On Wednesday, November 4, 2020 at 9:15 PM CST, the Illinois Tech Student Government Association (SGA) held their weekly Senate meeting. SGA Executive Vice President Derek Rhea led the meeting. To view the recorded livestream of this meeting, go to https://bit.ly/2UholUN.
Pass/Fail Policy Discussion
The first item on the agenda for the night was a discussion about the pass/fail policy with the Illinois Tech University Faculty Council (UFC). Representing UFC were Dr. Nick Menhart and Dr. Joseph Orgel. A few weeks before, the SGA put out a survey inquiring students about their mental health this past semester and their performance in classes, as well as whether or not they would want an opt-in pass/fail option for the Fall 2020 semester. SGA had made proposals to the university about having this option available for the semester, where the students can opt-in to all their courses to be pass/fail during the Thanksgiving Break (Nov. 24). They also made proposals for a composite grading scale and a Pass/Fail policy where students can select which courses to be P/F have gotten denied.
Dr. Menhart and Dr. Orgel had mentioned that the university, which had already switched to pass/fail during the Spring 2020 semester, would not be doing a school-wide pass/fail option, for several reasons. Firstly, the semester is nearly finished with a little over a month to completion, and such a big change to the grading system might not be feasible or agreed upon among the academic departments and faculty. The Spring 2020 pass-fail decision was a very long and thought-out process that took weeks of preparation and planning. Furthermore, Dr. Orgel also mentioned that the pass/fail option for only certain classes could lead to cases of undeserved grade and GPA manipulation on a potentially school-wide scale.
Dr. Orgel and Dr. Menhart did approve of one proposal, in which students can individually apply for a pass/fail option for all of their classes. Students who are facing distress and mental health crisis due to personal/academic circumstances or otherwise this semester need to opt in to the policy before the end of Thanksgiving break. Both undergraduate and graduate students can opt in to the policy. For undergraduate students, a Pass is from the A to D range and a Fail is an E, F, or below. For grad students, a Pass is from the A to C range and a Fail is a D or below. Dr. Orgel said that the university will treat students who opt in on a case-by-case basis to see if they are deserving of the pass/fail grading option.
As of November 7, 2020, SGA are awaiting final approval from the administration for this option. “[SGA] will continue to finalize this Pass/Fail policy and update you all as frequently as possible,” says Jason Scott, who is SGA’s Vice President of Communications. Below are some links to important documents available for viewing. If you are not able to access them, send an email to Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Pass/Fail Policy Proposal Document: https://bit.ly/3eADLfS
- A list of non-personal student responses to the Mental Health/Grading Policy survey: https://bit.ly/2JMekge
Additionally, Scott has also made an announcement post on the Illinois Tech Student Community Facebook group where students can leave questions or comments. To view the post, visit https://bit.ly/3p3HhVb.
Student organization proposal: InsIIT
Next on the meeting agenda was the review and approval of the student org proposal for InsIIT, which was presented by Samuel Long. Long had prepared a 4-minute presentation about InsIIT, which is a tutoring and mentoring program focused on South-side Chicago. From studying the student population at Illinois Tech, less than 4% of students of Illinois Tech are Black, and yet according to the 2010 US Census, Bronzeville is 85% Black. There is an obvious disconnect between Illinois Tech and the Bronzeville community that has been integrated into the culture at Illinois Tech.
InsIIT aims to combat this problem by offering math and English tutoring and mentoring sessions for Bronzeville high school students, so that they can perform better on standardized tests and explore opportunities in higher education at Illinois Tech and other institutions across Chicago and elsewhere. Tutors who join InsIIT will be able to receive college credit, teaching experience, and a chance to get actively involved in the Bronzeville community. In turn, Illinois Tech will be able to see increases in African-American enrollment and graduation rates, higher test scores in Bronzeville schools, and a stronger bond between the campus and Bronzeville. With 17 votes in favor, InsIIT was approved unanimously.
Liaison to the Presses Appointment: Sameer Sheikh
Third on the agenda for the night was the approval of Senator Sameer Sheikh to the appointed position of SGA Liaison to the Presses. Sheikh is a regular writer at TechNews, and has been providing coverage for SGA Senate meetings and Food Advisory Board meetings, among other SGA-related events since the start of the Fall 2020 semester. Sheikh was approved to be the SGA Liaison to the Presses unanimously with 15 votes in favor. "It's gonna be fun to read an article in next week's issue about myself that I wrote," said Sheikh in a post-Senate meeting interview I had with him.
Proposed Legislation: 3 Amendments
Senator Benjamin Kramek proposed three new amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws of SGA. For the first amendment, two articles in the Constitution seem to contradict each other, where one says that the SGA Executive Board has the authority to modify it without the permission of the Senate, whereas the other one implies that only the Senate should have the power to modify it. The first proposed amendment is to remove the language in the first article that states that the SGA Executive Board can modify the bylaws without Senate consent.
The second proposed amendment adjusts the constitutional limit of the Finance Board from 9 to 20 members.
The final proposed amendment was a correction in the citation for one of the articles.
All three Constitutional amendments were approved via a unanimous slate vote with 13 votes in support and 1 abstain.
Vice President of Communications Jason Scott talked about making a second draft of the proposal for the pass/fail opt-in option that was previously discussed.
Vice President of Student Life Jeannina Villalobos and Senator Na’im Muhammad talked about Public Safety Awareness Week where a variety of events to engage both students and Public Safety officers will take place throughout the week.
Coordinator of Campus Life Derrick Brown Kapadia reported an uptake of clubs and organizations trying to spend funds without consulting with the Finance Board first, and reminded that it is university policy to consult with Finance Board before spending any funds.