SGA Senate discusses how to increase visibility of student work, "Votebox" app, more at latest hearing

Date: 
Saturday, March 25th, 2017

The Student Government Association (SGA) Senate meets biweekly on Wednesdays, with the latest senate hearing held on Wednesday, March 22. Ordinarily, SGA senate hearings are led by Vice President Sonia Kamdar; however, both Kamdar and SGA President Hamze “Leo” Sukkar were unable to make this particular hearing, and therefore SGA Secretary William Gordon led the meeting in their stead.

Two potential student organizations presented for the senate during the hearing, asking to be granted official organization status, which entails things like potential allocations of the student activity fund (SAF), a HawkLink page, an IIT-domain email, and other resources. The two potential organizations that presented at this hearing were the Ultralight Flying Club and the Chinese Christian Home of Chicago (CCHC).

The Ultralight Flying Club was represented by Nicholas Sadowski, who seemed excited about the potential for this group. According to Sadowski, there is a plane currently disassembled in the basement of the John T. Rettaliata Engineering Center, which was taken apart for an IPRO in 2012. The goal of the Ultralight Flying Club would be to rebuild this plane to working status in order to use it as a tool with which to teach others the basics of flight. Due to liability issues, Sadowski recognized that the group would not be able to ever leave the ground in the plane; however, he explained that there is still quite a lot to be learned on the ground, such as how to control the plane on the ground, how to maintain it, check tensions, and check the angles of the wings. The estimated budget for this group is a total of $350, which includes $280 for additional parts that are still needed, such as nuts and bolts that were lost or damaged, $50 for tools, such as a gauge that checks cables to make sure that they are safe and properly tightened, and $20 for printing. The group currently has 19 students interested in joining, the majority of which are materials, mechanical, aerospace, and electrical engineering (MMAE) majors. When asked about whether the group would have enough knowledge to teach all the material they wanted to cover, Sadowski responded with a definite yes. He explained that one member, a freshman, had a pilot’s license and will be able to pass on his knowledge to others during his time here. In addition, Sadowski speculated that the nature of the group will naturally attract others who have their pilot’s licenses. This group passed, officially becoming a student organization on campus, with 18 votes for yes, 4 for no, and 1 abstention.

The second potential student organization that presented for the senate was the Chinese Christian Home of Chicago (CCHC), represented by Jinliang Zhao. Although Zhao spoke quietly and was extremely hard to hear, his presentation was very well organized. Firstly, he spoke about the main goal of this organization, which was to help Chinese students on campus achieve academic and general life success through the Christian faith. He then addressed the organization’s unique nature, which was necessary to explain due to the presence of two nominally similar organizations on campus: Chinese Christians on Campus, and Chinese Students and Scholars Association (IIT-CSSA). According to Zhao, CCHC would be unique because they would offer out of class activities, focus on Chinese students, and connect with the greater Christian community in the Chicago area. Some programming ideas that the group wanted to hold in the future included lectures and workshops for career development and academic help, as well as various outings and activities, such as new semester welcome barbecue events. Currently, the organization has 11 interested students, with an expected future membership of 50. The estimated budget was a quite large $5000, but Zhao explained that the organization planned to get these funds from local Chinese churches such as the Chinese Christian Union Church, fundraising, and some out-of-pocket funds from student members. The main concern that many senators voiced when discussing this potential organization was its similarity to existing groups on campus. Many senators thought that this group could function more effectively as a subgroup of the Chinese Christians on Campus; in this way, the two organizations could pool resources and cater to a student body that most likely has interest in both groups. Zhao argued with this, explaining that CCHC was unique because aimed to be a more social version of Chinese Christians on Campus. However, some senators believed that CCHC could simply be a more social subgroup of the organization that already exists. Another concern was that incoming students may be confused when faced with very similar options of what organizations to join. This organization was not passed, with two votes for yes, seventeen for no, and three abstentions.

Following the potential student organization presentations was a brief announcement concerning Sodexo suggestions going digital. It is now possible to voice a concern to Sodexo staff electronically; text the number 882257, including the word “IITDining” and the name of the dining location, and your suggestion will be sent to dining staff.

Next were officer reports, beginning with the president’s. Although Sukkar could not be present, his report was relayed by Secretary Gordon. Firstly, he filled in the those present on Sukkar's final meeting with the university's provost, which occurred on Wednesday, March 22. During this meeting, Sukkar discussed improvements to the Students Speak Survey, the importance of efforts to support minority groups on campus when needed, and a review of action points he presented to the Board of Trustees in February. Additionally, Sukkar wished to announce that the polls for SGA executive board positions will open at noon on Friday, March 31, and will remain open until midnight on Tuesday, April 4.

The next officer to report was Vice President of Academic Affairs Akash Raina, who started by announcing the three main topics covered during the Student Affairs Committee meeting. Firstly, the committee had brainstormed ways to integrate mentoring into academic life by improving graduate and undergraduate relations and making the academic advisor more of a mentor figure. In addition, the group had continued discussion about stronger leadership for student organizations. Raina explained that there are far too many student organizations on campus, and many leadership figures for these groups are graduating and leaving chaos and disorganization in their wake. Some suggestions from the senate as to how to fix this problem were to try and consolidate special interests, such as the recent merge of several of the gaming clubs, or an “assessment” that student organizations would be required to take periodically to ensure that they were still active. Lastly, Raina updated the senate on an ongoing effort to highlight student work on campus. Part of this problem, he explained, was that the Illinois Tech website is currently focused on faculty publications, and many students have expressed a want for more of an emphasis on student work. This topic was further discussed during Open Floor.

