Students are one week into school, and the business of the Student Government Association is already well underway.
The SGA held their annual retreat and the first Student Senate meeting of the year at U of L’s Shelby campus on Saturday, Aug. 29 to orient new Senators into their jobs.
Here are five takeaways from the first meeting of the year:
Arts & Sciences
Andrew Monell, president of Arts and Sciences, announced that a student senator has dropped out of SGA due to a work commitment and will have to be replaced.
The seat will be filled by the A&S council at their Sept. 15 meeting.
In addition, A&S has updated their election rules, which were declared unconstitutional last year by the SGA Supreme Court.
The unconstitutional rules involved indirect election of Senators through an application process. A&S was allowed to participate in SGA general elections last semester, but was mandated to replace the rules for the next election.
The Student Senate is making the transition to an iClicker voting system, which will replace the voice vote system used in past Senates.
Instead of saying “Aye,” “Nay” or abstain, senators will vote electronically on the iClicker system, and all votes will be recorded and attached to the official meeting minutes.
“The idea behind that for me was to create a system of accountability, create a voting record,” said Senate Speaker and Graduate School Senator Brandon McReynolds.
“Of course, any new type of technology is going to be a learned process,” he said. “I think we learned a lot from it today, and I’ll be working with the Senate leadership team on creating some better processes for that.”
The system took some getting used to for the Senate, who had to orient their way around the new technology and had to be reminded that votes were on public record.
“I think the reports that it will publish and the way it will inform students on what people have voted for, even potentially in future elections, showing what people who may be running for Top Four voted for, I think that it’ll create a good record,” said McReynolds.
The Student Senate filled four vacancies on the 7-person Supreme Court during their meeting, most notably that of the Chief Justice.
Sarah Pennington, who was previously the Associate Justice for Arts & Sciences, was unanimously approved to replace Ben Shepard at the helm of the Court after some discussion of her goals as Chief Justice.
Pennington said she hopes to expand the “full right to vote and full right to campaign” by throwing out “nonsensical rules” such as the regulation that prohibits campaigning within 100-feet of the computer lab, which was often criticized during last year’s election trial.
She added that she felt SGA could be “an isolated body,” and that she wants to make the average student feel that they are involved in the election process.
Also confirmed by the Student Senate as Associate Justices were Gabe Draper (Speed School), Macey Mayes (A&S) and Taylor Forns (HSC), who were all confirmed by large margins.
All SGA committees met and elected chairs during the Senate meeting, but the most significant for students is the Appropriations committee.
All RSO funding requests go through the Appropriations committee before being approved by the Senate, and the SGA budget, which is nearly $1.2 million this year, is handled primarily through the committee.
Vishnu Tirumala, a sophomore A&S senator, was unanimously selected as chairman, replacing Benjamin Leamon, who is now director of finance for the Student Activities Board.
The committee will meet and approve RSO funding before senate meetings and will work with school councils and the Top Four to create next year’s budget this semester.
While the first Senate meeting is always a learning experience and mostly involves laying the groundwork for the rest of the year, certain priorities form senior members were highlighted.
Issues to look out for include the new proposed academic building, student athletic tickets, student fees and campus safety.
“I’m very positive of where the Senate is,” said McReynolds. “This is a year in which we have a group of people who are going to create some continuity between years. We also have a Senate that is very active and desires to create true change on campus.”
McReynolds said he hopes that the Student Senate will get ahead of student issues this year rather than simply react to campus events.
“Every Senator has come with a lot of ideas and ways in which we can improve campus as a unit so that we’re not a reactionary unit, but that we are thinking progressively and are thinking with all students in mind,” he said.