Third SGA senate hearing sees opinionated discussion of safe spaces, resources available to VanderCook students, more

Date: 
Sat, 2017/09/30

The third Student Government Association (SGA) senate hearing of the semester was held on the evening of Wednesday, September 27. The first order of business, like always, were the presentations of potential student organizations that petitioned the senate to become official in the eyes of the university. If deemed official by a majority vote by the senate, student organizations are granted resources like potential Student Activity Fund (SAF) allocations, a HawkLink page, the ability to reserve classrooms, etc.

The first potential student organization to present was The Internship Academy. The student representing this organization, Ricardo Morales Torres, was dressed to the nines and seemed extremely prepared to speak for the senate, even distributing handouts to senators before the hearing began. The goal of The Internship Academy, Torres explained, was to provide students with the resources necessary to acquire the internship they want. Some programming that the group hoped to host in the future included workshops, networking events, mentorship programs, career fairs, “shadow days” with top companies, social events, and traveling to career conferences. The group already had 51 total interested students, and even had a slogan: “connecting bright minds for a brighter future.” While some senators expressed concerns that this group was not sufficiently different from Career Services to warrant creating a new organization, Torres argued that the group would place a much bigger emphasis upon social events than Career Services does. This group was passed by the senate as an official student organization with 18 votes for yes, four for no, and one abstention.

The next potential student organization to present for the senate was Upsilon Pi Epsilon, an honors society of computing and information studies. The group’s goal is to connect its members with professors who have research opportunities, provide companies with a direct recruiting line to the best students in computer science, send members to conferences, help students find a specialization, encourage the learning of new skills that are needed in a professional setting but not usually taught in the classroom, and give feedback to the Computer Science Department itself. Upsilon Pi Epsilon currently has 16 charter members, including the executive board. Their estimated budget was $2000 a semester, which included the cost of campus events and conferences. According to the student presenters, the Computer Science Department had already agreed to cover the $1200 chapter installation fee and may partially cover the $60 fee mandatory for each member, however some of this will likely need to be covered by the students themselves. A committee will select students their applications, and they must have at least a 3.0 GPA and be in the top 33% of all computer science students. When a senator expressed concern that a student organization should be open to all students, the student presenters explained that all of their events would of course be open to anyone in the student body regardless of academic performance. This organization was also passed by the senate, with 21 votes for yes, one vote for no, and no abstentions.

The last group to present was Percussion Club, a group originally from the VanderCook College of Music. The student representatives explained that they wanted to branch out to the community at Illinois Tech so that students from both schools could work together to create music and share their art with the community. At a small-knit school like VanderCook, the students said, they don’t get as much international student input or as many people who aren’t traditional ‘musicians’ that are interested in getting involved. Some education opportunities that the group hoped to sponsor included masterclasses and clinics with famous percussionists. The organization also hoped to host drum circles and community performances that all students, experienced or not, would be welcome to be a part of. Other events that the group wanted to be a part of included some events that are already regularly occurring at VanderCook, such as the “Day of Percussion,” a day full of performances and education opportunities for all things percussion. Some senators expressed concerns that the group did not seem to have an estimated budget, any currently interested members, or a specific recruitment plan for Illinois Tech students. However, a senator from VanderCook explained that VanderCook students often feel very cut off from Illinois Tech and that these student presenters likely knew very little about budgeting, what they needed to prepare, and what was necessary to get a club started. Ultimately the club was passed by the senate with 14 votes for yes, eight for no, and one abstention.

Next on the agenda was the voting on two potential new justices for the Judicial Board, which were voted on in a “slate vote” fashion, meaning senators could choose to vote in both candidates or neither of them. The first potential justice was Sara Lopez, a 4th year communication major. Lopez introduced herself as a straightforward student with an active interest in political campaigns. She also mentioned that she could be an entirely unbiased opinion due to her lack of involvement in any other on-campus organizations. Shanice Brown, the next candidate, was a 4th year engineering management student. Brown explained that she was a transfer student who was finding it difficult to get involved in new things on campus, and was hoping this could be a way for her to do so. The senate voted in both of these candidates to the Judicial Board with 19 votes for yes, two for no, and one abstention.

