SGA: Vice President of Equity and Diversity bill passes

The Student Government Association (SGA) passed the Vice President of Equity and Diversity bill 33-7-2 in front of approximately 20 campus club leaders and members at its March 2 meeting.

The bill, which is intended to create a vice president position that will encourage diversity and communication between differing campus groups, requires a two-thirds vote to pass in the referendum on April 18 and 19.

SGA rejected senator of education Thea Shoenberg’s formal amendment to change the position to an internally elected director who could hold committee meetings and report to SGA’s community relations committee.

“I’m concerned with the way this is designed,” Shoenberg said. “It’s not really going to affect everybody on campus.”

“If it is a vice president position, organizations that have a lot of pull on this campus will put forth a candidate,” Heather McCollum, senator of culture and society, said. The amendment, which needed a majority vote, failed 14-26-1. “The point is not that the groups that are the most well-represented on this campus should be voted into office.”

If the name of the position was changed, students would not vote on the bill in a referendum. SGA would appoint the director. Shoenberg said this would eliminate bias, and some members spoke up in favor of the compromise. Others said the job was too time-consuming to only be a director position.

“Even if they are focusing on certain groups, other groups on the committee will hold that person accountable,” Joanna Holgu?n, senator-at-large, communications director and one of the bill’s sponsors, said. Those in the non-voting audience who opposed the bill said that an SGA vice president would be unable to compel integration and acceptance among all groups on campus.

“I just don’t see there’s a need for this now,” Dan Beckelman, associate SGA member, said. He said SGA should be concerned with security and the budget and urged SGA members to “take a step back and see where our most important concerns are.”

Disappointed at the lack of student representation at the first meeting in which SGA debated and then tabled the bill, German exchange student and UL member Andrea Leonhardt sent an e-mail about the next meeting with an excerpt from the bill to friends and classmates. She asked them to spread the word by forwarding the message. Still, she was disappointed by how many people showed up to the meeting.

“People really should be aware that if they don’t express their interest in such a position, the ‘doubters’ of its necessity are right, because then there is obviously no interest and why should they care,” she said.

As the clock neared the 5 p.m. adjournment,senator-at-large Kevin Kelly called the bill to question.

It passed by four votes more than the necessary two-thirds majority, which would have been 29. Kelly, who at an earlier meeting said he would vote for the bill if “vice president” were changed to “director,” and Shoenberg, who suggested the amendment, both abstained.

“I feel that we still need more conversation as we move from presenting the bill from the SGA to the entire student body,” SGA president Pedro Khoury said after the meeting. He said it was good SGA believed in the job position’s values, but was disappointed the decision was not unanimous.

At the meeting, acting assistant director of Residence Assignments, Gretchen Reyes Cseplo, also fielded housing and meal plan questions.

She said students who were unable to pick meal plans via TESS or want to change their meal plans will be able choose in April when they sign their housing contracts. The Electronic Student Service (T.E.S.S.) meal plan selection is only a preliminary one, she said.

She said the “Apply for Housing” link on the T.E.S.S. Web site was not working from 8:31 a.m. Feb. 28 until 5:15 p.m. March 1 because of technological glitches, although the housing department’s previous test run had been successful.

If students have more questions, they may visit the residence assignments Web site or ask the office assistant on AOL Instant Messenger, using the screen name TCNJResAssign.

The remainder of the SGA meeting was tabled until today due to time constraints.