Tag Archive | "SGA"

IWU student body president election underway

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For the first time in two years, Indiana Wesleyan University will hold an election for Student Government Association President.

SGA began planning for the 2014 Presidential Election in January. Two candidates are running for office: current Student Body President Tim Scurlock (jr) and SGA Social Sciences Student Representative Caleb Bowers (jr).

The two are in the campaigning stage right now and each need to collect 395 IWU student signatures to be officially placed on the ballot.

“Leading up the election day, we will be spending the majority of our time talking to people,” Scurlock said. “We hope to share a little bit of what SGA has been up to this past year and what we hope to do next.”

SGA Executive Assistant Stephanie Miller (sr), said she thinks it is great to have a contested election this year.

“It gets students involved in what is really going on at IWU,” Miller said. “We get to have a say in who we feel will best lead our school and represent us with administration next year, and that is really important in any university.”

IWU has not had a multi-candidate presidential election in the past two years because last year no one successfully turned in the needed signatures in time. The year before, no one else successfully applied for the position.

Bower said he believes having a real election will help students know more about SGA and what they do for the university.

“A lot of the student body does not know what SGA is or what it does, and if we are supposed to be the voice of the student body, I feel as if the student body needs to be more aware of what’s going on in it more,” Bowers said. “We will get more publicity by having an actual election. It’s been long overdue for an election.”

Miller said she thinks the race is pretty equal right now as it is in its early stages.

“Both candidates have a great chance at winning,” Miller said. “Tim and Caleb, as well as their team of cabinet members, each bring something unique to the table, so it will be interesting to see how the student body responds in the election.”

SGA will host a debate Thursday, Feb. 20 in the Commons for both candidates and their cabinets to have a structured debate and answer questions from students. The SGA general election will be Wednesday, Feb. 26 for the presidents as well as the 15 divisional representative positions.

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“There is a misconception that students who openly identify as part of the LGBTQ community are automatically dismissed from the institution or suspended, and that’s not true,” said Andrew Parker, dean of student conduct and community standards.

The premise for Parker’s explanation: Indiana Wesleyan University’s Student Governement Association hosted an forum on homsexuality, Thursday Jan. 31. The event helped faculty and students to begin a conversation at IWU about LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer) issues.

“Ultimately our goal in doing this is to help people better engage more appropriately, and talk about the issue and make steps at honoring those people who maybe think differently,” said SGA President Tim Scurlock (jr).

Stephanie Munger (so) recounted a conversation she had with a fellow student before the event. She spoke to the student who made a remark about the forum being in a public area, Barnes Student Center Commons.

“He said, ‘I thought it would be hidden in a small room, somewhere,’” Munger said “This is exactly why we are having this event.”

Heaven Mathews (fr) attended the forum and said she was excited to see what was going to happen at an event she didn’t even think a university like IWU would have.

“I expect there to be a lot of ‘homosexuality is bad and this is why,’” Mathews said before the forum.

SGA selected individuals at IWU with experience on LGBTQ issues. The panel included professors Dr. David Riggs, Dr. Erin Devers and Dr. Rob Thompson. David Priest (jr) and Kari Jenkins (sr) represented the student perspective on the panel.

Devers, assistant professor of social psychology, presented her research which looked at what 250 heterosexual IWU students thought and felt about homosexuality. According to Devers’ research, many students share Mathews’ opinions about LGBTQ issues.

Devers said an overwhelming amount of IWU students did not think there should be any discriminatory practices against LGBTQ members, according to her findings.

“When we look at both contact and discrimination we’re seeing there are some welcoming attitudes that are there,” Devers said. “Although, 80 percent of our students, when asked the question ‘Do you think homosexuality is a sin?’ would report that they think it’s a sin.”

In the forum, Priest explained the history behind the term “homosexuality” and Thompson, associate professor of graduate counseling, described the levels of sexual identity. Riggs, executive director of John Wesley Honors College, challenged the audience to ask themselves difficult questions, concerning how homosexuality is categorized in society and how IWU welcomes LGBTQ members into the community.

