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Senate versus SGIB: Tensions spark largest Senate turnout

On Tuesday, April 5, the Student Government Association (SGA) Senate met as usual—but the tenor of the meeting was anything but. This Senate meeting moreso a response to the ratcheting tensions between the voting members of SGA (the Senators) and the Sexuality, Gender, and Inclusion Board (SGIB) in light of the latter’s ‘Equitable Elections’ proposal being voted down in weeks prior. The elapsed time between the vote and last Tuesday’s meeting was full of controversy, as the SGIB board posted the names of the Senators and their voting position to their Instagram, prompting flare ups. Meetings fell though, communication slowed down, and the Senate prepared for what would undoubtedly be a challenging Tuesday session.

As it turned out, the events between Senate sessions galvanized students. The Mary Lyon Senate floor was flush with students, bringing the space to near capacity, as Senators and SGIB leadership prepared to voice their dueling perspectives to a room of community members and a rolling camera, the full video of which can be accessed through a link in the bio of the SGA Instagram account. What the tape cannot replicate is the feeling in the room as the ‘Community Commentary’ section segued from minutes into nearly two hours, mediated by the Democratic Rules of Order. It was a game of attack and defense, with both Senators and SGIB members litigating the relationship between their organizing bodies and the proposed legislation itself. 

While third-party voices did add their perspective at key points, it was largely an evening of barbs traded between the involved parties. Circuitous conversation comprised the lion’s share of the evening, but an eye was cast toward the future also. Senators and SGIB members plan to reconvene to create a modified proposal which retains the broad strokes of the initial proposal without the facets found objectionable by the voting members of Senate. While a premature revote with slight modifications was posed to the floor during Tuesday’s meeting, it was voted down, placing the future of the proposal in the aforementioned meetings.

It was an evening of tenuous emotional catharsis, frustration, and anger, one wherein no true consensus about the night’s conversation was reached. In the eyes of some, it was unproductive, such as Member-at-Large Ajahni Jackson ‘25, who remarked “I’ve heard very little productive discussion—it was motioned to have this re-voted on—but obviously there are concerns—so let’s work together.” In the eyes of others, it was needed. Mikaela Savarese ‘22 countered Jackson saying that “I wanted to welcome community members to comment or suggest on the proposal. I don’t think that this time is unproductive, because this is the first time in my four years that we have heard from so many community members.” One continued refrain rang throughout the room though: the importance of student engagement. 

All parties were heartened to see so many community members engaged by the goings on of the Senate, and reiterated a desire to see such turnout sustained. The Community Commentary was so robust that the agenda item ended via a vote from Senate’s members alongside a vote to extend the session by an extra hour. There was even more left unexpressed, sentiments that will no doubt develop and come to a head once more in subsequent Senate meetings.

Nicole Lombardi, SAIL Director and SGA Advisor, did not respond to a request for comment following an inquiry made on Saturday, April 9.