SMU graduate students gain seats in Student Senate

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By Cassie Mlynarek

The Student Senate passed a bill Tuesday that will allow one graduate student in each college a Senate seat. These seats will also eliminate an undergraduate seat. A graduate senator will fill a seat, even if there is one graduate running against all undergraduates. In this case, the graduate student will win regardless of how many votes the candidate received. The Senate was reluctant to pass the bill because of its timing, which coincides with the 2014 election for next year’s senate.

“[Graduates] lead different lives than we do,” Student Senate Chief of Staff Monica Finnegan said. “They have families, a big job and are probably taking night classes. This [bill] will make sure they get representation in the chamber.”

The 100th Student Senate is comprised of students and represents the Students’ Association in a governance structure. The Senate addresses student concerns, follows the Student Code of Conduct, provides scholarships and is responsible for designating funds to student organizations. The Student Senate governs both undergraduate and graduate students. Inclusion of graduate students is an important issue.

Other senators were not so keen to pass the bill because it conflicted with the 101st Senate elections. The bill was opened for debate and questions. Many concerns filled the chamber.

“So if we pass this bill, the people who are running for senate may be running for seats that no longer exist? That’s outrageous,” Pre-major Senator Jacob Conway said.

Student Body President Ramon Trespalacios is one of the writers of the bill. He feels that by passing it, the 100th Student Senate will be serving SMU in a much better way. Trespalacios did not feel that adding an additional seat for graduates was necessary, but instead decided that designating one of the undergraduate seats to a graduate senator would be more efficient.

“We are committed to serve [the student body],” Trespalacios said. “I believe this bill gets us closer to what we are trying to achieve”

Students who have campaigned for Senate seats for weeks must now work twice as hard. Each college has one less spot available for undergraduate senators. The amount of student senators for a particular school depends on the number of undergraduate and graduate students in attendance at that school. The elimination of a seat could cause tension among candidates and confusion with voting.

Graduate student participation in student senate has always been low and this bill is aimed to encourage them to get involved with university decisions that affect the student body as a whole.

“I was originally against this bill,” Lyle Senator William O’Connor said. “After seeing the changes I think it will create a more unified relationship between grad and undergrad students.”

The bill passed with a slim margin – only three votes put it into the majority. A referendum has been sent to the student body, who will be able to vote for or against it on the 101st Student Senate ballot.

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