Student government passes partial overhaul

Senators voted to approve only half of the legislative amendments up for a vote during the April 2 Student Government Association meeting, foiling plans that cabinet members touted as an effort to streamline the organization’s operation and structure.

Senate Chair Luke Nelsen (sr) said this was the first instance in his tenure with SGA that a proposed bill had not been approved by the senate.

Had all six amendments to the SGA constitution and compendium been approved as a single set, the 2012-2013 assembly would have included positions for approximately 28 voting members, with approximately 20 senators and exactly eight class representatives.

Currently, there are 48 positions for voting members, but only 28 of them are filled.

Two of the amendments that the senate rejected would have reduced the number of senators and increased the number of class representatives in next year’s assembly, but the senate passed the amendment extending voting rights to class representatives. Combined, these decisions actually increased the assembly’s potential voting population by four members, despite attempts to decrease it by 20 and the assembly’s inability to fill the 20 senate seats that remain unoccupied for spring 2012.

Adjustments have not yet been made in response to the decision to close Shatford House. SGA’s executive vice president has the authority, according to the constitution, to revoke Shatford’s status as a “residence area,” thereby deleting its senator positions from the assembly.

The decision to keep the current number of senator positions comes after IWU’s Student Development Office cut the budget for SGA organizations by 25 percent for next year, according to Aaron Augello (so), SGA’s president-elect and current executive vice president.

Student organizations will have $10,000 less for the 2012-2013 school year, despite the $6,000 in funds left over from this school year. Augello said the surplus money had been allocated at $300 per year for each unfilled senator position. Furthermore, money could not be taken out of the budget without the positions being eliminated, as the proposed amendment sought to do.

Augello said that he and Nelsen were each responsible for drafting 2-3 of the proposals, which the Ways and Means Committee then workshopped into legislative documents.

The senate also voted down an addendum to the compendium that would require senators to log five hours of work weekly and class representatives three hours. The proposal included the explicit purpose of adjusting these hours “to accommodate a pay increase for these positions,” but the senate voted to keep the current requirements: three hours weekly for senators and zero hours logged for class representatives.

It is unclear whether SGA will be able to allocate any additional funds to these positions, which may mean the class representatives will be unpaid voting members next year.

The “Restructuring the Assembly” constitutional amendment, which relieves nonvoting members of the requirement to attend business meetings, passed with 23 votes in favor, zero opposed and three abstentions.

The only unanimous decision made April 2 was in response to the constitutional amendment that renames the position currently known as “secretary” and defines 6-8 hours per week as the expected workload for the re-dubbed “executive assistant” role and the senate chair.

The SGA constitution acknowledges the faculty senate of the Marion Traditional Campus as the governing body that legitimizes the student government’s operations. For this reason, the constitution requires constitutional amendments to obtain approval from MTC faculty, the president of IWU and the provost before technically taking effect.

The assembly will not meet April 9, in observance of Easter, and April 16 is scheduled as the final business meeting of this legislative session, meaning any revised draft of these proposed amendments could not be passed before the end of the school year.

Posted in Front Page, News, On CampusComments (0)

Student Government Association considers downsizing

Student representation under Aaron Augello (so), president-elect of the Student Government Association and current executive vice president, could look quite different this fall, if the SGA senate passes all six major pieces of legislation introduced during the March 26 assembly meeting.

The legislation would nix 28 of the current 48 senator positions, increase the number of class representatives from four to eight and increase pay accordingly. Additionally, the legislation would adjust two cabinet positions and meeting schedules for all SGA members.

Five of the legislative documents introduced would result in constitutional amendments, requiring a three-fourths vote to pass the senate. One proposal is an addendum to the compendium, which requires a simple majority tin order o be enacted.

The SGA assembly will be able to vote on these measures as early as April 2, just 10 days before applications to run for 2012-2013 positions are due. Elections are slated to take place April 16.

The “Number of Senators” constitutional amendment endeavors “to streamline the visibility and responsibility of the Senators to cultivate a more focused body of Voting Members” by cutting over half of the existing senator positions and augmenting the financial incentive to run for office.

