Senate considers new legislation in final weeks of semester

Jamie Williams

The Student Government Association had seven pieces of legislation on the agenda during its Tuesday meeting, including one that will have implications for organizations seeking SGA funding and one for those seeking to join SGA.

The SGA also approved a resolution in response to controversy with the Major Redz dance group during the Fall football season. The group protested at the football game against Vanderbilt University on Sept. 24 by kneeling during the national anthem.

Bill 20-17-S: Statement of Non-Discrimination

Bill 20-17-S requires student organizations to reaffirm a statement of non-discrimination before receiving funding from SGA.

The bill was proposed in response to Kentucky Senate Bill 17, which would protect students’ rights to freely express religious or political opinions, allowing student groups to deny a student membership if they don’t agree with the individual’s political or religious views.

Some groups, such as the Human Rights Campaign and American Civil Liberties Union, have expressed concern that the bill could result in discrimination against marginalized groups. Since the bill is on the state level, it could take precedence over WKU’s statement of non-discrimination.

The SGA’s bill would require student organizations to reaffirm a version of this statement before they are considered for organizational aid. The SGA’s version of the statement would also include protections for students’ gender identity, which is a clause not included in WKU’s version.

“It’s very simple,” SGA President Jay Todd Richey said. “SGA is not going to subsidize discrimination.”

Senator Zach Jones disagreed with the bill and said it would hinder the free expression of different ideologies on campus.

“Tolerance is something that we all strive for on a college campus. I would say another thing we all strive for is diversity of opinion,” Jones said. “I think [the bill] hampers tolerance and diversity of opinion to a degree.”

Senator Lily Nellans, one author of the bill, clarified student organizations who discriminate in their internal affairs may still exist, but they would have to seek funding somewhere besides SGA. Nellans said providing funding for discriminatory groups goes directly against the SGA constitution.

“While SGA is supportive of a diversity of opinion, bigotry is not an opinion,” Nellans said. “SGA is not supportive of bigotry.”

The bill was ultimately passed with a 17-9-1 vote.

Resolution 3-17-S: Reserved Section for Major Redz at Football Game

This resolution supports reserving several rows of bleachers for the Major Redz during football games. The Major Redz is a student organization that incited controversy last semester after members protested by kneeling at a football game during the Star Spangled Banner. Some students surrounding the group yelled and threw things at the protesters.

Following the incident, Major Redz coach Shantel Pettway requested the team’s section be secured before each game so other students would not sit in the dance space. Instead, the dance group was moved to a different section of the stadium, supposedly for its members’ safety.

“We were created to bring diversity to this campus and give women of color a place at WKU,” Major Redz captain Jessica Jackson said. “By moving us to the visitors section, we feel like we’re visitors at our own university.”

Pettway said since the move, the team has been heckled even more and is unable to perform effectively due to the increased distance from the band.

“Looking back at the fundamental reasons that these students were moved to a different section, it’s not fair,” said Andi Dahmer, one author of the bill.

The resolution was ultimately passed with a 28-0-1 vote.

Bill 21-17-S: Changing GPA Requirements for SGA Members

This bill, which was tabled until next week’s meeting, would change the GPA minimum requirement for SGA members from a 2.5 to a 2.0. The bill aims to increase the diversity of the SGA to include students who are in good standing with the university but don’t have as high of a GPA.

The GPA requirement change has been proposed to the senate multiple times in the past, including during the Fall 2016 semester, but it has been turned down each time.

“Our organization should be recruiting people on this campus that want to do the most for this organization and more importantly for WKU,” Richey said during the SGA meeting on Oct. 25.

During the bill’s last appearance in senate, some senators echoed Richey’s sentiment that it would make the SGA more representative of the student body. Others disagreed, saying the SGA should serve as a role model to students.

“GPAs don’t show how intelligent somebody is or how good they are in school; it doesn’t reflect that at all,” Senator Kaycee Gibson said during the same meeting. “However, we are representatives. We are voted in; we are expected to be elitist; we are expected to have a certain GPA standard.”

In Fall 2016, 39 percent of students who responded to a Twitter poll about the bill were in favor of it, while 61 percent were not. The SGA will again be surveying students for their opinion on the bill before it is put to vote next week.

Two bills were also approved that will provide funding for the Miss World Fest Pageant and “Hidden Hacks of the Hill.” The Miss World Fest Pageant will promote diversity by being a pageant for international and domestic students alike. “Hidden Hacks of the Hill” is an event dedicated to familiarizing minority groups with various on-campus resources such as The Writing Center, the Counseling and Testing Center, and the WKU Food Pantry.

Two other bills that would provide funding for the WKU Makerspace and the Take Back the Night event will be voted on next week. The WKU Makerspace is a place where students of any major can design and create, using tools such as a 3D printer, power tools and building blocks. Take Back the Night is a march through downtown Bowling Green to raise awareness for sexual assault survivors.

The next SGA meeting will take place next Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. in Downing Student Union.

Reporter Jamie Williams can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].