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USG discusses voting power for council chairs at first senate meeting of 2017

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Legislation that would give council chairs voting power and the ability to author legislation was a key point of discussion in the first Undergraduate Student Government senate meeting of 2017 Tuesday.

An open forum session was opened in which Vice President for Student Organizations Trace Hancock proposed legislation that would expand the power of council chairs in hopes of giving students more avenues of representation in USG.

“I’m here to represent students, but without the power to vote, we are very much dependent on individual senators and not on a system that students feel genuinely represents them and their interests,” Multicultural Council Chair Juharah Worku said after the meeting.

Currently, there are 10 council chairs that serve on USG through appointment and do not have the power to vote on or author legislation. The councils represented on USG currently include Academic Organizations, Association of Club Sports, Community Action Council of Tulane University Students, Interest Organizations, Media Board, Multicultural Organizations, Performance Organizations, Political Organizations, Religious Organizations and Tulane University  Campus Programming.

Students elect their USG representatives by voting for senators from their school. Senators represent the A.B. Freeman School of Business, School of Architecture, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, School of Liberal Arts and School of Science and Engineering.

Hancock said that the reason behind this idea for legislation was that many students, specifically students who are considered minorities, may feel that their interests are better represented by the organizations they belong to on campus than by their academic school.

“I’m a senior triple majoring and I’ve always identified more with the organizations I’m a part of,” Director of Student Health and Wellness Corley Miller said.

Other USG members expressed concern that if council chairs were given voting power, students involved in multiple organizations may be more represented in USG than students not belonging to any organizations. Another point of contention was the fact that council chairs are appointed and not elected.

“I don’t think giving a vote to someone who was not directly elected is democratically appropriate,” School of Liberal Arts Senator Josh Rosenbaum said early in the discussion. After the meeting, Rosenbaum declined to comment further and noted that he might be reconsidering his stance.

The debate over the proposed legislation lasted more than 40 minutes and led to questions about the diversity of USG and the responsibility of senators.

“… It is important to ask what the role of the senators is and whether or not they are serving their constituents,” Smita Ruzicka, USG advisor and assistant vice president of campus life, said during the meeting.

The legislation has not yet been finalized and will likely be formally introduced at the next senate meeting.

USG also discussed at the meeting ways to improve career services for students seeking internships and jobs, an anti-Styrofoam campaign that will be led by the sustainability committee and a campus climate survey on sexual violence that will be conducted Sunday.

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans
USG discusses voting power for council chairs at first senate meeting of 2017