Eastern Michigan University senators voted on several resolutions ranging from discontent over dining services transparency, two provisional senator nominations, EMU Board of Regents candidate recommendations to Gov. Rick Snyder and student organization delegates. The three hour meeting was held on Tuesday, Sept. 20.
S. Res. 103-104 Dining Services
On June 13 a campus-wide email was sent out to all students and employees regarding the privatization of dining services. While senate members now support the dining service changes there was disagreement over the way in which students were notified. Sen. Sam Jones-Darling believed that students should have been notified much sooner than the campus-wide email that was sent out on June 13.
"When you make as big of a change as this is, this affects thousands of students," said Sen. Jones-Darling. "It is important that we be notified not by dining services employees when you walk into Lobby Shop, and that is how some members of Student Government were notified."
Sen. Jones-Darling said that while they are happy with the end result there needs to be more transparency, which is what students are asking for out of their administration at EMU.
"Students have continually asked that we be notified, or our leaders be notified on things like this and we did not get that," said Sen. Jones-Darling. "We got being told by, instead of administrators, low-level dining employees. That simply is not what students have asked for and we're here to represent the students."
Leigh Greden, advisor to the EMU president, said that dining services sent out an online survey in March asking EMU students about the current dining services, but they had not come to a decision on privatization yet. Students were intentionally not notified until the end of the academic school year.
"Our job when we're running a $10 million plus operation is to deliver you good quality food that is at a reasonable price based on what it is that you're choosing, at an hour you want, at venues and locations that you want," said Greden. "That's our job, that's what we strive to do, and that's why the student survey was sent. That's why the results of the student survey are also still driving the decisions that we make today."
Greden noted that it had been "a messy three months" because everyone involved in construction and assembly scrambled to make the dining changes before the Sept. 1 deadline. Greden said, "We would have preferred to start this three months earlier, because it would have made it a lot easier for us to deal with it, but we decided to work our butts off in a short time period to make sure you would get fed on the front end and that you get fed on the back end."
The administration did not notify student employees about changes in dining services during the school year according to Greden. Student Body President Tanasia Morton also clarified that Student Body Vice-President Joshua Starr and herself were notified about the shift in dining services on May 9.
The resolution itself pertained to a lack of transparency from the administration and was authored by Sen. Jones-Darling. Resolution 103-104 was tabled at Summer Summit in Aug. Changes made since the resolution was tabled include the addition of events that led up to the decision to privatize EMU’s dining and emphasizing that students felt they should have had more advance notice. In a vote of four in favor and seven against the resolution failed to pass.
S. Res. 103-105 (re-appointment of a Regent)
In a vote of 10-1 the senate passed a resolution that recommended for Gov. Rick Snyder to reappoint Beth Fitzsimmons to the Office of EMU Regents from Jan. 2017 to Dec. 2024.
S. Res. 103-06 (appointment of a Regent)
The next resolution was a recommendation for Gov. Snyder to appoint David E. Rutledge to the Office of EMU Regents from Jan. 2017 to Dec. 2024 because of his dedication to the EMU community and his experience as state representative of the 54th District. The resolution was approved by the senate in a vote of 10-0.
S. Res. 103-07 (approval of funds)
In a vote of 10-0, $3,000 in scholarships will be pulled from the Student Government budget reserves to be donated to the McNair scholars program at EMU. The funding was supposed to be pulled last year but the form submitted by Student Government was never processed by the administration or accounting, causing it to turn into this year's reserves.
S. Res. 103-08 (approval of funds)
In a vote of 10-0, $6,000 from the Student Government budget reserves will pay for Halle Library's hours to be extended for another two hours every week between Sunday and Wednesday. Halle Library is not open 24/7 this academic year and Sen. Jones-Darling brought up students being negatively affected by the reduction of library hours.
"I have had 20 students tell me that they do not own computers because they are too expensive," said Sen. Jones-Darling. "They live on campus and they went to the library to get their homework done and their grades are being negatively impacted by this."
Sen. Raymond Garcia also expressed concerns that library employees weren't getting enough hours and professors teaching night classes didn't have adequate access to resources at the library.
The $6,000 will provide funding for two semesters and pays only for student employees to work, not the utility costs or the building operations.
The LGBT Collaborative Council was awarded delegacy by the senate in a vote of 9-0. Sen. Jones-Darling spoke on the behalf of the LGBTCC, "We are number one in the state of Michigan for LGBT students. We don't get there easily; that is a process, and we have been going through that process for 70 years now."
The Black Student Union was also awarded delegacy by the senate in a vote of 9-0. BSU President Jaren Johnson said, "One of our goals this year is to bring unity to the campus community."
The Residence Housing Assocation's delegate application was tabled in a vote of 5-4 until the Oct. 4 senate meeting.