SGA currently allocates a budget with funds for 48 senators, which includes space for two students to be elected from each residence area. But only 28 of those positions are presently occupied.

If the proposed legislation passes, 20 senator positions will be available with one spot per residence area. The executive vice president would have the power to define a “residence area” at his or her discretion, rather than basing the number of senators on the number of residents in a given residence area, as the current SGA constitution requires.

The “Number of Class Representatives” constitutional amendment increases the number of students representing their class year from four to eight, “with at least one (1) Class Representative from each of the four classes,” and the executive vice president determining how many representative positions to allot for each class.

Augello said during the March 26 assembly meeting that allotting more than two positions to the freshman class (consequently taking positions from upperclassmen) could help create a sense of class identity and community for incoming students.

The “Class Representatives as Voting Members” constitutional amendment would extend suffrage to the eight class representative positions. Currently, voting is restricted to senators and the senate chair (in the event of a tie).

The “Secretary and Senate Chair Position Development” constitutional amendment would change the cabinet secretary’s title to “executive assistant” and adjust the expected weekly workload to 6-8 hours for that position and the senate chair.

The “Restructuring of Assembly” constitutional amendment would completely revamp the scheduled meeting times for members of the assembly. Rather than require nonvoting members to be present at weekly meetings, the amendment would separate different types of assembly members into different meeting times.

Those representing student organizations would be required to attend biweekly meetings with SGA’s vice president of student organizations and university relations, while senators would continue to meet with the president and cabinet for weekly business meetings. The entire assembly would be required to meet a minimum of two times per semester, under the proposed legislation.

Finally, the “Senator and Class Representative Position Development” addendum to the compendium increases the expected number of weekly hours of work for senators and class representatives. Senators would be expected to work five hours weekly, instead of three, and class representatives would be expected to log three hours weekly, whereas current class representatives are not required to log hours. This bill states that it is designed “to accommodate a pay increase for these positions.”

Posted in Front Page, News, On CampusComments (0)

Defending Dr. Hawkins

“I have two questions. Here’s the first: Why is Indiana Wesleyan University so white?” asked Dr. Rusty Hawkins, a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the John Wesley Honors College at IWU, during a Feb. 27 multiculturalism-themed student chapel service.

The talk generated a bit of a buzz among students on the evangelical university’s Marion campus, with at least a handful of students utilizing social media to articulate their reactions to Hawkins’ 18-minute homily.

“the chapel speaker literally just broke the number one rule of mean girls: you can’t just ask people why they’re white. #iwu,” quipped Aj Hoke (sr) on his Twitter account @ajisnotahokes.

Other tweets were less humorous than critical.

“Once again diversity being shoved in our faces… #IWU,” said Zak Hubbard (so) at 11:14 a.m. via @zhubbard92.

“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal Mr. Chapel Speaker. #iwu,” tweeted Alana Newman (so), @lanaluvpink.

“this chapels retarted…If you can drop 30000$ a yr for iwu then sweet. Its got nothing to do with minority or diversity try Economic status,” said Valoree Nelson (so) to the 104 users who follow her Twitter handle @vnelly07.

“I do not understand why this chapel service is about racial diversity. That’s on you, IWU, not me. I wanna talk about Jesus,” said Chad Hoy (fr), @chadhoy, to his 617 followers, five of whom retweeted Hoy’s sentiment to their followers.

But these complaints totally miss Hawkins’ point.

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons, I attend Hawkins’ history class “Martin, Malcolm, and the KKK: Competing Religions in the Civil Rights Movement,” during which my peers and I discuss race relations in the context of the civil rights movement and religious structures of the United States. In these discussions, Hawkins has made clear his perspective regarding the relationship between the white Christian establishment and the hegemony of racism and segregation in the U.S. These are the same ideas he attempted to present during that poorly received Feb. 27 chapel service.

“So why am I talking about this today?” asked Hawkins. “Because the extensive racial homogeneity that exists on our campus echoes a pattern of racial separation that exists within the American church as a whole.”