Vice President of Communications Jelani Canty gave a very brief update, first announcing the success of the recent ping pong tournament held in the Bog for children from the Boys & Girls Club. In addition, Canty announced that the SGA website was still being updated, with an online encyclopedia for student organizations in the beginning stages of formation. Finally, he reminded those present that Senator Ethan Castro wrote weekly for TechNews, whose articles he clearly had strong positive feelings for.

Qianran He, Vice President of Student Life, reported next. She first announced that the Residential Express option in the Commons is now open at 11 a.m., extended from the previous 11:15 a.m., for ease of those with classes beginning at 11:25 a.m. She also reminded senators that facilities-related projects were still underway, such as the efforts to reduce the amount of dead birds around State Street Village (SSV) and to control the amount of smokers too close to the doors of buildings.

Finance Board Chair Sung Min Choi Hong briefly stated that the next Finance Board hearing will occur on April 8 in the MTCC conference room from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Chief Justice San Dinh presented for the senate three potential new justices for Judicial Board: Ahmed Amer, Diana Wu, and Orlando Ogaza. First, these candidates introduced themselves. Amer, a sophomore studying biomedical engineering, recognized that he was both a quiet and slow speaker, and explained that this was due to his analytical nature and tendency to think through things before speaking. Wu, a first year chemical engineering student, expressed her wish to be a part of the positive change that SGA creates. Ogaza told the senate that he was an associate member of Pi Kappa Phi’s standards board, and this position has allowed him to learn how to place friendship last when making important decisions. Although some senators though that Amer seemed terrified and lacked the public speaking skills that Wu and Ogaza possessed, many thought that the lack of public speaking skills shouldn’t matter for a justice position. In addition, many senators appreciated the diversity of character presented in these three individuals and thought that different perspectives would benefit the Judicial Board greatly. The senators were required to vote on these three candidates as a slate, either voting yes to all or no to all, and all three candidates passed with an overwhelming majority of 22 votes for yes, 1 vote for no, and 0 abstentions.

To conclude his report, Dinh announced that the hearing General Assembly vs Student Senate will be occurring on 2 p.m. on Friday, March 24 in the SGA office, room 109 in MTCC. This case exists due to a student comment that on December 2, 2016, the senate unconstitutionally created an athletics seat. Although unable to go into detail, Secretary Gordon freely revealed that he was the student who had submitted this, and that if anybody had any questions about it, he would be happy to answer their questions after the hearing.

The Vice President of Events Adeena Ahmed reported next, explaining that process was slow going to organize the International Center Town Hall, which may or may not happen on March 28 from 12:50 p.m. to 1:40 p.m. In addition, the SGA banquet will occur on March 31.

The first senator to report was Golzar Shobeiri, who announced that the application deadline for the Career Services Student Advisory Board (CSSAB) is being pushed back until the end of the semester due to a lack of applications. Next to report was Senator Ethan Castro, who updated the senate on the status of the Student Health and Wellness Advisory Board. A meeting is scheduled for Friday, March 31, and Castro encourages students to email him any topics of concern that they would like to discussed with the Student Health and Wellness Center. Castro can be reached at ecastro3@hawk.iit.edu.

The SGA Spotlight during this hearing featured Senator David Arnold, who was recognized for his crucially important role in reviving and chairing the Food Advisory Board (FAB), helping shape the Technology Advisory Board (TAB), and also being of great assistance to the Executive Elections Committee.

The last segment of any SGA meeting is Open Floor, a time where anyone, SGA member or otherwise, is able to voice a concern or start a discussion with all those present. First to speak was Senator Boran Chen, who presented the idea of business cards for SGA members. In his opinion, business cards could significantly help make more of a lasting impression upon students, faculty, or business owners. This seemed to be met with general agreement among senators.

Next to speak for the senate was student Gabriel Connors, who presented the idea of a “Votebox” app being used for both SGA and the President Student Advisory Council (PSAC). Connors explained that the app was a way to “crowdsource public opinion” by allowing students to submit both issues they have and ideas for solutions to these issues. Students can also “upvote” ideas, in order to naturally move the best ideas to the top. Connors announced that the project was still in need of coders and designers, and those who were interested could contact him at g@hawk.iit.edu.

The last topic discussed, continuing from Raina’s report, was how the school could increase visibility of student work, especially student IPROs. One solution may be to create an undergraduate research journal for Illinois Tech that is published on campus and around the city as well. Another senator suggested a giant website that consolidates all of this information and allows students to search and read about what their peers are currently working on. Other ideas included an “IPRO of the week” regularly featured in TechNews, a bulletin board or shelf on which student projects could be displayed around campus, or a utilization of the TVs around campus.

All students are welcome to attend SGA Senate Hearings to listen and participate in discussion. While meetings may be long, they are a great way for students to voice their concerns to those who can actively make change and stay updated on what projects these student leaders are currently working on. Hearings occur every other Wednesday at 9:15 p.m. in Stuart Building room 113, where the next senate hearing will take place on Wednesday, April 5.