The Student Association Senate approved eight pieces of legislation at its first meeting of the academic year Monday, including the creation of the SA Asian Pacific Islander Desi Student Caucus and the reinstatement of the Black Senators’ Caucus.
The senate passed resolutions creating guidelines for the body to publish SA statements, approving the 2020-21 SA budget and calling on officials to financially assist students with storage and textbook materials. SA President Howard Brookins presented his goals for the group’s executive committee like extending the Pass/No Pass policy for the fall semester, working with officials in the Title IX Office to update regulations and having conversations with officials to include graduate and on-campus students in the 10 percent tuition reduction for the fall semester.
“There’s been no movement on it, and they are extremely resistant to it, and I have had several conversations with administration on it,” Brookins said. “I will not let up on my advocacy even as we start school and as the bills are due – they can still re-work some of the tuition so graduate students can have that reduction.”
Senators unanimously approved a bill to create an SA Asian Pacific Islander Desi student caucus to better represent Asian students on campus. SA Sen. Gabriel Young, CCAS-U, said he is “disheartened” to say there are “only” six to eight SA senators of Asian descent, which he said is not representative of the student body population.
He said officials did not produce a statement regarding the criticism that Asian students received in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving advocacy for the Asian students up to student leaders.
“The University needs to do better and be better when supporting our Asian students,” he said. “I believe this can be the first step to many.”
Senators passed a resolution urging officials to protect international students’ personal information – like a name, address, birthdate and sex – should a third party request it. The resolution came after a Chinese student posted on the Overheard at GW Facebook page that they were informed they would be shut out of online learning if they did not provide “personal” information to the University.
Senators also passed a resolution to amend the body’s bylaws to require the SA president or the executive vice president to notify all senate members of a drafted statement on behalf of the body before releasing it to the public. The bylaws were additionally amended to state the president or executive vice president can issue a statement on behalf of themselves if signed by either party.
SA Sen. Kate Carpenter, U-at-Large, first proposed the legislation over the summer requesting the executive branch consult with SA members before publishing statements following a slew of SA posts in support of moving classes online. Brookins promised senators he would consult with the senate in the future before publishing a statement.
Senators also voted to reinstate the Black Senators’ Caucus to continue as a group for a second year in the SA. SA Sen. Tony Peeler, ESIA-U, said the Black Senators’ Caucus can serve as a space for Black student groups to ask questions about funding for establishing their organizations and said its continuation will help the caucus members serve as liaisons for Black students at GW.
“It was great last year,” he said. “We got a lot of organizations some help, and we were able to hold lots of meetings to get the Black Senators’ Caucus – the first-ever Black Senators’ Caucus – off the ground, and it was very successful. So I think continuing with it this year will be very beneficial for all students at GW.”
Senators approved a resolution calling on officials to reimburse students for shipping costs for items during the spring 2020 semester or cover the cost of holding items in storage should students not return to campus next spring. Senators also approved a resolution requesting that officials return GW-rented textbooks to students at no extra costs or pay for a textbook rental extension.
Senators also voted in favor of confirming 10 SA senators and student advisers to positions as SA Faculty Senate representatives. Brookins, the SA President, said he chose a “diverse” group of SA graduate, undergraduate, cabinet and senate advisers to serve as Faculty Senate representatives.
“On behalf of all the nominees, I have emailed them and had correspondence with them, and I have full confidence they will do fantastic in the Faculty Senate,” Brookins said.