At their meeting last week, Student Senate discussed the non-discrimination policy proposed by Common Ground for 30 minutes before tabling the policy until the first meeting of Spring Term to explore other options to address the issue.
Senate heard comments from two groups to be given at the meeting and three groups by email. Common Ground introduced the proposed policy and gave comments calling on Senate to approve the policy to ensure the school’s money went to supporting appropriate causes. The policy would only affect campus groups affiliated with national organizations.
The Campus Diversity Committee had also been asked to comment. Speaking for them, Director of the Center for Intercultural Life Tianna Cervantez noted that the college had a non-discrimination policy in place, which is a governing policy for the school, not something implicitly linked to Senate’s funding process. The committee also wanted Senate to be sure it was addressing the root of why the school needs a non-discrimination policy and said that they planned to continue discussing the problem no matter how Senate ended up voting.
Senate emailed all of the nationally affiliated groups on campus and received comments from three of them. The Anything is Possible Education group worried that just one complaint would send the issue straight to a committee made up of two Senate diversity committee members and two Senate finance committee members along with the chairs of both committees.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship wrote asking about how the formed committee would make its decision, the standard of proof, the limitation to groups affiliated with national organizations, how many times an organization could be investigated, and if the policy would cross the line into religious discrimination.
Newman Club wrote in saying Senate should consider the actions of the club on campus, not just the positions of the national organization.
During their discussion, some senators questioned the wording of the proposal, both about its limitation to nationally affiliated groups and whether the definitions of discrimination were clear enough.
Some senators also expressed worries that the proposal may cross the line into religious discrimination or that it may not accurately account for the conduct of clubs on campus, which were themes commented on by the emails from the clubs.
Vice President and senior Irene Stephenson asked how senators would feel about including the current non-discrimination policy in Senate’s financing guidelines. Senate adviser and VP for Student Development Anne Ehrlich worried that the need to have a conversation around the policy showed that the current policy was not working.
After the speakers list expired, President and senior Sam Cohen led strawpolls that showed Senate wanted to look at other avenues for addressing the issue. They then approved a motion asking Campus Diversity Committee, Senate’s Executive Board and Ehrlich to explore other options and tabled discussion until the first meeting of next term.
Senate also approved $6,741.56 from the Senate Sustainability Fund for a new composting system to have food waste taken by a professional composter. Smash Club and Smash House were given $70 and $50 respectively for food for campus events. UNICEF had $676 approved for attending a summit in Washington, D.C.
Dining Services committee reported that they were looking at getting new vending machines on campus. The new machines will be in some new locations with new items and have 20 percent healthy snacks. Senate approved switching the machines over Spring Break.
Dining Services committee also announced they had a new feedback system for students in the Dining Services tab of the Senate website: https://tinyurl.com/knoxcollegestudentsenate.
In her Vice President’s report, Stephenson announced that exec elections for next year would be taking place soon.
The next Student Senate meeting is Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. in the Alumni Room in Old Main.