No Legislation Debated for the First Time in Eight Years at the Second Senate Meeting of the Year
Image Courtesy of The Catholic University of America
By Chanel Cole
The second Senate meeting of spring 2023 was anything but typical. On February 6, for the first time since its creation eight years ago, the Senate had no resolutions or bills on its agenda for debate. Although there was no legislation, the discussion of the night revolved around Vice President Fahey’s decision to block Senator Michel’s resolution to update university policies to explicitly protect students from harassment and discrimination regarding sexual orientation.
In her VP updates, Fahey offered an explanation why she blocked the resolution from reaching the floor. She stated that resolutions regarding this protection had already passed through the Senate floor in the past two years. In both years, the University Administration refused to implement them. VP Fahey explained that as a freshman senator last year, she supported the resolution. However, as Vice President, she said she must consider the direction of the current Senate, which Fahey believes can use improvement. As she reiterated throughout her speech, she believes that the Senate should aim beyond the basic maintenance resolutions that have been produced and come up with quality ideas that can impact the students of CUA.
She explained that the resolution, sponsored by Senator Michels and co-sponsored by Senators Bommer, Musick, and Kruger, was blocked not because of its desired result, but because of the means it would use to arrive there. The VP expressed her desire for the Senate to think more critically about how they can aim to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment on campus. Fahey also informed the Senate that she had met with the sponsor and two of the three co-sponsors of the resolution the Friday afternoon before the meeting to explain why it was blocked in person. VP Fahey informed the Senate that she was aware the sponsor and co-sponsors spoke to Dean Sawyer and the Title IX Coordinator, and she welcomed the Senate to voice their concerns or ask questions to herself or President Crnkovich.
Both Senator Michels and VP Fahey provided The Tower with statements after the meeting regarding the debate.
Senator Michels stated, “Monday night’s senate meeting was disappointing as we were denied the opportunity to debate and advocate for an issue that I care deeply about. Even though I disagree with her decision, Vice President Fahey is still a friend of mine. I only wish that other students who may also disagree with her would please refrain from name calling and making personal attacks. Our disagreements never justify rhetoric of this type. My main goal with this legislation was to enshrine the dignity of every person in our campus community; thus we should aim to be a student body who lifts each other up rather than tearing one another down.”
VP Fahey stated, “The Vice President has a particular duty to create intentional safeguards in the Senate to prevent redundancy and ensure quality and preparedness of legislation. I supported this resolution a year ago in the Senate, and I do not disagree with the substance of this resolution. A resolution of this magnitude deserved more time in the legislative process. Moreover, now that we have passed this same resolution two years in a row with the same result, it became clear that a third year does not represent the best means to achieve our shared end of protecting students from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. I knew that this year’s draft of the resolution would not make it possible to intentionally uplift civil dialogue and testimonies surrounding this issue on our campus. My call to block this legislation is a call to action for the Senate to truly examine how we choose to listen and how we choose to serve the student body. I stand by my belief that quality legislation matters much more than quantity. I look forward to the work we do this school year to make Catholic U a better place that is welcoming and respectful to all.”
The floor was then opened for public comment, which began with a statement from Correy Crawford, Disability Support Services Initiative Director. He expressed his support for the resolution, sharing a story of how members of the LGBTQIA+ community uplifted the disabled community when fighting for their civil rights. Additionally, he states that SGA should unite in solidarity with CUAllies, a club on campus for LGBTQIA+ students and allies, which the university has refused to recognize as an official organization for years. This sentiment was followed by Justin Lamoureux, who reasoned that since Pope Francis said that it is wrong to criminalize a person based on their sexual orientation, the University should act in alignment with this.
President Crnkovich encouraged everyone at the meeting to fill out and spread the news about the Student Health Services survey so that SGA can receive adequate feedback. He also thanked those who attended The Mission of My Life: A Celebration of Consecrated Life event held by SGA several days ago. Treasury Board Director Matthew Blondel followed this by wishing the Treasurer well on her presentation.
During open floor discussion, Senator Michels was the first to express his disappointment in the Executive Board for blocking his resolution. He agreed with VP Fahey that the Senate should be producing quality resolutions and he believed that his resolution was just that. Senator Michels mentioned that he received an 8-page research report from the Research Committee of SGA about how other universities include sexual orientation in anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies. He also informed the Senate that he met with Dean Sawyer, the Dean of Students, and the Title XI Coordinator Lou Mejia. The sponsor added in his final remarks that the Senate should not remain complacent even in the midst of the administration’s reluctance to change. He also reminded senators that they should work with the best interests of the campus community at heart.