“How do we conceive about the significance of what it means to be male and female? We have to start thinking about how we see significance,” said Riggs

Throughout the event, Riggs said Christians and the university need to define the difference between sexuality and physical intimacy.

“Identifying as a homosexual would not be a violation of university policy,” Parker explained, added that a violation occurs when homosexual acts are physically performed. Parker described physical acts as kissing, and any acts that are equated culturally with homosexual behavior.

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“We are going to have to deal with this as a campus community eventually,” Riggs said. “It’s just a question of whether we’re going to do it proactively, and are we going to do it rooted in the gospel and rooted in the theological distinctive of the Wesleyan tradition, or are we going to do it in the offensive way where others are setting the terms for us?”

IWU President Dr. David Wright came to the forum to support Scurlock and SGA. Although Wright was not directly involved with the forum, he offered his explanation of the need for the event.

“We have LGBT people in our community who go to school here and so we need to talk about what it means to have the spirit of Christ in our relationships with folks that identify with this community who are here,” said Wright.

Jenkins spoke about her senior capstone, which she wrote a blog, ‘A Story Untold,’ about IWU students who associate with the LGBTQ community. Jenkins explained how LGBTQ IWU students feel is based on their fellow students.

“Our language perpetuates our culture,” said Jenkins. “So what we’re saying to friends or making jokes, those are the things that are going to identify our community.”

During the Q-and-A, students asked questions about IWU’s policy on homosexuality and the treatment of those who identity with that community on campus.

The IWU student handbook under the ‘Exercise Self-Control’ section reads: “Those acts which are expressly forbidden in Scripture including theft, lying, dishonesty, gossip, slander, profanity, vulgarity, adultery, homosexual behavior, premarital sex, drunkenness, gluttony, immodesty, intentional self-harm and occult practice will not be practice by members of the Indiana Wesleyan community, either on or off campus.”

“We try to be as fair, and loving and redemptive as possible throughout the process,” said Parker. “And I don’t think individuals based on their violation of university policy are treated differently.”

Another student asked during the forum’s Q-and-A why IWU doesn’t have a structure where students feel safe and can talk about their sexuality.

Riggs said that last spring for the first time, IWU had a series of classes devoted to same-sex attraction. Riggs explained he has never in his 13 years as a professor had a student come to his office and talk about sexuality, but in the context of that class, people felt comfortable to have those type of conversations.

Thompson mentioned during the forum that diversity coordinators receive training at Ball State University’s Safezone, a training program offering workshops to educate about LGBTQ issues. Thompson referred to diversity coordinators as students within IWU’s residence halls identified and trained to interact with fellow students about homosexuality and other related topics. IWU’s director of Intercultural Student Services office, Kyra Pappas spoke up from the audience and explained that ISS office is a safe place for students to come with these issues.

Although Scurlock said he has limited say in the establishments of structure, he said he believes in Wright’s leadership.

_MG_7656 copy“I think with Dr. Wright continuing to cast his vision for where IWU is headed next, there are going to be structures put in place to accommodate some of this underserved community,” said Scurlock. “He’s going to put structure in place that sort of identify the weaknesses and get at them.”

Thompson suggested a change in the policy regarding resident directors reporting information concerning students’ sexuality. He questioned the different disciplinary actions for sexual misconduct between heterosexual couples verses homosexual couples.

Parker cleared up the confusion by stating from a punitive standpoint, the punishment for violations for sexual misconduct is identical for both heterosexual and homosexual students. Parker said he and others who conduct handbook violation try to be fair, loving and redemptive throughout the process.

“Some of the educational outcomes might look a little differently throughout that process, but ultimately student will be treated the same, with the same level of respect and the same level of love as they go through the conduct process,” said Parker.

Near the end of the forum a student walked up to the microphone and asked if the university is going to change its policy on homosexuality.

“I don’t think so,” Priest answered

“You’re not going to see policy that’s going to change beyond what the Wesleyan Church’s stance on homosexuality is,” answered Thompson “It’s not going to divorce itself from the Wesleyan Church, because we are a Wesleyan institution.”

