Student Senate has had a busy start to this semester passing legislation relating to diversity, inclusion and Student Senate’s ability to respond to concerns regarding diversity and inclusion on campus.
Almost right after classes resumed in January, Student Senate held a referendum to add three new seats representing sections of campus. It was announced Jan. 26 that the referendum had passed adding a Student Athlete Seat, a Queer Student Seat and a Military Veteran Seat.
However, Student Senate was not done there. Last week a piece of legislation was introduced to establish an ad hoc Committee on Campus Inclusion and to Establish Charter Freezes.
The initial legislation proposed two resolutions, one enabling the Student Body President to call together a Committee on Campus Inclusion and another resolution allowing organizations to have their charters frozen by the Organizations committee.
Initially, there was student outcry over the bill as students perceived the bill could be used to target free speech or particular organizations, thinking that the ad hoc committee had the power to hand down charter freezes.
In response to student concerns, the bill had two sections added to clarify the purpose of the bill and additional wording inserted into the existing resolutions clarifying the authority of the ad hoc committee and the processes for charter freezes.
This bill was passed in Student Senate on Tuesday, Feb. 7. According to the bill’s wording, the ad hoc Committee on Campus Inclusion “will have no disciplinary authority over any organization or member of the SMU community” and is primarily targeted at organizing statements and responses in reaction to any future issues with diversity and inclusion.
Furthermore, charter freezes will be handled by the Office of Student Conduct and will not be enacted until completion of a full investigation. Charter freezes have to be approved by 2/3 vote of Student Senate.
Overall, the clarifications of the bill clarify its target scope and purpose. The diversity committee is not a disciplinary body but will be utilized to improve SMU’s response to inclusion issues in the future, while the resolution on charter freezes allows for additional disciplinary actions to be taken should the need arise in the future.
Student Senate was smart in responding to student concerns on the bill, and the updated legislation is far clearer. Provided that the committee remains within its intentions and bounds as stated in the resolution, it will provide additional methods of responding to diversity issues in the future and does not pose a threat to current student organizations.