Less than half of Student Government Association resolutions result in action

Student Government Association meeting on November 30.
Student Government Association meeting on November 30.

In 2013, the Student Government Association passed a resolution for the Office of Student Disability Services to gain more funding, space and staff.

Susie Rood served as the American with Disabilities Act coordinator and director for the Office of Student Disabilities Services at CMU from 2007 through 2014.

Rood said she often felt overwhelmed with the amount of students with disabilities compared to the number of staff. She said CMU could and should do more to aid students with disabilities. However, the resolution hasn’t resulted in getting more resources to the Office of Student Disabilities Services.

Over the course of the semester, Insider has taken a close look at the resolutions passed by CMU’s Student Government Association throughout the past three years. Additionally, we have examined the university administration’s response and willingness to work with student leaders in translating desired changes into legitimate CMU policy.

Out of 19 SGA resolutions passed between 2012 and 2015, seven resulted in action from the university. Of the 19 examined, four were bylaw amendments to various SGA articles. Less than half of SGA resolutions were addressed by the university administration.

Getting SGA resolutions passed

There are three types of legislation which can be passed by SGA: spending bills, amendments to the bylaws of the organization and resolutions.

As stated in article VIII of the official SGA bylaws, ratified on April 5, 2013:  “A spending bill serves to amend the SGA budget after it has been adopted. A two-thirds vote shall be required for the House or Senate to adopt a spending bill.”

 

Chuck Mahone, student government association president.
Chuck Mahone, student government association president.

“A resolution effectively states that the student body of Central Michigan University feels this way on this issue whatever it may be,” said second-term SGA President Chuck Mahone.

Mahone said an amendment to the bylaws could mean anything, even something as simple as a word alteration.

Any CMU student has the ability to approach SGA with a need or desire. SGA can then discuss the issue and if enough support is garnered, a resolution is written and logged.

“The resolutions provide our SGA administration with a road map to what we should be tackling and then we tackle that,” he said.

Mahone said he then takes that piece of legislation to the appropriate administrators and starts a conversation with them. The conversation varies significantly depending on the specific issue being raised.

Infographic (11)

The Resolutions

Some resolutions the university responded to resulted in the actual implementation of a policy. These include: an increase in course offerings with an academic service learning component and including a service learning designator for applicable courses on transcripts, honoring veterans with a cord during graduation signifying their commitment, and an increase in the University Center’s hours of operation.

A resolution also created the SGA pro bono legal clinic, which provides students with general information. The Legal Clinic is not soliciting clients or forming attorney-client relationships by conducting short meetings with students, but only provides general information about the law and potential remedies or courses of action that a student may take. It is free of charge to students.

SGA resolutions resulted in a Campus Programming Fund increase to $150,000. CPF is a large pool of money used by programs such as the volunteer center and programming board. Originally, SGA asked to increase CPF by more than a million dollars.

“That’s something the last two presidents have worked on. I spent a lot of my first term working on it and coming into this year. Speaking with the vice president, we were able to get everything of that increase,” Mahone said.

While some resolutions do get implemented, other seem to never get off the ground.

Sexual Assault Resolution 

A topic of debate on CMU’s campus and on campuses across the country has been sexual assaults and the way universities have responded to them. Many argue the level of transparency exhibited has been insufficient.

Earlier this year, Insider dived into how CMU has kept the scope of sexual assault complaints in the dark. In the fall of 2014, an effort was made to alter the Student Code of Conduct to make permanent dismissal the minimum punishment for students found responsible for sexual assault.

Mahone said multiple drafts of such a proposed resolution were tried and failed before one passed by a very narrow margin.

“It’s all the Title IX issues, Office of Civil Rights and so forth and the Department of Education,” Tony Voisin, associate vice president of Student Affairs said.

Title IX has been used by the Department of Education since 2011 as a way to force universities to address sexual assault complaints.

He said it has calmed down nationally a little bit.

“There was a flurry of legislation being passed in Washington that every month it was rewriting what the previous month had said. Colleges and universities were chasing their tails to comply with the ever-changing regulations,” he said.

