Student Government dates back a century

JA100Art FTW
This year marks 100 years Student Government has been in action. The organization was first named the Student Self-Governing Association.
Courtesy Art

By Jillian Anderson

The ayes had it.

On Oct. 8, 1914, Baylor students made it known that they were interested in governing themselves with a clear majority by a straw poll. In the same year Baylor became the Bears, students began to represent themselves as a body.

The first name for what is now Student Government, The Student Self–Governing Association, was officially recognized by the administration in January 1915.

Although the organization has undergone many changes over the years, its presence on campus has been undeniable.

On Sept. 21, 1955, the Lariat published an editorial that dealt with an issue that suggested the times certainly were changing at the university.

The editorial called for the integration of Baylor’s campus, saying if Baylor were to echo the true sentiments of Christianity, it could no loner deny entrance based solely on race. Furthermore, the editorial emphasized that if the university was to keep up with society, they would need to move quick, referencing the University of Texas’ decision to admit African-American students, beginning in the fall of 1956.

The next day, student congress unanimously passed legislation to desegregate campus under the leadership of student government’s president Charles Wise.

According to the resolution, the student government felt as though segregation did not fall within the mandates of democracy, or the ideals the university claimed to uphold.

The policy wasn’t put into place until 1963 when the admissions policy regarding race was change, but Cypress junior Omar Fierros said he believes student government was still a catalyst for change.

“Student government serves as a voice for students, and as a result, can directly influence the school’s administration,” Fierros said. Fierros serves in the cabinet of student body president Dominic Edwards as the student relations coordinator.

In addition to addressing national, social issues, student representatives have tried throughout the years to address campus issues.

In 1923, the student association had a huge disagreement with the university’s president Samuel P. Brooks.

The association wanted to let student athletes caught cheating, continue to play on their respective teams.

When a compromise could not be reached, all members of the Association turned in their resignation letters to Brooks. A decade later, the student congress was reinstated without disciplinary control over the student body.

In 1962, student government met with trustees to discuss the hazing. They voted to apply heavy penalties to those who participated in hazing and physical abuse of pledges or new members of any organization.

Dr. Harriet B. Harral, former student body secretary said student government has always been progressive in regards to the administration.

“Baylor was a place that allowed students a great deal of freedom to do things,” she said. Harral, currently serves as the principal and senior consultant of the Harral Group in Fort Worth.

Student government in its present form was instituted in 1985. A new system of government was put in place that split representative bodies into four sections–university council, staff council, faculty senate and student government.

Student Government no longer has its disciplinary function, but retains it’s representative one.

On Sept. 25, Edwards in a Student Senate meeting, reminded senators they were recipients of a long tradition of student representation.

“We are a part of a 100 year tradition,” he said to members.

His goals as student body president are to leave a lasting mark on campus through working with administrators, regents and faculty members to represent students. Edwards recalled a moment were he sat at a meeting with Judge Ken Starr and other representatives of Baylor’s community. It was the moment were it hit him that he was making a difference, that he was reaching his goals.

“It’s about enriching the quality of student life,” he said.

Katy junior Lawren Kinghorn, internal vice-president, said student government will celebrate its centennial in December, recognizing the drafting of the charter for the Student Self Governing Association in 1914. She said they will extend the celebration into January when the organization was first recognized.

The organization plans to invite former members of student government to participate in the celebration.

Harral was excited to hear about the anniversary. She said that everyone at Baylor has something to contribute to its history and are a part of it.

“So many of us are. It lives on,” she said.