The Student Bar Association Senate swore in the new senate for the next term and passed more than 10 pieces of legislation in the body’s final meeting of the academic year Tuesday.
The outgoing senate approved six pieces of legislation, recognizing appreciation for the outgoing executive and senate members, allocating funds toward GW Law student orientations and removing a communications committee from the body. After eight senators and members of the executive branch were sworn in, senators passed four pieces of legislation, like updating the SBA bylaws on senate meeting operations.
SBA Chief of Staff Ryan Kelley said outgoing SBA president Jackie Fisher served as a “great leader,” who built “prolific” relationships with students, faculty members and law school officials.
Kelley said Fisher received many emails, Instagram and Facebook direct messages, texts and tweets each week from administrators and students asking for assistance. He said Fisher “read and labored every little thing” to help her constituents.
“Jackie made time for you,” Kelley said. “No person, no question, no issue was beneath her or unworthy of her time. She was intentionally the most accessible president that this organization has had certainly in the time that I’ve been here.”
SBA President-elect Jordan Michel, a second-year law student, said he hopes to lead the SBA with the same “transparency and accountability” he expects from administrators. He said the “former groundwork” from the outgoing senate will help next year’s body continue advocating for students.
“As we continue to slowly march towards a new normal for GW Law, we must ensure that the new normal does not resemble the old,” Michel said. “I think many of us have been changed permanently by this year.”
The outgoing senate voted to allocate $10,000 of the SBA’s funds to cover “activities and expenditures” for a second-year law student orientation in the fall and establish a committee to advocate for second-year law students.
SBA Sen. Nicole Karem, a sponsor of the second-year orientation bill, said a 2L orientation would offer students an orientation that they missed this past fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Karem said an earlier draft of the bill proposed $14,000 to cover the costs of the orientation, but Fisher said she would veto that proposal because the costs were too high.
“We didn’t get an orientation, we have barely had any opportunities to meet each other, and I just don’t think that $14,000 is asking that much in the grand scheme of things,” Karem said.
Fisher said she would veto the proposal because first-year orientation typically only costs $4,000, and the entire first-year budget totals $14,000. She said she wanted to lower the costs of orientation so unspent orientation funds would go to the CARES Student Assistance Fund instead.
“I’m 100 percent supportive of this,” Fisher said. “I understand what you guys need, but even with admin not helping, this is just way too high of a number when you think about the fact that otherwise it would go to students who are in financial hardship.”
The outgoing senate also unanimously approved a bill that will transfer any unused funds from the SBA’s C-Fund, which allocates money to student organizations, to the student assistance fund by June 29 to aid low-income, first-generation or disabled students.
The senate also unanimously voted to eliminate the body’s communications committee.
SBA Sen. Jordan Jones, the chair of the committee, said the executive branch handles most of the communications operations that are outlined in the SBA bylaws. She said this leaves the committee without responsibilities to carry out, and the committee did not have “much to talk about” in its two meetings over the past year.
“I ran into a lot of walls when it came to this committee, and I found that the bylaws are very superfluous and this committee can’t function anymore,” Jones said. “So I guess it was born out of a disconnect of communication with the student body.”
Senators unanimously approved two pieces of legislation to recognize the work done by the SBA’s outgoing senate and executive branch leaders.
After the new executive branch leaders and eight new senators were sworn into the body, the new senate approved a resolution calling on law students and faculty to stop referring to non-citizens in the United States as “illegal aliens” or “illegal immigrants.”
Student Association Sen. Sebastian Weinmann, Law-G and the sponsor of the legislation, said the resolution discourages everyone in the GW and law school communities from making those references.
“This resolution is a small step toward eliminating the ‘i-word’ from the vernacular of our community,” Weinmann said. “But this effort cannot stop here or now – it is up to all of us to ensure we hold our leaders, our professors, our classmates accountable in making sure these racist and dehumanizing words are not being used in our community.”
Senators also unanimously passed a resolution approving a constitutional amendment passed during last year’s senate, updating the body’s operations with measures like adding a third-year transfer law student senator position.
Senators also approved two pieces of legislation to restore senate officer positions for the incoming senate and specify that senate meetings can take place outside of the scheduled biweekly meetings.