Senate increases student group, multicultural Greek representation

Erica Snow, Reporter

Reform to increase student group and multicultural Greek organization representation passed in Associated Student Government Senate on Wednesday.

The reform, authored by SESP freshman Ben Powell and SESP junior Anna DiStefano, will give Multicultural Greek Council and National Pan-Hellenic Council two seats each, an increase from one seat each, when the new rules go into effect in Spring Quarter. Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association’s number of representatives, currently at five senators each, will decrease to three seats each.

In addition, off-campus senators will decrease from eight to five senators, and five new student group seats will be created, upping the number of student group representatives to 20 senators.

The representation reform was the second proposed this year. The previous bill, which would have given all Greek councils two senators each and increased student group representation from 15 to 21, failed to pass three weeks ago. Some senators said they were opposed to equal representation among the four councils due to higher numbers in IFC and PHA’s population.

The authors of the new bill said Wednesday’s approval is a first step to a senate reform process they hope will effect more drastic changes in representation. By attempting to adjust the balance of Greek organization representation and by increasing student group representation, the authors said they hoped Senate would attract a more diverse set of viewpoints, including those they said are traditionally marginalized.

“Our bill is basically a stepping stone of senate reform,” DiStefano, the social justice coalition senator, said. “This is creating more space of better representation of marginalized voices on campus. There are identities that aren’t represented and there are identities that are really underrepresented and we’re trying to correct that.”

The bill also added the vice president for accessibility and inclusion, the ASG president and the executive vice president to the existing Student Group Apportionment Committee. It also created a new committee of five senators to head a “campus-wide campaign” to educate students about representation.

The increase from 15 senators to 20 coincided with the announcement of the 15 student groups approved for representation for the 2016-2017 year, chosen by the SGAC. The additional five seats will be apportioned after the presidential election in spring.

College Democrats and College Republicans will each gain a seat in Senate after losing their seats this academic year. Asian Pacific American Coalition, which formerly shared a seat with three other Asian-interest groups, will gain its own seat. African Students Association will lose its seat and the shared seat between NU Active Minds and NU Listens will be lost.

The reform bill that passed Wednesday is just the beginning of reform efforts, ASG president Noah Star said. A senate reform committee, formed two weeks ago, will propose large-scale reforms in the seventh week of Spring Quarter.

However, chief of staff Simran Chadha, a Communication sophomore, said the SGAC — which apportions student group seats — received fewer applications than there were student group seats. As a result, SGAC split some of the coalitions and the shared seats to fill out the available seats.

IFC senator Nick McCombe, though, said the limited number of seat applicants raised concerns for him about passing the reform before the new reform committee has proposed its ideas.

“If we didn’t get enough people through at this point, then I think that’s problematic and a reason we should reconsider,” the McCormick junior said. “I would love for us to have this discussion in parallel with what comes out of the ad hoc committee.”

Later in the meeting, new vice presidents for A- and B-status finances were confirmed. Weinberg junior Eric Oringer will succeed Weinberg senior Mackenzie Schneider as vice president for A-status finances. The A-status finance committee funds larger student groups and manages a budget of about $1 million.

Weinberg junior Kassandra Blanchard was also confirmed to succeed Weinberg senior Kenny Mok as vice president for B-status finances, which funds smaller groups.

B-status funding was also approved, giving more than $19,000 to 71 groups. Despite more than $46,000 being requested by B-status student groups, Mok said ASG doesn’t have enough money to meet demand.

“It’s obvious that groups really need money, and it’s growing at a pace that we can’t keep up with,” Mok said. “That’s something that ASG will be addressing next quarter.”

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