SGA talks senior housing and senatorial conduct, approves two campus organizations

The Student Government Association met on Feb. 19 to discuss campus housing for next year’s seniors and further issues regarding senatorial conduct as well as SGA bylaws. SGA also approved two new campus organizations and a special funding request.

During Gallery Reports, Sen. Kaylen Long asked the Residence Life representative about an email that third-year students received which implied to many that there would not be spaces for them to reside on campus next year.

Area Coordinator for Adams-Winship, Garden Apartments and Greek Village Franz Salomon said that the University requires students to live on campus for three years and cannot guarantee housing for those who have completed this requirement.

“There are sometimes opportunities for 4th years to reside on campus, but with larger classes – just an increase in students coming to the university – some space is kind of tight,” he said.

Sen. Long asked whether seniors will be able to live at the Lofts.

“I can’t speak for the Lofts,” Salomon said. “I don’t know what their capacity is, what they can do.”

Sen. Clark Myers said that next year’s seniors will only be allowed to live in the Lofts if they currently reside there as third-years. However, any rising senior who is an initiated member of a Greek organization can live in their chapter’s on-campus housing next year.

Sophomore Class President Adam Penland asked if the University had considered reducing the three-year housing requirement. Salomon said he had not been involved in any conversations about this issue.

Sen. Penland also asked if there are plans to expand housing on campus to accommodate the growth.

Associate Dean of Students Douglas Pearson said that the administration is considering building a sixth phase of the Lofts and “at some point, we’ll probably be looking at upgrading some of the buildings on campus as well.”

Freshman Class President Joseph Muldrew motioned to discuss senatorial conduct and made a presentation in response to a discussion on the same topic during the previous SGA meeting.

The Feb. 12 discussion began in response to Sen. Muldrew’s opinion article in the Cluster about controversial lawyer Jay Sekulow, who spoke at Founders’ Day. In the op-ed, Sen. Muldrew expressed that he felt bullied and intimidated by several members of SGA, including President Olivia Buckner.

“I wholeheartedly forgive Pres. Buckner and Sen. Myers for their bullying,” Sen. Muldrew said in his opening statement. “Under stressful situations, we often unleash the worst in ourselves.”

In his speech, he maintained that no SGA laws exist that restrict class presidents’ usage of the Listservs in response to criticisms he received last week about using the tool to send his op-ed to the entire freshman class.

“Although many senators prefaced their remarks by purporting support for the freedom of speech, their authoritarian and tyrannical remarks that followed highlight their hypocrisy,” he said of last week’s discussion, in which it was suggested that a committee be formed to review presidents’ messages before allowing them to be sent through the Listserv.

He also responded to remarks made last Senate about his representation of the freshman class.

“By speaking through a digital medium, I represented students’ interests frankly and candidly, as many, if not most, members of the freshman class were against Pres. Buckner’s selection,” he said.

Muldrew also commented on Sen. Myers previous concerns about his behavior and the nature of his op-ed.

“Senator Myers resorted to insulting my integrity while leaving behind all the facts,” Sen. Muldrew said. “How would he treat a victim of bullying, sexual abuse, or rape if his friend was the accused. If his treatment of me serves as any indicator, he would blindly defend his friend.”

Sen. Muldrew reiterated his opinion that the decision to invite controversial lawyer Jay Sekulow to speak at this year’s Founders’ Day event was made by Pres. Olivia Buckner alone.

He closed by saying, “Pres. Buckner and Sen. Myers, do not mistakenly interpret my forgiveness as tolerance for your actions. I will never tolerate your intimidation of anyone else in this body or any member of our community. Your hateful disrespect for who I am violates basic human decency. I will oppose your hate at any juncture, as it has no place in our community of respect.”

The full speech can be found in the meeting minutes.

Sen. Myers responded to Sen. Muldrew.

“You have gone ad hominem and attacked my character,” he said. “That is unacceptable and unprofessional. You told President Buckner that the article was about Jay Sekulow and his embezzling, not about attacking her and her opinions and beliefs.”

Heritage Life Chair Ashila Jiwani explained to Sen. Muldrew once again how the speaker is chosen.

“Olivia and Oge met with President Underwood, and then they came back to me. Then I sent the list back and it went back and forth,” she said. “We never had a conversation about it, so I never got to explain to you how this works.”

Freshman Senator Genesis Cooper addressed Sen. Muldrew. She said that she did not believe he had spoken to Pres. Buckner about her opinions regarding Sekulow and therefore should not have assumed her stance or expected a particular action from her.

She also expressed frustration about his opinion that the decision was solely Pres. Buckner’s.

“If somebody’s continuously telling you that’s not how it happened, why do you still believe that it happened like that?” Sen. Cooper said.

Sen. Penland asked for ideas about new legislation regarding senatorial conduct and Founders’ Day.

“I would like to actually bring up some legislation that someone could actually look at,” he said, such as “going to President Underwood about maybe having a vote on who the Founders’ Day speaker should be.”

Sen. Penland also suggested drafting legislation regarding the use of the Listserv and said that as a class president, he had not been told exactly what usage was proper or improper.

Sen. Alexandra Kirschbaum, Sen. Moody, and Freshman Senator Ronald Alvarez all spoke about ending the discussion and focusing on student needs.

“Our job on SGA is to advocate for student needs and concerns, to vote on legislation and to serve as a liaison between administration and the student body, and this whole discussion for the past two weeks has been embarrassing, it’s ridiculous and it’s immature,” Sen. Kirschbaum said.

Aside from senatorial conduct, two new organizations and one special funding request were approved.

Up To Us, a local chapter of a national organization, is a bipartisan effort to educate the community on the national debt and fiscal policy. They have several activities planned including awareness events, budgeting workshops, guest speakers and efforts to advance relevant legislation.

The Mercer Neuroscience Organization was also approved with the mission of providing resources to mentor Neuroscience majors at Mercer and to fundraise and volunteer to connect the community to issues surrounding neurological disorders.

Penland also motioned to approve a special funding request from Delta Sigma Pi, the co-ed business fraternity, to pay for guest speakers.

The fraternity has planned a diversity panel with representatives from Geico’s Macon branch, a teacher panel to discuss the new tax bill and a student entrepreneur panel to provide advice for students who aspire to start businesses of their own.

Delta Sigma Pi will also host an agricultural economic lecture, an artificial intelligence lecture and a benefit concert in conjunction with the Mercer Bearitones supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Many senators announced events that will occur in the coming weeks.

The men’s basketball game versus Western Carolina will take place in Hawkins Arena Wednesday at 7 p.m. Because it is Men’s Senior Night, free Mercer tank tops will be distributed and a $200 gift card will be awarded to the student who makes the most creative poster.

Sen. Myers announced Shine A Light on Slavery Day, a sex-trafficking awareness demonstration which will occur Thursday. Myers said that this initiative is through In It to End It, a coalition of abolitionists, and that Atlanta is the third-biggest hub for sex trafficking. He said that students can participate by wearing a red X on their hand and posting about it on social media.

Zeta Phi Beta will be selling plates of soul food in the Connell Student Center for $7 on Feb. 24 to raise money for the March of Dimes.

The National Pan-Hellenic Conference’s “Black to the Future” will take place on Feb. 25. The sororities will show movie clips that demonstrate the struggle of Black people in America’s past and future. The event will be open to the public in Stetson 251.

Chi Omega will be hosting a percentage night at Sauced in Mercer Village on Feb. 27 to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

This year’s SGA Social will take place in CSC 2 on Feb 28 at 6 p.m. The event is for any students interested in running for a position in SGA next year and will entail both information for them as well as time for students to ask any questions of current SGA members.