The speech was followed by Senator Curioso voicing his opposition to the decision to block the resolution. He then announced his new resolution idea: the installation of vending machines with Starbucks coffee in Ward Hall and the Crough Center. Some senators laughed as Curioso spoke and VP Fahey had to remind them that such behavior was unacceptable.
Other senators commented on VP Fahey’s decision. Senator Henriquez rose and expressed his disappointment as a gay first-generation Latino student. Co-sponsor Senator Kruger spoke about the duty of the senators to advocate for the student body. Similarly, Senator Suarez spelled out the importance of having open dialogue and underscored the value of every human being and their right to be respected. Senator Musick, another co-sponsor, delivered a speech calling the decision cowardly and unbecoming of the Vice President of the SGA Senate and thanked those who spoke in support of the resolution during public comment.
Shifting gears, Senator Drauschak announced that his plans for a Brookland Arts Project are in full swing. He said that President Kilpatrick is set to participate in the event as well.
Senators Foley and Tamayo praised VP Fahey for all the hard work that she’s done for the Senate and welcomed her back from her recent surgery. Senator Foley also asked the Senate to spread awareness about an event series sponsored by the Knights of Columbus called Solidarity in Suffering. The first event will take place on Monday and seeks to extend solidarity to those suffering serious crises.
Senator Bommer, another co-sponsor of the resolution, was also saddened that it would not be hitting the floor. Additionally, he shared with the Senate his new resolution idea of installing tampon and pad dispensers in public bathrooms around campus. VP Fahey responded by speaking to the implausibility of implementing the resolution: dispensers cost anywhere from $300-500 each and to place one in every women’s bathroom on campus would set the University back thousands of dollars, she said.
Newly sworn-in Senator Noory set forth her resolution that she has been working on to augment support and recognition for her fellow Social Work majors. She is working to create a mural in Shahan Hall, the building designated for the National Catholic School of Social Service.
On the subject of the struck down resolution, Senator Besendorfer reminded the Senate that it is important to speak on things that matter. As the longest-serving member of the senate, Besendorfer spoke to the benefits of having an open floor and public debate. She explained that although she brought legislation to the floor that was not approved or implemented in the past, it did not stop her from shedding light on essential issues. Likewise, she argued that the Senate should encourage debate on resolutions, even if they likely will not pass.
Preceding open floor discussion, Dean Jenning from the Dean of Students Office and Treasurer Karla-Martinez Victoria offered presentations to inform senators of the countless resources available to them when drafting resolutions and explained the fundamental processes regarding funding student organizations.
First to speak was Dean Jenning, the Associate VP for Student Engagement in the Dean of Students Office. She started by acknowledging that it was her first time speaking at a Senate meeting in 10 years. She then gave a presentation about her 16 years of experience in administration at CUA and the different positions she has had over the years. She specifically emphasized the resources she can provide Senators that are drafting new resolutions. Near the end of her presentation, she mentioned other administrators that have been at CUA a long time and have much to share: this included Bill Jonas, Assistant VP of University Events and Dining Services, and Dean Sawyer, the Dean of Students.
After committee chair updates were presented, the State of the Treasury Address was presented by Treasurer Karla Martinez-Victoria. She began by supplying some background about the Treasury Board and its responsibilities. The Board consists of eight directors, a secretary, and herself; together they work to manage the student activity fee funds. Meetings are held weekly on Tuesdays starting at 8 pm to discuss how much of the requested funds should be allocated to student organizations on campus. She stated that her goal is to optimize communication and support between the Board and student organizations on campus. She shared that the pandemic resulted in some confusion and frustration among student organizations requesting funds, so she seeks to restrengthen that relationship. Lastly, she explained the process for funding that student organizations must undergo.
Following this, she presented some figures for funding requests across the academic year from 2021 to January 2023. The Treasurer announced that the current funding rate is 90.75%, the highest in SGA history. She also discussed the Treasury Board Experience Survey launched to get feedback on how the Board can improve in the future. Upon ending her address, Senator Bommer, the previous Treasurer of SGA, had questions regarding changes in the allocation process as well as any potential bylaw reforms. The treasurer expressed her hope that the process would continue to remain the same and stated that the reimbursement process needed some outlining and club sports bylaws.
To read the meeting minutes of this senate meeting, visit SGA’s website.