Student Senate restructuring bill fails to pass by only two votes

Student Senate members Matt Cole, Katy Crawford, Carlie Dill and Zach Tufenkjian are the authors of a Senate Restructuring Bill that failed to achieve the number of votes required to pass. Sarah Pinkerton | Photographer

By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer

The Student Senate did not pass the Student Senate Restructuring bill which would have made certain Senate seats reserved for specific populations on campus to represent the student body better.

The vote was 34 in favor and 14 against, but 36 (or three-fourths of the chamber) needed to vote in favor were needed to pass the bill.

“Student Senate shall be comprised of fifty-two undergraduate Student Senators, composed of thirteen Student Senators based on academic colleges, ten Student Senators based on Student Activities organization categories, five Student Senators based on specific student populations, and the remaining twenty-four Student Senators representing At-Large. Student Senators shall be appointed in a manner determined within an Electoral Code ratified by two-thirds of the Student Senate and subject to veto by the Student Body President,” the Student Senate Restructuring bill said.

The Woodlands senior Matt Cole, Student Government’s internal vice president and an author of the bill, believes the current structure of the Senate doesn’t have enough diversity of thought and voices from all across campus.

“Student Government is an organization created to represent the student body,” Cole said. “This means that student government is called to know what is going on in our student body, have a finger on the pulse of the thoughts and feelings of the student body, and then communicate that to administration through instruments such as legislation, and executive initiatives. Now, what this means for us is that if student government as an organization cannot fairly and effectively listen to the student body, then we are failing our mission as an organization.”

On February 6, 2020, the Student Senate rejected a similar bill calling to restructure the Senate. Student senators have been trying to pass a restructuring bill on and off for the past 10 years.

New Braunfels junior and Legislative Secretary Tate Korpi brought up the first point against the bill during the debate and said he had many concerns. If the bill had passed, tomorrow, the student body would have to vote on whether they agreed with the restructuring of the Senate. Korpi said this was not enough time for the student body to make a decision.

There was also concern from many senators regarding the Freshman Fellows program, another part in the restructuring bill. Freshman would apply to the mentorship program and be chosen through Student Government. The internal vice president would have assigned the freshmen a mentor that was a current member of Student Government. This will allow for freshmen to learn the ins and outs of Student Government without the pressure of having an elected position.

However, they would not have been allowed to vote until Spring semester of their freshman year, and this was something many senators brought up as a negative part of the bill.

Sierra Vista, Ariz., junior Gracie Kelliher, external vice president, said in support of the bill that the Freshman Fellows Program was for Student Government training in general, not just for the Senate. It was to help them find where they fit in Student Government.

“We’re not saying that freshmen voices aren’t valuable and that they should be taken away,” Kelliher said. “We think your voices are so valuable that they should be adequately prepared to carry into your next four years at Baylor … We’re just saying that you should be so adequately prepared from the beginning by going to … all of the different Senate committee meetings so that you are fully aware of what you’re getting yourself into before having to come in blind … The intention is to increase retention for Student Government members all throughout college rather than just throwing you in.”

When the bill was rejected by two votes, Flower Mound junior Senator Katy Crawford, one of the authors of the bill and diversity and inclusion committee chair, said it was disheartening after months of hard work.

Crawford said the diversity and inclusion committee tried to reach out to all the Senators to get their feedback on the bill, to make sure everyone was involved in the conversation.

“It has for sure been a fine line of maintaining non-negotiables, that we view as the integrity of the bill in making it more diverse and inclusive, while also knowing that minute, little nuances shouldn’t be the thing that prevents progress and kills the bill,” Crawford said. “It was something where minor changes that someone would suggest in helping us to make the bill better, we welcomed. I’d actually say a good amount of senators were incredibly helpful.”

Student Body President and Boerne senior Sutton Houser said in a statement, backed by Kelliher and Cole, that the bill not passing was disappointing, but Student Government still plans to work towards getting a restructuring bill passed someday in the future.

“Student Government will continue to have discussions regarding restructuring moving forward. I, and others, believe the restructuring of the Student Senate is vital to Student Government’s future. I am proud of the diligent work of the student leaders who developed this bill, and the many senators who voted in favor of its implementation. Going forward, Student Government will continue to work on dynamic ways to amplify the diverse voices on our campus.”