SGA rejects election calendar, proposes excused absences for grieving students

Article Originally Published by Brooke Colombo on North Texas Daily

The Student Government Association voted against a proposed election calendar, proposed a policy to mandate excused absences for grieving students and expanded the Strategic Planning role by approving a Research Assistant at Wednesday’s senate meeting.

SGA senators voted no to a proposed election calendar after voicing their concerns about the application process happening too soon and the election being projected to occur during Greek Week.

“For the past few years there has been a lot of infighting with people having issues with elections happening on Greek Week,” SGA President Yolian Ogbu said. “We’re trying to make sure there isn’t any clamoring of events. For us to go back to that raises some concern.”

Due to SGA’s bylaws, senators were unable to amend the election schedule before voting to accept or deny it, so they chose to vote against the schedule and propose changes to be approved in the future.

“My suggestion is just moving every event on the calendar down a week to allow more time for potential candidates to learn more about it before beginning the application process and to help the planning for campaigning and election,” senator Devon Skinner said. 

In the last SGA election, 3.6 percent of the undergraduate student body voted. Election Commissioner Louis Benitez said they are looking to increase voter turnout for this year’s election by creating a “set social media plan”.

“We’re not only going to be creating an entire social media platform … we’re going to have yard signs helping promote candidates but also going throughout all the campus and have areas for students able to see it,” Benitez said. “We’re also going to be creating a network through multiple organizations here on campus to start retweeting our things because I feel like even though we are the biggest representative organization on campus, we don’t use the fact that we represent so many different organizations on campus and use that diverse pool of community to get that word out there.” 

CLASS senator Marisela Zubia gave a briefing of a policy under consideration that would give students grieving the loss of a loved one excused absences for “no less than three days” and the ability to make up their academic work.

Currently, grieving the death of a loved one is not eligible for excused absences, but the Dean of Students office can help students document absences for verification. However, it is up to each professor’s discretion to decide whether a student can make up missed coursework.

“For students going through the hardship of loss, [an excused absence] allows them to get time to really grieve that loss,” Zubia said. “It definitely takes your mind off of school, so what we’re trying to do is give leave to students who are going through loss.”

SGA will be working with Dean of Students Maureen McGuinness to further consider the implementation of the policy

Strategic Planning Director Brightyn Patterson decided to bring on a Research Assistant to her position to aid in sorting through the information she gathered from the Student Housing Survey earlier this semester. 

“It’s been really hard and the manpower still isn’t really there,” Patterson said. “I realized once I was going through the 1,500 responses and it was all jumbled together with no rhyme or reason to it and I also realized my inability to work Excel. So [I’m] needing help with that.”

Psychology senior Claire Shelly was approved for the position because of her research experience in the university’s neuro-psychosocial lab, as a research intern for Congresswoman Kay Granger and a volunteer researcher at an eating disorder treatment center.

“I’ve been really involved in research every other semester and I wasn’t this semester so I was looking to fill that hole,” Shelly said. “I’m so excited. It’s something exciting for me to do before I move to Africa and just something to keep my mind busy.”

In addition, Ogbu also talked about how she wants mandatory sexual assault training through Green Dot for all leaders of student organizations.

“With Greek Life, they have a lot of sexual assault training, which is great, but Greek people aren’t the only people that participate in sexual misconduct,” Ogbu said. “I think just expanding that to our covenant student leaders on campus is the first start to trickling down.”

Featured Image: Senator Ryene Sanders sits front row at SGA’s meeting on Feb. 12, 2020. Image by Oscar Lopez

Source: North Texas Daily