By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer, Video by Grace Smith | Broadcast Reporter
The Baylor Student Senate rejected a restructuring bill Thursday night that would have fundamentally changed the makeup of the body.
The bill focused on refining the allotment of seats in the Senate. The Senate would have increased its number of seats from 52 to 58 and added more reserved seats for representation of different groups on campus, including ethnic minorities and members of different academic programs or majors.
Some seats would remain elected by the student body at large. While the bill garnered a slim majority of votes, a three-fourths majority was needed to pass.
The bill was authored by San Antonio senior Sloane Simpson and College Station senior Brooke Beard. Simpson, the student body president, said the bill’s intent was to increase participation among the student body’s various groups and bring attention to issues which often go unrecognized.
“We really want to have more of a diverse and representative governing body, so those three populations [African American, Latinx and Asian] [expand] to a lot of different groups that we believe should be absolutely valued and encouraged and welcomed to join student government,” Simpson said.
Sioux Falls, S.D. freshman senator Isaac Burchill, said the motion was a “really hard bill to vote on.”
Burchill eventually voted no and said he agreed the Senate needed more diverse representation, but thought the intricate quota structure was the wrong way to make it happen. Instead, Burchill said he focuses on expanding his own knowledge of the people and cultures at Baylor so he can effectively represent everyone.
“The important thing for me was I wanted to be able to represent someone that doesn’t look like me, that’s not in the same classification academically, ethnically, racial, anything,” Burchill said. “It’s my job in student government to represent everyone in anything, even if it’s not me. I just want to stress the importance [that] all classifications need to be represented and there’s a certain way to do it” Burchill said.
McAllen freshman and student senator Raul Maldonado said the bill’s defeat “broke his heart” and that he believes the Student Senate needs to make changes to become more diverse “now rather than later.” Maldonado said the addition of reserved seats for members of different academic programs would open up more ways to elect senators of different backgrounds.
“If we just had student populations, imagine people coming up to you like ‘you only got the seat because you’re Latino,’” Maldonado said. “Having both college programs and student populations makes a difference in saying that you can’t point fingers. It makes it equal for everyone.”
While the restructuring bill failed, two other bills passed in the Student Senate. One made the Student Senate’s Diversity Inclusion Committee a standing or permanent committee. The other bill, a nondiscrimination amendment, formally prohibited discrimination against student government members based on sex, race and a number of other factors. While largely symbolic Beard, the student body internal vice president, saw its unanimous approval as a win after the restructuring bill’s protracted debate.
“At the very least, we just started a conversation that I know has only just started,” Beard said.