Voisin said rather than being more transparent, he thinks the university should be more responsive to this issue. He said that he didn’t think you could be more transparent with this issue, citing the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

“We’re not going to tell how many people we’ve expelled. There aren’t many of these cases sometimes that come through,’ Voisin said. “That doesn’t mean we haven’t expelled people for sexual assault. I can tell you that over my 30-year career, people have been expelled for sexual assault. I’m not going to say who they are or how many there are.”

However, universities such as Michigan State University and University of Michigan have released reports that shows broad data sexual misconduct including how many people were expelled for sexual assault. Insider has also received that information on how many students have been expelled from other universities through the Freedom of Information Act.

CMU students protest sexual assault policies on Oct. 28 2014. Left, Kai Niezgoda, center Hannah Mollett, right Marie Reimers.
CMU students protest sexual assault policies on Oct. 28 2014. Left, Kai Niezgoda, center Hannah Mollett, right Marie Reimers.

The new CMU sexual misconduct policy makes the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity responsible for investigation, the process of charging a student, finding a violation and the appeal phase. The Office of Student Conduct still handles the sanctioning phase.

Take Back the Tap

Halting the sale of bottled water at Central Michigan University has been a goal of many students. Lisa Conine is the president of Take Back the Tap at CMU and has been an active member of the group since the spring of 2013.

In 2012, an SGA resolution was passed to gradually phase out the sale of bottled water on campus.

“I would say it hasn’t gone much further than getting that passed and raising awareness in SGA,” Conine said.

Conine addressed the frustrations and stonewalling when her and the organization have faced over the past couple of years when addressing this particular matter with university officials.

“When we bring the legislation to administrators they don’t really see it as motivation to eliminate the sale or to change anything in their business,” she said. “The only student support they care about is if profits drop.”

“I wouldn’t say that they’re welcoming it with open arms and super encouraged to make any change,” she said.

Conine said university officials have responded with some “very condescending” remarks. TBTT has been told this is something they need to “learn and that (understand) this is how the university operates.”

Conine said the commitment to TBTT ranges between 50 and 100 members, but she said campus-wide, thousands of student signatures have been gathered over the years in support of the effort to eliminate the sale of bottled water on campus.

“Those don’t really mean anything to administration,” she said. “I would say one of the biggest things I have learned from all of this is from the outside, it seems like the administration represent the students, but then as soon as you look into the power structure and how things are set up, they’re definitely there to serve a different purpose and to benefit a different group of people than the students.”

A sign Take Back the Tap placed on campus in the Fall of 2015.
A sign Take Back the Tap placed on campus in the Fall of 2015.

In late January of 2008, then CMU President Michael Rao instituted a Campus Sustainability Advisory Committee. This committee was tasked with developing a sustainability program for the university with the leadership of the committee assigned to the Vice President for Finance and Administrative Services, David Burdette.

Every second of every day, 1,000 people open a plastic bottle of water in the United States, according to Peter Gleick in his book, “Bottled and Sold” in 2010. Since then, commercial water consumption in the U.S. has increased by nearly 20 percent.

CMU Responds

 

Tony Voisin , vice president of student affairs.
Tony Voisin , vice president of student affairs.

Voisin said some of these resolutions have been discussed for years.

“Take Back the Tap is not a new effort or a new organization nor is the desire to remove water bottles from vending machines or from any event on campus a new idea,” he said.

One of the many resolutions with little direct action by the university, passed in 2013 and supported by CMU’s Diversity Committee and Transcend, supported the creation of a women and gender center on campus.

Voisin said this issue has also been around for a number of years and multiple proposals have been brought forth to CMU administration.

“I don’t think anyone’s in disagreement with the notion of trying to develop support services for women,” he said.

Several issues in some of the past proposals were funding, staff salaries and allocation of current space.

Marie Reimers, Mahone’s predecessor, was against the initial proposal and Voisin said she had her own thoughts and ideas about how it should have been laid out. Reimers has not commented to Insider‘s request for comments.

Voisin spoke about the resolution regarding Student Disabilities Services.

“I have not heard that things are out of control there,” Voisin said. “Now does that mean that down the future we won’t add more staff there? I think that’s probably very, very likely as the number of students who are needing those services and that wants those services continues to grow.”

Steven Johnson, vice president of enrollment and student services and whose department oversees the Office of Student Disabilities Services, did not return Insider‘s calls or emails for comment.

Arielle Hines contributed to this article 


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