Photo by Ethan Clark / MTSU Sidelines
Middle Tennessee State University’s Student Government Association met Thursday afternoon in the Parliamentary Room of the Student Union Building and passed a whole slew of bills and resolutions, after weeks of debating and fine-tuning the legislation.
The first of the bills focused on revisions in SGA’s constitution. The legislation will place more checks on the executive board and hold it more accountable to the rest of the SGA body. One bill, sponsored by Sen. Nathan Watkins, would amend the SGA constitution to allow for an impeachment process should members of the executive board be found in violation of SGA rules.
“I hope that we never have to use this in my tenure here,” Watkins said. “But, I do think it needs to be put into the constitution in case anything is to ever happen.”
The new rules will not take effect until after the 2018 SGA elections. Less than a year ago, a scandal occurred when the SGA executive vice president dropped charges against two executive board members who were accused of campaign violations.
A second bill was passed that would expand the powers of the SGA attorney general. Sponsored by Sen. Dalton Slatton, the bill would give the attorney general greater power when investigating SGA members who are accused of violating rules. The attorney general would also act in an advisory role to the executive board when debating constitutional matters.
“I really think that we need experts (on the constitution),” Slatton said. “I feel like the attorney general will be the best person to do that because it’s more of a legal-type role.”
The attorney general bill is also a precautionary measure, but Slatton emphasized that the attorney general could serve a useful function beyond investigations in future SGA sessions.
“I think having people that know the rules and what we’re supposed to do can be very beneficial to us as a whole,” Slatton said.
A third bill, sponsored by Abbigail Thomson, was passed. The bill calls for the creation of the Tina Stewart Nonviolence Fund. Stewart was an athlete on the MTSU women’s basketball team who was killed in a domestic violence dispute by her roommate in March of 2011.
Student groups and departments can now apply for grants from the $5,000 Tina Stewart Nonviolence Fund to support efforts to educate students on nonviolence, consent and safe dating.
SGA will also help promote nonviolence awareness and awareness of the fund by producing a PSA video featuring SGA members and student athletes. The PSA video will be played at a future MTSU basketball game, and Stewart’s parents will be presented with a signed copy of the bill.
Two resolutions also passed during the meeting. One resolution called for the creation of a bus pull-off for buses driving to and from the apartment complexes that surround MTSU. This pull-off would be created near the parking lot behind the James E. Walker Library. The resolution was sponsored by Sen. Simone LeClaire.
A second resolution passed that calls for lengthening the James E. Walker Library’s hours of operation during the weeks of midterms and finals. Co-sponsored by Sens. Monica Thomas and Cody Lester, the resolution allows the SGA members to negotiate with library staff about the best way to provide students with more time to study in the library during these weeks.
Thomas also conducted a survey via SurveyMonkey to gauge student opinion about lengthening the library’s hours of operation. Thomas said that she spent over three hours surveying almost 200 students outside of the library to get the results. Of the students interviewed, 69 percent said they were in the library after midnight, and that same percentage would also prefer to have the library be open for 24 hours.
All of these bills and resolutions passed with little debate and by wide margins.
“For the most part, all the debate has already occurred,” said Monica Haun, the executive vice president and speaker of the Senate. “For those, it’s just, ‘Do we really agree with this or not?’”
As speaker of the Senate, it’s Haun’s job to keep the senators in line as they debate bills and ensure everybody follows the meeting schedule as closely as possible. This can be difficult on days such as Thursday when almost half a dozen bills and resolutions are up for discussion, according to Haun.
“(You) just keep communicating with people,” Haun said. “A lot of times people will have legislation ready, but then they’re very slow on actually editing it. So, I do make a lot of phone calls or (meet) with people in person.”
SGA meets every Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in the Parliamentary Room of the Student Union Building. Coverage of previous SGA meetings can be found here.
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