Students will vote on three referendums during the Student Association election next month.
The SA Senate approved three bills Monday that will allow students to decide whether they support changing the Colonials nickname, whether the SA should add a nondiscrimination clause to its bylaws and whether the SA should rename and expand the vice president for community affairs position.
One of the referendums, which passed 26-2-3, will ask students whether they support replacing the Colonials nickname, an issue students have raised to administrators multiple times over the past year. More than 500 students signed a petition last spring urging officials to select a less “offensive” nickname, like the hippo.
SA Sen. Amy Martin, ESIA-U and a sponsor of the bill, said students have repeatedly voiced concerns that they do not feel represented by the Colonials nickname. The referendum would quantify the sentiment, she said.
“Just general student conversation around this issue shows that not all students feel represented,” Martin said. “I don’t really think that’s a debatable fact at this point.”
The senate also passed a bill allowing students to vote on whether the SA should add a nondiscrimination policy to its constitution. The policy would mandate that SA members are not denied positions on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation.
The SA is currently the only student organization that does not have a nondiscrimination policy in its constitution after the University required student groups to include similar language in their governing documents last March.
Students will also vote on whether the SA should replace the vice president for community affairs with a vice president for government relations. The person who takes on the new role would be required to regularly attend local government meetings.
Jillian Wolons, the SA’s vice president for community affairs, said the position would expand her current role to include oversight on local governing bodies like the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and Foggy Bottom Association.
“Right now, a lot of times people think of just community service and volunteering, and I think it’s a lot more than that, and there’s a lot we do in the government aspect of it, and it can truly be expanded,” she said.
But the senate also rejected a proposed referendum that would ask students whether all senators should gain voting rights once they are elected or appointed. Students voted in favor of a referendum last spring granting freshman and first-year graduate senators voting rights after they spend one semester in the senate, and senators clarified their appointment process last semester.
Sen. AJ Link, Law-G and the sponsor of the measure, said the referendum would have required an additional election for freshman senators in the fall. A senator would represent each class instead of undergraduates as a whole, he said.
“This basically would reapportion seats a little bit to make them a little bit more represented, but it would also allow all senators to vote as soon as they’re on the senate,” Link said.
Gabby Pino and Nia Lartey contributed reporting.