SGA elected executive board members announced, impeachment of existing vice president of communications, more at latest hearing

Tue, 2017/04/11

The Student Government Association’s (SGA’s) latest senate hearing occurred on the evening of Wednesday, April 5, and it played host to a much larger audience than usual due to the announcement of the newly elected executive board members that would occur at the conclusion of the hearing. As the meeting opened, Executive Vice President Sonia Kamdar stressed that, as usual, anyone is allowed to contribute to discussion at any time, provided that they raise their hands. Following this announcement and a brief call to order, a potential student organization presented for the senate, to be voted upon as official or not.

The organization presenting was the proposed Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE), represented by a whopping six executive board members, impressive for a yet unofficial student organization, all of whom were dressed very impressively. The group started off by explaining that SASE was a national organization, and many schools in Chicago already had chapters. The main purpose of the group would be to provide people of pan-Asian descent the resources and support to achieve their career goals, however membership would be available to students of all ethnic backgrounds. SASE already had 40 students interested in joining, and a variety of events to be programmed, if approved. Among their ideas were a speaker series featuring speakers of different Asian ethnicities, networking nights, tours of companies with pan-Asians on the executive board, conferences, resume workshops, and mock interviews. The proposed budget was a total of about $2,000, which included the costs of these events. The group, clearly excited about the potential of this organization, spent up their allotted 5 minutes to speak before finishing their slides. Following their presentation, some senators had questions for the group. One senator asked how the group planned to maintain momentum for the coming semester, especially with summer break so close. The group responded by saying they planned to talk to other schools with SASE chapters over the summer and prepare for the org fair during Welcome Week. Another senator asked how the organization would be uniquely beneficial to the student body, seeing as the group shared many similarities to Career Services and other cultural organizations on campus. The students explained that SASE would be more focused on professional development, whereas other international student organizations are culturally focused. After questions were finished, the student presenters were asked to leave the room so that senators would be able to discuss and vote. Some senators were still of the mind that the group bore too many similarities to existing organizations. Other senators, however, thought that there was a clear problem in today’s society with qualified pan-Asians graduating from school and not getting hired, with many companies still 90% white, and this group would specifically target this issue. Another issue pointed out was the fact that many Americans take certain skills for granted that international students may not have, such as an understanding of certain cultural norms. Employers may be looking for these skills, but at a technical school such as Illinois Tech, these skills are not emphasized in the classroom. In the end, the organization was approved, with 17 votes for yes, 3 for no, and no abstentions.

Vice President Kamdar then took the opportunity to thank and say farewell to the senate, as this would be the last senate meeting she led. President Hamze “Leo” Sukkar did the same when it was time for the president’s report, specifically taking time to thank the elections committee for their hard work the past few weeks. Sukkar also mentioned that he was not graduating this year, despite a popular belief that he was, and although he was not going to commit himself to SGA, he would certainly be around to give advice when asked.

Next to report was Vice President of Academic Affairs Akash Raina, who announced that Illinois Tech’s Undergraduate Studies Council (UGSC) was considering a change in the requirements necessary to receive academic honors in order to balance out the advantage transfer students have. He had three suggestions that he wanted feedback on: firstly, to only give honors to the top percentage of the class; secondly, to only count the last 60 hours at Illinois Tech when calculating GPA; and lastly to eliminate from GPA calculations all 100-level classes. A student in attendance thought that the awarding of honors to the top percentage of students would foster a competitive environment rather than a collaborative one, and many senators snapped their agreement. Another student thought that the process of transferring credits from community college was hard enough, and the point of the whole ordeal was to affirm that the credits are of high enough quality for Illinois Tech to accept them. In addition, many transfer students chose to start off at a community college due to monetary reasons; why should they be punished for this? One senator suggested that perhaps two different GPA requirements should be implemented, for both transfer students and other students. Raina thanked the senate and audience for their suggestions, as well as a great year, and asked them to continue the good work after his term came to an end.

Vice President of Communications Jelani Canty was not present at the hearing. Canty’s absences were discussed ad nauseam during Chief Justice San Dinh’s update.

Vice President of Student Life Qianran He reported next, announcing that the Technology Advisory Board (TAB) met recently on Monday, March 27. Some updates from this meeting include a HawkI “2.0” to be released in the fall, on which Blackboard will now be accessible and Public Safety trackable. In addition, myIIT will be redesigned over the summer, the lab computers will receive system updates and new solid state drives, and the WiFi will be “reshuffled.” He concluded with a thank you to everyone in SGA, saying that she learned a lot and appreciated all their hard work.

