The culture of the Undergraduate Senate shifted away from parliamentary breakdowns to a focus on advocacy over the past year, according to SG senators.
“I think the reality is, unlike in the past where we said we are trying to change, we are changing and there is credible evidence that showcases a cultural shift so to speak,” Senator At-Large Joe Wisniewski said.
Wisniewski credits former Speaker of the Senate Brett Atanasio and the new freshmen senators for changing the Senate environment.
“A lot of this is thanks to the freshman, too, because when they joined in the beginning of the year,” he said. “What happened was they kind of rejected that status quo and they were very passionate about fixing the problems that they saw.”
Wisniewski and Atanasio both said the focus of the Senate has shifted from internal bills to advocacy and outreach bills. Internal bills focus on the by-laws and governing documents and external bills addresses advocacy issues that occur outside of SG.
“The Seventh Senate has been really big about trying to reach out to students, so that they can voice their concerns and so that we can more effectively advocate on behalf of their interests and needs and that’s really important,” Atanasio said.
Although less internal bills were passed this year, the Senate has a responsibility to pass internal legislature to help regulate SG. These bills include passing the budget or creating meetings between the heads of the branches, senators said.
“The Senate has both an advocate function and a watchdog and reformer function,” Atanasio said.
Atanasio said this focus on advocacy might have been a response to student criticism toward the Senate.
Here are some of the major bills passed by the Undergraduate Senate this year:
The Senate passed a bill on Nov. 1 supporting gender-neutral housing including freshmen and transfer students, The Eagle previously reported.
SG worked with the Residence Hall Association to make gender neutral housing available next year in Centennial Hall and Roper Hall, The Eagle previously reported.
“Almost immediately after that bill was passed there was a large scale movement within the administration to begin that,” Atanasio said.
Housing and Dining has been working on securing more on-campus gender-neutral housing since 2006, but after the SG and RHA discussions showed support this year changes began, Chris Moody said, the assistant vice president for Housing and Dining.
Former SG President Sarah McBride vetoed the initial bill to fund the SG Civic Engagement Scholarship when the Senate intended to give the three recipients a $1000 for the spring semester, instead of $2,000 recipients would receive the next year.
The bill was passed on Nov. 15, The Eagle previously reported. The three recipients are George Fountain, Brittany Gada and Victoria Ramirez.
Editor’s Note: Tim McBride asked The Eagle to use her new preferred name, Sarah McBride.
End of SG?
The Senate passed a bill calling for a committee to rewrite the constitution at their April 22 meeting.
SG is now accepting applications for seats on the committee that will rewrite SG’s constitution.
The committee will work over the summer to write a constitution, which the student body will vote on in a special election next school year, The Eagle previously reported.
The Senate approved the budget on April 22 for the next academic year.
While the bill was categorized as internal by Wisniewski and Atanasio, both called the bill important, as the Senate is responsible for delegating $630,000 to SG departments, The Eagle previously reported.
“Because what it comes down to is we are also the stewards of a $630,000 budget,” Atanasio said. “And that’s $630,000 of students’ money that the Senate literally has direct control over. And that’s a very serious thing.”