SA Senate forms caucus for black senators, mandates more funding for The Store

Media Credit: Alexander Welling | Assistant Photo Editor

SA Sen. Brandon Hill, CCAS-U, sponsored a bill Monday to create The Black Senators’ Caucus.

The Student Association Senate passed a bill Monday creating a first-ever caucus that will push for black student representation in the SA. 

The SA Senate approved the creation of The Black Senators’ Caucus, a group of senators from at least two separate schools who will work together to encourage more black student representation in the organization, discuss issues faced by black students on campus and sponsor or co-sponsor legislation. The caucus will be dissolved by the last senate meeting of the spring semester. 

The Black Senators’ Caucus is the first caucus created by the senate in recent memory. 

“We think that black students on this campus need more direct representation in the SA, specifically by black senators in the legislative body,” said SA Sen. Brandon Hill, CCAS-U and the sponsor of the bill. 

SA Sen. Raina Hackett, CCAS-U and a co-sponsor of the bill, said the caucus is an “act of change” for the black student community. Hackett said she and other sponsors of the bill hope the caucus sets a precedent for other SA members to form their own respective caucuses.

“We believe that having more transparency in the government and creating that transparency and trust between black-identifying students and black-identifying senators will increase trust, representation and will have more people being involved in the Student Association,” Hackett said.

The senate also passed a bill mandating that the finance committee allocate more than twice as much money to the student-led food pantry than it has in past years. 

SA senators approved the Food Insecurity Amendment, which requires the finance committee to dole out at least $10,000 to The Store in the SA’s general allocations period next spring. The finance committee will prioritize funding for The Store to purchase items like fruits, meat and dairy products, the bill states. 

SA Sen. Jake Corsi, CCAS-G and the sponsor of the bill, said the finance committee has given the pantry less money in past years. SA senators approved a $3,584 allocation to The Store for both fiscal years 2019 and 2020, according to the SA’s budget books.

Student leaders – including SA members and leaders of The Store – launched a food insecurity task force last fall to discuss ways to combat food insecurity on campus. The group produced a report in April detailing nine recommendations, like opening a dining hall on the Foggy Bottom Campus, to curb the issue.

“The reason why we’re doing that is that we really didn’t have the opportunity to appropriately allocate money to food insecurity,” Corsi said. “It costs a lot of money to run The Store.”

The senate also approved SA Sen. Joshua Kim, CPS-G, as the new pro tempore and the chairman of the governance and nominations committee. André Gonzales, a former Columbian College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate senator and pro tempore, resigned from his position Sunday to chair a newly created SA task force that will research alternatives to the Colonials nickname. 

The SA Senate approved three undergraduate and four graduate voting senators, as well as three first-year undergraduate and two first-year graduate senators. Senators also voted to convert one graduate seat into a graduate-at-large position and approved a student to fill the position.

The senate also initiated censure proceedings against Corsi, CCAS-G. If approved, a censure allows the senate to reprimand a senator for their actions in a formal statement but does not automatically remove the senator from their post, according to the SA bylaws

The senate last initiated censure proceedings in April 2018 against then-SA Sen. Brady Forrest, G-at-Large and the senate pro tempore, after he was accused of anti-Semitism for two Facebook posts he wrote in 2014 calling for a boycott of a multicultural event because Jewish student organizations were involved. The senate did not reach the two-thirds majority required to censure Forrest.

Senators also approved Idil Muge Karatas, a law school student, to serve on the Student Court and tabled three pieces of legislation that will likely appear in front of the senate at the next full senate meeting in October.

Samantha Serafin contributed reporting. 

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