SMU Student Senate discusses charter freezes, dining concerns and more at first meeting

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The 103rd Student Senate convened for their weekly meeting Jan. 31.

Dr. Peter Moore, Associate Provost for Curricular Innovation and Policy, spoke first. Moore revealed that a large number of students are unintentionally completing the courses and hours required for minors, but never declare them. A system of notification will work to ensure that students’ efforts are accounted for.

Moore also has a “working group” in progress for a system of recommendation. “Class suggestions” comprise one of the features. But identifying similar students, classes they took, and providing recommendations based on that information, is also possible.

With the increased GPA requirement in Cox and overall academic pressure, Moore notes the lack of exploration in the interests of college students pertaining to class selection.

The current pass-fail class characterization attempts to alleviate the pressure of performance and prioritize the interest in learning. Yet current pass-fail class options reach maybe “four per semester,” said Moore. Thus, the administration wants to allow departments to select “gateway courses,” allowing more class options for students in the pass-fail sect. The classes could also be used for class credit—for majors, minors, or general education requirements (a facet absent from the current system).

In an attempt to increase student interest in classes, Moore notes efforts to incentivize students to complete courses sequentially. He used the example of U.S. History; a class separated into two courses, each satisfying the same UC requirements.

A new system, on the other hand, would allow the latter class to satisfy other requirements, so students who are interested in history are not deterred by the second course’s redundancy and minimal UC, box-ticking payout.

Moore and the other officers in charge are attempting to implement the proposals in time for the Fall 2017 semester.

Also within the academic realm, Student Senate submitted a proposal to extend the course drop deadline. With nearly universal student support and significant administrative support too, prospects seem positive.

Last semester’s polarizing, discriminatory-fueled events spurred President Blake Rainey’s additions to Senate by-laws. Rainey has enacted changes to establish “an institutionalized ad-hoc committee on campus inclusion,” he said. The committee would be only active when called. It would provide urgent responses to current events (in the form of letters, events, forums, etc.).

Furthermore, Rainey also moved to implement charter freezes. Campus organizations that consistently receive Student Senate funding can lose it temporarily (notably without being able to immediately reapply for funding) as consequence for “extreme discrimination and hate crimes,” explained Rainey. He reinforced that the freezes would only be an extreme measure.

Both the ad-hoc committee and the charter freezes are part of Senate’s effort to help target discrimination on campus, to put “us in the best position to respond when they occur,” said Rainey.

The Diversity Committee chair, Cecily Cox, addressed efforts to bring together students from College Republicans and College Democrats. The effort is “to unify them,” she said, especially in the midst of current events.

Jim Bryan, Cox School of Business Assistant Dean, proposed a Town Hall for BBA students. He notes a gap between Cox students and the school’s administration.

Communications chair Claire Hemerling was swift to voice news in the pejorative on campus dining.

Student Senate worked last year to extend the dining hours of Arnold to 10 p.m. According to Hemerling and the SMU Dining website, hours have since been rolled back to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday.

Dining concerns—from hours to options, from Pony dollars to accessibility—are addressed by Student Concerns Chair Rebecca Silensky.

Silensky urged students, with near unanimous dismay on the topic, to submit feedback to dining administration directly, with contact information on the SMU Dining website. They may also talk to Silensky, who meets with Dining once a month.

Senate Advisor, Jennifer Jones addressed the chamber to state the “99.9% chance” that “Student Affairs can take over the Boulevard.” The shift in power is in progress.

Applications for Student Senate, committee, chair, and senator positions, will open Feb. 6.

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