This transition is key. Hawkins was not, as Hoy had insinuated, suggesting that IWU students were responsible for establishing and achieving some racial diversity quota of enrollment for the university. Rather, Hawkins was speaking to a larger issue of separation that persists within the church. Each subsequent generation must actively challenge this separation.

“Racism, my friends, is our country’s original sin,” said Hawkins during his short sermon. “And with the exception of a few rare instances, the white church in the United States has been complicit in supporting this sin. When you take into consideration the racial history of the United States, it should come as no surprise whatsoever that the American church is deeply divided along racial lines. It’s difficult to build bridges between the races inside the church when, for so long, the white church helped to support the structures that kept the races apart.”

Hawkins explained that he believes 92.5 percent of IWU students are white – while the city of Marion is only 75 percent white, and United States as a whole is only 63 percent white – because a mere 5 percent of evangelical churches in the U.S. are “multicultural.” This means that most IWU students come from religious bodies that are more segregated than American country clubs, schools, workplaces and neighborhoods, according to Hawkins.

“Here’s why the issue of racial diversity should matter for us today: You just don’t move on from 400 years of an ideology that says one race is superior to all others with no lingering consequences,” warned Hawkins.

“Walls don’t fall down on their own accord. They have to be broken down,” he added.

“In the interest of breaking down the divisions between us, what if those of us who are white became more empathetic to the experiences that students of color have here at Indiana Wesleyan University?” suggested Hawkins.

In addition to the chronic problems presented by living in what Hawkins calls a “racialized” society, the reaction to his talk raised two problems in my mind: The first issue deals with effective and appropriate communication, while the second is a theological matter.

Are the discussions that take place on social media platforms as informed as face-to-face conversations? Are the stakes high enough online to require some level of circumspection and social accountability on the part of communicators who take part in these discussions? I think social media is very useful, but we have yet to fully understand its strengths and weaknesses in the context of society. (Please note that I was able to access all of the tweets quoted above while logged in to The Sojourn’s Twitter account.)

Secondly, Hoy’s distinction between diversity-talk and Jesus-talk is alarming and unfortunately common among evangelicals who prefer to sever the spiritual from the earthly.

Carl Henry, author of “The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism,” addressed this dichotomy between spiritual and social causes in his 1947 book, which has become an evangelical manifesto of sorts.

“No study of the kingdom teaching of Jesus is adequate unless it recognizes His implication both that the kingdom is here, and that it is not here. This does not imply an ultimate paradox, but rather stresses that the kingdom exists in incomplete realization,” wrote Henry.

Spiritual causes and social causes are not mutually exclusive but, rather, are part of the Church’s singular mission. I believe that breaking down racial barriers in American churches is an important social cause, and I was saddened to learn that Dr. Hawkins’ well-stated sermon was poorly received by my peers.

—–
To listen to Dr. Hawkins’ sermon via iTunes, click here, select “Chapel at IWU,” click “Chapel Services” and search for “Chapel 02-27-12.”

Posted in OpinionComments (2)

Invisible Children co-founder hospitalized

Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children and creative mind behind the “Kony 2012” viral documentary video, was detained by San Diego police Thursday morning, March 15, after witnesses reported the 33-year-old was exhibiting strange behavior, according to The Guardian.

Callers “reported that the male removed his underwear and was nude, perhaps masturbating,” according to a police statement cited in The New York Times. Russell’s wife said, according to a March 21 report in the Times, that her husband would remain hospitalized for several weeks, due to the “reactive psychosis” that led to his public loss of control.

According to the Times, Russell’s wife’s statement said, “Because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal and Jason took them very hard.”

Russell’s March 15 outburst came 10 days after the premiere of “Kony 2012,” which garnered widespread traditional media coverage and criticism after the video accumulated more than 80 million views on YouTube and 17.5 million views on Vimeo.com, making it “the most viral video in history,” according to Mashable.com.

Posted in Front Page, News, World StoriesComments (0)

Follow The Sojourn on Twitter