Following this were the officer reports, the presidential report being the first among them. President Morgan Peters started off her report by calling for volunteers from the senate for both Family Weekend and the Parking Citation Appeals Committee, saying that any interested parties should reach out to her. Peters also announced that a non-for-profit organization had recently reached out to her about setting up voter registration shops, organizing town hall events, etc. on campus. Then Peters asked for the opinion of those present on the thought of making Illinois Tech a “safe space.” Peters explained that her own opinion was, “hate speech is not free speech,” and she was in support of not allowing hate speech to present on campus. However, she recognized that as the president of SGA she needed to represent the opinion of the student body and not necessarily her own. If Illinois Tech were to be made a safe space, formal presenters that target specific groups of people with hateful or threatening speech would not be allowed to speak on campus. Peters clarified that this would not mean that conservative students would not be able to speak on campus, nor would it be affecting any Illinois Tech students’ ability to speak their mind, but it would simply limit the kinds of professional speakers that could be brought to campus. While some senators seemed to like this idea and thought that it would be beneficial to students to be able to receive their education in a place where they would not have to worry about feeling threatened in this manner, other senators expressed a different opinion. Most notably, recently elected Senator Eric Scott expressed a feeling of great concern as to where this line of hate speech was drawn, and what doors this limitation might open to other constraints upon freedom of speech. What followed was a very opinionated discussion between many senators on this topic with no clear consensus. Senator Scott was the last to comment on the topic, first stating the famous quote, “I don't agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” before directly addressing Peters with, “Don’t make me go to my death.”

Vice President of Academic Affairs Golzar Shobeiri was next to report. She announced that senators would soon be receiving an email from her about the ITP project, wherein senators visit ITP classes and talk to new Illinois Tech students about what SGA is and how they can get involved. Each senator would be required to sign up to present in front of one class, with a script already written up for them by Shobeiri herself. Next, Shobeiri announced that the Career Services Advisory Board (CSAB) would be getting picked up soon, and those that were interested in being a part of it should contact her.

Vice President of Communications Nathan Jones reported next, again urging all those present to follow the SGA Instagram page @illinoistechsga. Jones also pleaded senators to fill out the Google form sent their way in order to get their bios updated on the SGA website, which apparently posed a great deal of difficulties last year.

Vice President of Student Life Trixie Weiner was not present at this senate hearing.

Chief Justice Citlalli Bueno had no updates to report, however she was asked to give a brief explanation of Judicial Board as a whole and obliged. According to Bueno, Judicial Board’s job is to uphold SGA bylaws, make sure everything is running smoothly during Senate hearings, receive and deal with appeals from student organizations that are not satisfied with Finance Board, and work on a few other projects.  

Events Chair Adeena Ahmed announced that the upcoming Public Safety Town Hall would occur on October 17, the President and Provost Forum on October 27, and the SGA Town Hall on a date that is yet to be announced. In addition, an SGA-hosted social event called “80s Night” will occur on November 17.

Former Senator Ethan Castro then made an announcement to all SGA members that he was looking for projects and general SGA happenings to write about for TechNews. Castro explained that TechNews articles could be a good way to document project progress, source help from the student body, or just be a medium through which senators could express pride for a project well done. He said, “send me an unstructured bullet point list of things you did and I’ll turn it into a thing of beauty.” Castro can be reached at ecastro3@hawk.iit.edu.

Senator David Arnold then briefly announced that on Thursday, October 5, the Food Advisory Board (FAB) will be meeting at 3:15 p.m. in the Pritzker Club, and will continue to meet every other week at this time. Arnold can be reached at darnold3@hawk.iit.edu.

The next SGA senate hearing will be held at 9:15 p.m. on Wednesday, October 11, in Stuart Building 113. Hearings will occur on alternating Wednesdays so forth, and all students are welcome to attend and participate in discussion.