Next to report was Finance Board Chair Sung Min Choi Hong, who presented a potential new finance board advisor, Saksham Malik, to the senate. Malik had been trained throughout the entire semester and was extremely qualified for the position. Choi Hong then passed it off to Malik to introduce himself and answer any questions, saying, “hopefully he gets passed, if not, that’d be funny.” Malik said that being a part of Finance Board has been an amazing experience so far, even though he was a trainee, had had no voting privileges, and was fully prepared for the job. The first question Malik was asked was what Finance Board was, to which he answered that it was there to allocate funds to organizations. The asker of the question, however, asked Malik to explain again without using the “textbook” answer. Malik then said that Finance Board was there to be unbiased towards every organization on campus. He then went through, in extreme detail, the process through which Finance Board allocates funds to organizations. The senate voted a unanimous yes, approving Malik’s new position as an advisor.

Chief Justice San Dinh then gave his update, first announcing the need to discuss whether or not to remove from office the Vice President of Communications Jelani Canty due to his absences from meetings and failure to properly update his committee. Dinh explained that although it might seem silly to impeach-- which, to clarify, simply means to bring to trial-- Canty so soon before his term would end, the reason for doing so would be more of a warning to new executive board members to let them know that actions like this were possible. Dinh then told the senate that they should discuss what actions seemed appropriate-- censure, or a formal statement from the senate that expressed an opinion that Canty could fulfill his role in this position, would require a ⅔ vote, and removal from office would require a ¾ vote. Following this began a very long and emotional debate about what action should be taken. President Sukkar expressed his opinion that during his first semester, Canty did a great job, however other things came up in his life during his second semester, which caused him to miss a total of seven meetings. According to Sukkar, senators can be impeached after two missed meetings, according to the constitution, and although he understood that things can come up in life, it’s also important to uphold these rules. Another student thought that the precedent of impeachment and potential removal of office was a good one to set because a healthy government is one in which no position is a stable one, and everyone has the potential to be replaced. A member of communications committee spoke next, saying that he agreed with this but wanted to clarify that his lack of time and motivation during the semester was his own fault and should not be blamed on Canty. “I don’t blame him for what I did not do,” he said. Another student explained that Canty could not afford to miss work, which was the reason for many of his absences. His absence at this particular meeting, someone else explained, was that he acknowledged that he had done wrong and knew that impeachment was a fair course of action. At the end of the discussion, the senate had a vote on what punishment to vote on, narrowing it down to four different options: a) removal of office and censure, b) removal of office, c) a formal apology and explanation, or d) no punishment at all. The senate voted on b, removal of office, and then moved to vote yea or nay concerning this particular issue. In order to pass, the vote needed support from ¾ of senators, or 15 votes. With 14 voting yes, Canty was not removed from office.

The second topic Dinh wanted to discuss was a suggested change to the SGA bylaws that would detail the process of adding a senatorial seat dedicated to a community or group of people, such as the LGBTQ+ community, as discussed at an earlier hearing. Dinh suggested that the if a community wanted to have a senator, they would first need to submit a statement to the SGA president, assemble a Senate Shaping Committee (SCC), and sit together and see if the seat was actually needed. A ¾ vote from the senate would be needed to approve the senatorial position, and if approved, would then move on to a 2-semester “trial period,” at the end of which the SCC would review once more whether the seat was necessary. Dinh asked the students present to think about it, and it would be discussed more in-depth at the next senate hearing. Another student, Eric Scott, working in conjunction with Senator Erin Nelson, had an alternative idea for a solution, which would also be discussed at the next hearing.

Events Chair Adeena Ahmed had no updates, but she took the opportunity to clarify that this was not the end of her term; this election would not affect the events chair, chief justice, or secretary.

The SGA spotlight announced at this hearing recognized Senator Caitlin Simpson for her work in bringing in healthy food options to vending machines on campus, as well as establishing and now chairing the TAB. In addition, Simpson is also actively working with student Gabriel Connors on creating a student space in Tech South.

Election results for SGA’s new executive board were then announced. Firstly, the turnout statistics were shared, showing that 1046 students, or about 14.3% of the student population, showed up to vote, which was a little less than last year. No VanderCook or Shimer students voted, contrasting with last year’s 5 VanderCook students and 3 Shimer students.  Nathan Jones, who ran uncontested, was elected the vice president of communications. Golzar Shobeiri was elected the vice president of academic affairs, with 531 votes in her favor. Trixie Weiner was elected the vice president of student life, a tight race between five candidates. Nina Tamras won by a landslide, elected as the finance board chair. The race for executive vice president, an extremely close vote, was won by Alyssa Deluca. The newly elected president of SGA is Morgan Peters. These newly elected students will be sworn in at the next meeting.

Dean Katherine Stetz concluded the meeting by first noting how remarkable it was that five out of the six newly elected members of the executive board were women, especially at a tech school that consisted of a clear majority of men. In addition, she announced that Sodexo is proposing a new cafe/bistro, to replace the Pritzker Club. More updates on this will be announced at the next senate hearing.

Hearings occur biweekly on alternating Wednesdays starting at 9:15pm in Stuart Building room 113, the next of which is occurring on Wednesday, April 19. All are welcome!