SGA Amendment fuels conflict

By: Matt Altieri and Alex Pearlman

An SGA amendment was passed last year that would appoint new Senator-at-Large seats for several different student groups across campus. Now, the amendment faces tremendous controversy from a number of Senators, and another proposed amendment by SGA Senators Jim Wilson, Karl Hoffman and KyQuan Phong was written opposed to the original one.

The original, passed amendment, lost since last year, has been reconstructed from the memories of the senators who wrote it and SGA President Brain LeFort has been working with the SGA  executive board in order to properly rewrite it as it was passed.

“It was one of those things where something was misplaced. There was no foul play. We have something on the books that was passed, but we lack the actual document,” said LeFort. “We have to start to recreate what was there.”

The amendment that was passed last year calls for nine new senate seats: one from the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), one from the Sawyer Business School (SBS), one from the New England School of Art and Design (NESAD), one commuter student seat, one seat that is at the discretion of the board, and four seats to represent diversity clubs.

What many feel needs to be clarified within the amendment is the approval process for the Senator-at-Large positions that has been laid out, as well as what qualifies a student as “diverse” for the cultural seats. Currently, SGA also has three Senator-at-Large seats, which are voted on by the SGA board, as the new Senator-at-Large seats will have to be configured to fit with the three original seats.

Senators Jim Wilson, Karl Hoffman and KyQuan Phong have proposed a new amendment, as many feel the original to be unfair.

“CAS, the dorms, and PAO can run people to represent their faction of the campus. If they want to run they can. Instead of handing seats out, let’s keep it free and fair,” said Hoffman.

The group of senators who back this second amendment have fallen under fire for calling the bill “affirmative action” in editorials in the Suffolk Journal and the Suffolk Voice.

Jessica Ross, President of the Black Student Union (BSU), as well as several other diversity groups, have openly opposed them. “It is imperative that this amendment stay in place to provide more equitable opportunities and support services to our members and other historically marginalized students on campus,” said Ross in an email to members of the BSU.

“Giving four seats to any particular group is unfair, but offering the seats to everybody opens a wider range, which would better represent the student populace,” said Wilson.

Yesterday evening, a meeting was called by SGA to properly define the meaning of the original bill.

The meeting was attended by a number of senators, SGA members and many representatives of various diversity groups, as well as recent graduates Megan Costello and Anthony Gesualdi, who co-authored the amendment last year.

Vice President Nick DiZoglio served as Chair of the meeting and called on people who wished to speak in either support of or against the original amendment, which DiZoglio confirmed had been passed, and was already a part of the SGA constitution.

Essentially split down the middle, the group quickly became heated and revolved around the issue of defining what exactly the four diversity seats were meant for and what clubs on campus could benefit from having representation, in the form of the senate seats, in SGA.

“The 18 clubs that will benefit from [this amendment] are those based around race, gender, sexuality, religion and disability on campus,” said Ross, who spoke out a number of times in favor of keeping the amendment as it is and who struggled to make her points to those opposed.

Freshman Martha Alvarado, Senator for the Class of 2013 and of Hispanic heritage is also opposed to the amendment. “It’s been a big issue for me when I hear, ‘all the diversity’ and ‘all the minorities’ referenced as one group. I don’t feel that this does justice to the minorities on this campus.”

Graduate student Charnell Covert also spoke out to support the amendment and said that the point of the amendment and the meeting should be to instruct diversity and to reach out to underrepresented groups.

Gesualdi, who only came into the meeting an hour and a half after it started, put the issue to rest quickly, however, by demonstrating that of the twelve voting members of SGA that were present , none were necessarily diverse, as defined by the amendment and the seats it allots to certain campus groups.

“The point is simply that people are underrepresented on SGA,” Gesualdi said. “The intention of the amendment is to increase representation of the underrepresented groups on campus.”
It remains to be seen if the meeting accomplished anything in regards to implementing the amendment more quickly.