The MTSU Student Government Association Freshman Council has proposed a change to the SGA constitution in order to provide voting rights to an elected president and delegate from the Council.
Currently, only sophomores through graduate students at MTSU can be part of the SGA Senate and can vote on legislation in weekly meetings.
The Freshman Council can write their own bills and resolutions, but when they are passed in the Council, they also have to be passed in senate meetings.
Members of the current Freshman Council have recently created a petition to allow all students at MTSU to voice their opinion on whether the Council should receive voting rights.
However, this is not the first time the issue has presented itself in SGA meetings and legislation.
Previous members of the Freshman Council have attempted to receive voting rights by creating bills that were voted on by SGA representatives.
“When Monica was Freshman Council President three semesters ago, it didn’t pass,” said Nathan Watkins, the Freshman Council President and a political science major. “We sent it again when I came into office this fall semester. It didn’t pass. We put it up again this spring semester because we thought that the Freshman deserve representation within the senate better than what they already have. It didn’t pass again.”
All three times, the bill was voted down. Therefore, Watkins explained why the petition was the best way to keep the Senate and the rest of SGA in check.
“The reason we did this petition is because in Article X of the SGA constitution, it says that when you get 500 signatures, you can bypass the senate, and you can bypass the president. And you can go straight to a referendum vote,” Watkins said. “The main reason we are doing this is to put two freshmen into the senate. Really, it’s just to represent us better.”
The recent petition did receive 500 signatures, meaning that a student referendum will take place. From Monday, March 20 at 10:00 a.m. until Thursday, March 23 at 11:45 p.m., all current students can vote on SGA Bill 1-17-S, which would allow an elected president and delegate from the Freshman council to have voting rights. Students will receive voting instructions prior to the voting via email.
Members of the SGA Senate and the Freshman Council stated their opinions on why it is important that the Council receives voting rights and how they can better represent their class as a whole.
“The Freshman Council, when it was first set up, was just kind of a training ground for becoming a senator and now, as it’s become more rigorous to become a freshman council member- this year you had to have above a 3.5 to even be considered because we had over 100 applications. It’s a more intellectual group … And they don’t have a voice. They can’t vote in any meeting,” said Monica Haun, a sophomore senator-at-large majoring in political science and public relations.
“Freshman are able to connect more with fellow freshman. (The bill) allows them to have more of a connection and to feel that they have a voice because we represent the whole freshman class. I could go to any freshman and ask, ‘Who’s your senator?’ And they probably wouldn’t know, but there is a good chance they know one of their forty freshman councilors,” said Kobe Hermann, a freshman council member and business management major.
SGA members also explained the reason that some in the organization do not approve of the Freshman Council receiving voting rights.
“The main reason that some of the senators don’t see us as qualified to hold two seats within the senate is because we’re young. I hate that excuse. I do not think that’s a good excuse at all. Because someone’s young, it generally means that they have a drive or a want to get into an organization of this caliber,” Watkins said.
Bay Dedicatoria, a freshman council member majoring in international relations said, “We were all interviewed by the executive board. If the senators trust their executive board enough, I feel that’s a justified reason why we are qualified to be in the Freshman Council and to hold two seats.”
“It’s not fair to us to say that we don’t have any type of experience or that we are not qualified. If you were to look back at our resumes, it clearly states we are qualified. It’s just not right to base everything off of our age,” said Kathryn Thomas, a Freshman Council member and a political science major.
Watkins described a separate piece of legislation in the works that would make it more difficult to be a part of the Freshman Council and to hold a leadership position.
“We did this as a response to the second time this was shot down … So, what we decided to do was make it harder to become president, vice president, secretary, delegate and even up to the three chairman positions just to show that we are willing to compromise. We are willing to make sure that the person who goes to the senate to vote on our behalf is qualified to do so,” Watkins said.
“They said that we were not prepared enough, and we said that we would go through the same training. We’ll do all the things that you do to prepare. We’ll be doing the same exact things, so we’ll be just as qualified as the senators,” Hermann said.
Members of the SGA that opposed the previous Freshman Council voting rights bills were contacted by Sidelines, but they did not respond for comment.
“Sometimes age doesn’t always define maturity. I feel like even though we do not have as much experience as they do, I feel like we do have our own opinions and you’ll find that some of our opinions are actually a lot alike,” Thomas said.
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