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Group rejects minority resolution

Mary Kate Malone | Thursday, March 30, 2006

At the Student Senate’s final meeting before a new administration takes over April 1, Minority Affairs Ad-hoc Committee (MAC) chair Rhea Boyd made an urgent plea to senators to approve a resolution that would make her committee permanent and constitutionally recognized.

But despite a passionate introduction of her resolution and 45 minutes of debate, the proposal – which called for a permanent Minority Affairs committee and defined the scope and goals of it – was defeated.

The resolution was crafted by Boyd, student body president Dave Baron, student body vice president Lizzi Shappell and Diversity Committee chair Sarah Liu. Boyd presented the resolution to Senate despite Baron and Shappell’s last-minute decision Tuesday to take it off the Senate’s agenda.

“Because I felt uneasy about that decision, I asked Lizzi to place this amendment back on the agenda and I thank her for doing so,” Boyd said.

But she failed to win their support.

Though senators agreed minorities must have a permanent voice on policy issues, many felt the resolution was hastily crafted without enough discussion as to how best define the MAC’s purpose, especially in relation to the already-permanent Diversity Committee.

Boyd said her committee needed to become permanent immediately – or risk losing its footing once a new administration and new senators take over April 1.

“The fact that this is the first year minority members of the student body had had an undiluted and uncompromised voice in the Student Senate is reprehensible and to make those students wait another year to have that voice be considered important enough to warrant its own committee is equally unacceptable,” she said.

Boyd’s chief concern was making her committee permanent – any other changes regarding its name or specific purpose could be made later, she said.

“If this Student Senate administration does not understand that minority students need a separate voice now, there is no guarantee that you will understand that we need a separate voice an year from now, and by then it may be too late,” Boyd said.

Boyd’s statement drew sharp responses from student body president Dave Baron and student body vice president Lizzi Shappell – who both vehemently maintained that diversity issues have been a cornerstone of their administration from the start.

“To be completely frank, I am offended by the implication that this isn’t at the forefront of my concerns … if there is one thing I would pledge, it is that before I leave here there will be a permanent means for minority student voice on policy issues,” Shappell said.

For senators, the issue was not if MAC deserved constitutional recognition – but when such measures should be taken. Community Relations committee chair Nick Guzman said more time was needed to “see how Minority Affairs is going to have a permanent place.”

“I wonder if we make something permanent how different it would be to change in the future,” Guzman said. “… I also don’t think it’s big problem for them to become permanent in five days. As soon as you (Boyd) leave, the same issue can be brought to Senate.”

Diversity Committee chair Sarah Liu said more time was necessary to create lasting, effective constitutional changes regarding MAC and the Diversity Committee. She admitted her committee has lacked clear direction or purpose this year.

“It’s important for [the Diversity Committee and MAC] to work together,” Liu said. “We’re not trying to compete for resources attention … Minority Affairs is not the problem here, it’s Diversity Committee that doesn’t have a clear goal.”

But Boyd insisted the two committees are very different – and since MAC knows its goals, it should be granted permanent status – regardless of the lack of direction of the Diversity Committee.

“Our fate right now is too much tied to what happens to the Diversity Committee,” Boyd said. “Who knows when they’ll know [what their exact goals should be] and MAC is just hanging out in the air… that’s what it feels like to me.”

O’Neill senator Steve Tortorello was wary of passing a resolution while knowing further changes would be made to it in the future.

“If we’re going to revise everything eventually, let’s get it all into its place and do it like a Band-Aid, do it all at once,” he said. “The answer can’t come from a room of 60 people. The answer can come from four or five people sitting down in board room outside the Senate and hammering out this amendment.”

Tortorello then moved for a vote to give the resolution back to committee for further work, but senators defeated the motion and discussion continued.

Shappell said she supported sending the resolution back to the committee so that they “will have more time to sit down and talk it out and see what the best options are.”

“I can pretty much guarantee – being a part of the administration next year – it won’t go away,” Shappell said. “It will be here.”

Keough senator Rob Lindley said changes to the Constitution must be made prudently, or it risks losing its integrity.

“If there’s anything I’m growing leery of it’s amending the constitution on a regular basis,” Lindley said. “There’s something about going in and saying we’ve done this, we’re set it in stone and then go back and say ‘Well, we forgot about this and we change it again.'”