The Wesleyan Church’s statement on homosexuality is on the church’s official website.

“We do not, cannot, and will not endorse homosexual activity as a lifestyle; just as we cannot, do not, and will not endorse all other kinds of behaviors that displease God. But we also do not, cannot, and will not endorse condemning, hate-filled, self-righteous attitudes toward those in the gay community,” according to the website.

Parker said he doesn’t foresee IWU’s policy changing anytime in the near future, but appreciates that Wright is engaging the issue.

“This is much more than an issue for those individuals who do identify [as LGBTQ,]” Parker said “It’s not just an issue. It involves real people. I think that’s where we need to have sensitivity around the issue when we are engaging in conversation, but I also think it’s vital we have that conversation.”

The panelists answered the questions as best they could, and Scurlock clarified they were speaking from research, interest and experience, but do not reflect IWU’s stance or policies.

When the forum ended, audience members formed groups about the room to talk about the discussion of event. Conversation about the event and the LGBTQ community, in general were popular topics of discussion.

“Our aim was to sit down have a conversation that people don’t have and get people better at honoring those that are different, that have a different outlooks,” said Scurlock.“I think we were successful.”

What do you think of SGA’s open forum and IWU’s policy on homosexuality? Let us know in the comments!

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Meet Tim Scurlock, student body president

When Tim Scurlock (jr) took over as Indiana Wesleyan University’s student body president, he brought new ideas with him. Ideas he believes will equip IWU students to engage the world beyond campus.

Scurlock, who ran unopposed and won the nomination this past year, said he’s looking forward to representing students and continuing to look into policy changes. A big part of his vision, however, is to see how his student government administration can help students on campus as Christians love those outside the church while still engaging them and the broader culture.

“We have to learn how to disagree as Christians … and still honor [others],” he said.

Scurlock wants to establish forums to help unite people who have different beliefs, saying it’s important for students to have exposure to the diverse ideas they will one day encounter.

At IWU’s fall academic convocation Scurlock gave a speech challenging the university to engage secular culture.

“We deny our part in culture and as a result, we miss the opportunity to enter into important conversations in a timely way,” Scurlock said in the speech. “[The apostle] Paul was one of the most effective evangelists in history, and he intentionally used the culture he found himself in to assist his cause.”

Part of the reason Scurlock said he’s interested in pursuing this line of thought is that he once wasn’t someone who sought to build bridges. He said he didn’t appreciate that when he was younger.

Chandler Landis (sr) used to live in the same dorm as Scurlock, and said he has watched Scurlock progress over time. “Seeing him now and seeing him back then — it’s just the maturity level,” he said. “You can tell he’s grown, … just in how he acts. I think [being in] SGA probably helped with that.”

When Scurlock first looked at schools, he visited IWU and said he was sold on its mission, although he was skeptical at first. He only planned on staying a semester and then transferring to what looked like a “better school.”

After being at IWU that semester, what he saw impacted him. Scurlock said he saw how dedicated teachers were to their students and noticed that “IWU does a great job of … reconciling faith and academics.”

Dr. Lisa Toland, John Wesley Honors College history associate director, said she has only known Scurlock the past eight months but sees maturity in him.

“The faculty increasingly gains respect for Tim as they interact with his form of quiet, but bold, leadership,” Toland wrote in an email to The Sojourn. “As a faculty member, I know I’m one of many who is excited to watch and be a part of SGA’s vision to help better prepare our students for a life of service in whatever context.”

Scurlock said the idea of asking tough questions about the culture grew on him for a while, but his experience studying at Oxford University this summer convinced him this was something he needed to pursue as SGA’s new president. He had a number of conversations there with different people “on the big issues of our culture.”

“I realized that as a student here, I have to bring these conversations back to campus,” he said.

While Scurlock said he’s still grappling with various questions, he has “a very solid foundation that’s unwavering.”

“My foundation is in Christ,” he said, “His crucifixion, ascension and resurrection.”

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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.

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