SGA senators passed several resolutions at their last meeting of the year Wednesday evening, including one resolution to recommend the use of gender-inclusive pronouns on residence life materials at McConnell Hall like name tags, despite alleged pushback from some TAMS staff.
The resolution, co-sponsored by TAMS senator Reese Neal in response to constituent concerns, recommends the adoption of pronoun identifiers on McConnell Hall staff materials and the distribution of educational materials from UNT’s office of equity and diversity to McConnell Hall faculty by the start of the Spring 2020 semester. McConnell Hall is the only dorm at UNT to not include gender pronouns on employee name plates or other identifying materials.
Neal’s resolution also calls for diversity and inclusivity training for all TAMS faculty and staff, provided by the UNT Pride Alliance. Five TAMS students co-signed the resolution along with Honors College Senator Angie Whistler.
“The students that I listed actually already had approached TAMS administration about this, and there had been concerned RAs in McConnell Hall who had approached TAMS administration about this,” Neal said. “They have all been turned away or denied, or the administration has beat around the bush in providing these materials to McConnell hall administration, as per their request.”
The Office of Student Life encouraged Neal to avoid submitting the legislation to SGA and offered compromises, he said, though the senator did not reach out to them about the resolution beforehand.
“I decided to write this resolution regardless and submit it to senate because the compromises that the administration was suggesting was subtracting from the substance we had in this resolution,” Neal said.
TAMS student Shaurya Kumar, one of Neal’s constituents who brought forward the initial complaint, told the senate that TAMS administrator Ben Warren repeatedly called gender nonconformity a “fad” and shot down student requests for displayed pronouns.
Groups of RAs and a TAMS student organization called the Sexuality and Gender Alliance approached Warren, the TAMS assistant director of student life, about recognizing gender inclusive practices but were met with dismissal, Kumar explained.
“There’s clearly a need to make amends and changes at TAMS.” Kumar said.
Other Senate actions:
Two other resolutions passed the Senate Wednesday evening, one establishing protocols for maintaining the SGA website, and the other calling for additions to syllabi.
The Public Information Accessibility bill calls on an SGA-designated appointee or group of people to maintain information on the organization’s website. The appointees would ensure voting records, legislation, meeting minutes and major decisions appear on the website within five days of taking effect. Budgets should be uploaded within two weeks of approval and updated bi-weekly.
Before the bill, the SGA bylaws mandated frequent online updates in the same manner but did not specify who would carry out those changes.
The Mental Health Resources in Syllabi resolution recommends the addition of contact information for five on-campus mental health provided by Student Affairs, as well as multiple crisis helplines for mental health emergencies. Faculty must approve the additions before they show up on syllabi.
Included in the resolution were contacts for the Student Health and Wellness Center, Counseling and Testing Services, the UNT CARE Team, Psychiatric Services, and individual counseling resources, most of which are free of charge to students.
Before the Senate vote, SGA intern Andrew Slimp, a co-sponsor of the resolution, opened up to senators about how his own struggles with mental health issues impacted the legislation.
“Earlier this year I had to go to the ER because of an attempted suicide,” Slimp said. “This bill is not because of me and my own trial. This is because there are other people that have the same kind of issues that I’ve had and multiple other people in this room have had, and at the time I didn’t know about some of these [resources].”
The SGA Senate will remain on hiatus until mid-January, though administrators have not yet set a date for the next meeting. SGA offices will remain open until Dec. 20 and re-open on Jan. 6.
Featured Image: SGA senators listen to a presentation from TAMS Senator Reese Neal on Nov. 20, 2019. Neal explained his resolution to reform inclusion practices at McConnell hall. Image by Carter Mize