senator Michels reminded everyone that it is only a pilot program and that although it is good to think of what may go badly so that adequate contingency plans can be made, it is only a testing program still. Senator Gehrig also extended her support for the resolution, citing her experience as a Resident Assistant.

Aside from that, Senator Bommer raised concerns that the results from the pilot program in Opus would be reflective of how observers may view the future of the program installed in all other male residence halls. Senator Martin assuaged his fears, however.

A motion to vote was made and the resolution was unanimously passed, with all 25 senators in agreement. 

Next was Resolution 005, another pilot program whose purpose is to test the effects of extending the campus shuttle services to be accessible on weekends. This was sponsored by Senator Gehrig and co-sponsored by Senator Curioso and Senator Ewing. Senator Gehrig shared a story about her friend that had crutches and could not go to the Pryz on weekends because the campus shuttle was unavailable. Because she never wants another student to be forced into a situation like that, Senator Gehrig proposed a pilot program that would extend the campus shuttle to have a 10-hour shift from 12 pm -10 pm on the weekends of November 5-6 and November 12-13. The shift would be served on a volunteer basis and could be split up amongst van-certified students on campus. Currently, according to Gehrig, it is not feasible for the Department of Parking and Transportation to pay individuals for this task. If the pilot program succeeds and is used by a sizable number of students then she is hopeful that provisions can be made in the spring semester to make this role a paid position. Senator Curioso offered his personal experience with the campus shuttle and recounted times when it was pouring rain and it was easier to take a campus shuttle than to push his wheelchair where he needed to go. This resolution, Curioso believes, will enhance accessibility on campus.

The resolution was sent to the floor for debate and Senator Besendorfer granted her full support. Senator Musick asked if the pilot program was strictly accepting student volunteers or staff as well. Senator Gehrig responded that anyone who is van-certified has the opportunity to volunteer and suggested that SGA members volunteer as a way to engage with their constituents. Senator Corey had specific logistical questions. Senator Martin had questions about how the program would play out to which Sponsor Gehrig responded that drivers will most likely run four-hour shifts each and that the logistics will have to be ironed out with Mary Delaney, the Director of Transportation and Parking Services. 

Senator Foley asked how the news of the shuttle’s availability would be spread across campus; Senator Gehrig responded that once the resolution is passed, the advocacy wing of SGA will work on that. Finally, Senator Bommer wanted to know factors such as a game would be considered if there is an influx of campus shuttle riders and Gehrig answered yes.

The motion to vote was passed and the resolution was unanimously passed with 24 yays (Senator Samuels was not in the room at the time of voting).

The senate moved on to the third resolution of the night, Resolution 006, spearheaded by Senator Kish and co-sponsored by Senator Bert and Senator Curioso. This resolution sought to address an accumulation issuance of complaints about sightings of black mold in dorm rooms. Black mold has been the cause of illness amongst many students on campus and the response to this issue, if at all, is often slow and ineffective. Resolution 006 seeks to resolve the black mold crisis by developing a detailed system for its removal, mandating room inspections for its presence, and installing equipment to prevent mold from arising in the first place. The proposal also calls for the placing of scanners in residence halls that will make requesting maintenance services easier. 

Once the bill was sent to the floor for debate, Senator Djilioni immediately voiced his support for the resolution based on personal experience. He described that he had a friend that moved to a different residence hall because of the mold.

Senator Drauschak wanted to know where mold was being spotted and how humidity was going to be measured. Senator Kish stated that mold was usually found inside vents, shower curtains, bathroom dorm frames, and other places that tend to trap heat and/or moisture. Senator Foley asked about the possibility of educating students about how they can prevent black mold. Kish responded that there would be QR codes around campus that would send students to an 80-slide presentation about preventing mold and how to spot it.

Senator Kruger expressed his appreciation for the bill and Senator Corey stated his concern about certain provisions being excessive or redundant, however, Kish disagreed. Senator Musick also voiced her gratitude for the resolution.

A motion to vote was made and the resolution passed unanimously with 25 yays, 0 nays, and 0 abstentions.

The final resolution of the night, Resolution 007, which was sponsored by Senator Besendorfer and co-sponsored by Senators Bert, Corey, Curioso, Kish, and Suarez,  sought to have retreats marked in attendance as excused absences. As it currently stands, excused absences are only applied to absences as a result of participation in collegiate competitions or military orders. Senator Besendorfer believes that students should not have to choose between faith and academics, and students should have the right to be absent for religious retreats without punishment. As a Catholic school, there should be more accommodations for days in which students would like to grow in their faith.

The resolution went to the floor and Senator Musick began the debate by asking if the resolution was necessary. She stated that there are hardly any religious retreats and if there are, they usually occur on the weekends. Senator Besendorfer disagreed and still sees the usefulness of the resolution, even if religious retreats are rare instances. Senator Kish chimed in that the Dominican House of Studies has several religious activities throughout the year that students may want to participate in. He also reminded everyone that absences do add up and some professors will make you fail a class if you are absent for a specific number of classes. 

Senator Kruger wanted to know if this provision applied to retreats hosted by outside organizations and if there will be a verification process to ensure that students are actually going to these. Senator Besendorfer stated that the resolution applies to other outside religious retreats, but there will be a narrowing down of the types of retreats that apply for excused absences. 

This was followed by a proposal from Senator Samuels to add an amendment to include Masses on special holidays to which Besendorfer responded that she would be more than happy to work with Samuels on such a proposal. 

Senator Downing pointed out that there may be a higher number of students missing classes and that student organizations may be incentivized to hold religious retreats on weekdays. Besendorfer replied that there is not going to be an influx in retreats on week days from this resolution and Senator Kish also agreed.

The resolution passed with 20 yays, 4 nays, and 0 abstentions. Upon this, the meeting was adjourned.

Vice President Fahey reminded the senators of the Town Hall on Monday and the Meet Your SGA event on November 2. 

During the following open floor, senators shared their ideas for new resolutions in the works. After that, the meeting came to an end.

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