Student Health & Safety Vice-Chair Nomination
Sen. Jones-Darling was unanimously nominated by the senate as the Student Health & Safety Vice-Chair. The goal of the commission on Student Health & Safety is to find solutions to health and safety concerns on campus.
Provisional Senator Nominations
In a vote of 8-0 Destinee Leapheart was nominated to hold a seat in the Student Government senate. As a senator Leapheart wants to reach out to organizations and communities that go unrecognized, to make sure to promote mental health awareness for students and to support females who are going into male-dominated fields. Sen. Leapheart said in her address, "I would love to become part of something bigger than myself. I love the idea of giving back to the community that has already given me so much."
In a vote of 8-0 Austin Delsevic was also nominated to hold a seat in the senate. Sen. Delsevic requested to join the political action committee because of his political involvement inside and outside of EMU. "I would like to focus on making Eastern Michigan a more student-friendly place," said Sen. Delsevic.
When asked to clarify what he meant by making the university a more "student-friendly place" Sen. Delsevic noted dining services to be a big issue on campus and in order to make EMU a place that students want to go to improvements need to be made in that area.
Sen. Delsevic said, "I think it's great for educational purposes, I love the school I go to, and it has a great learning environment but we also have to consider that this is the place that people work, eat, sleep and I think that needs some work."
Special Order Speeches
Sen. Jaren Johnson spoke on behalf of the BSU and opened with a joint statement that urged students, faculty and staff to stand together and speak out against injustices like the campus racial graffiti incident. The statement said, in part,
"In distressing times such as this, it is imperative that the student body, faculty, staff, and administration coalesce together in a show of solidarity. Despite the strife we may encounter, we will remain resilient and overcome vitriolic acts of prejudice. The utilization of fear-inducing mechanisms such as those displayed today will not deter the members of the Black Student Union from exhibiting our pride in the mission values and overarching purpose of our organization to bring about unity to the entire campus."
Sen. Jones-Darling followed the sentiments of Sen. Johnson in that students, faculty and staff need to be there for one another in times of need. "This was not only an attack on those who were specifically noted in the message, but it was an attack on those multiple other identities," said Sen. Jones-Darling. "It was an attack on all of us as a university, as a community, and as this began to spread not only throughout the campus, throughout the community, throughout the state, but also through the nation." Sen. Jones-Darling ended his speech by thanking the university as a whole and the administration for everything it was doing in actions pertaining to the graffiti incident.
Sen. Starr spoke last, "Acts like these are meant to divide people, populations, the university community, but where there is divisiveness there is always unity and we will see unity on campus after this incident and we will see long after the day ends."
Mary Larkin, Program Coordinator for the LGBTQ Resource Center, engaged senators and the audience in discussion regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Larkin began the discussion with the preferred pronoun initiative.
EMU students may choose to identify themselves in the university's information systems with a preferred name and/or request an identifying pronoun. Larkin said, "What this does is allows students to be referred to as the name that they want to be referred to as."
According to Larkin, last year when the LGBTQ Resource Center performed demographics on all new student orientation assistants (NSOA's) and resident assistants (RA's), 18.1 percent identified as something other than heterosexual or cisgender. Cisgender refers to when a person's gender identity conforms to their biological sex at birth. Over 100 students opted into the preferred name initiative within the first week and a half.
Larkin said, "We can't have these conversations unless we're willing to be messy." As discussion continued the topic shifted to sexual orientation and gender.
Gender identities are more than just binary, or a system in which gender is classified as two distinct, opposite and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine. Sexual orientation was also touched upon with there being three main components: attraction, behavior and identity.
Toward the end of the discussion Larkin said, "Your thought process on gay marriage or trans folks in bathrooms matters less to me in your ability to have conversations with students and to ensure that they feel comfortable, safe and supported on this campus at all times."
Campus Consultant Wes McCormack gave a brief overview about how Student Government can benefit from using Org Sync, an online club management tool coordinated through the university. Through Org Sync administrators can communicate with members via email, text messaging, discussion boards and news posts. Org Sync can also be used to store materials such as files, documents and photos. Events can be advertised through Org Sync, attendance can be tracked and Org Sync can keep track of surveys, ballots and membership applications. McCormick said, "Basically every single thing that an organization needs to do to run the business of an organization will all be done through their organization portal."
Student Government Spending
The spending in Student Government so far in this academic year is reported as:
- Washi Con conference granted $1,735 (a free anime and fandom convention at EMU)
- Five allocations for the Persian Student Association for $830
- Five allocations for International Student Association for $3,611
- One allocation for Psi Sigma Phi for $562
- The remaining budget for student organizations is $49,678 and a total of $7,321 was spent so far.