The Daily Update: Wednesday, April 6

April 6, 2011 by · Comments Off 

Find out what Southwest is doing with their fleet. What are Dallas nonprofits doing in Japan? And find out how a man was saved from a gator attack in a very unusual matter. All this and more on your Daily Update!

Daily Update: Wednesday, April 6 from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

Students Voice Concerns During Senate Final Town Hall Meeting

March 31, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Anna Kiappes
akiappes@smu.edu

Students, faculty and staff attended the last SMU Student Senate town hall meeting of the semester to address issues important to them.

Representation of student athletes was one of those issues and was discussed throughout the meeting, which was held Wednesday afternoon, March 31.

SMU sophomore and equestrian team member Morgan Toal said there is no representation for student athletes in Senate. Toal said she believes that a senator for athletes would serve as a liaison between student athletes and the rest of the student body.

“Athletes spend their time at the gym, practice, and class,” Toal said. “There is a big disconnect.”

Toal and other athletes polled student athletes and 41 out of 63 respondents expressed interest in running for Student Senate.

Austin Prentice, current Student Body vice president and candidate for Student Body president, has started the process to get a student athlete liaison. If the Student Athlete Advisory Committee is re-chartered they will automatically have a Student Senate liaison.

“The Senate liaison project is where every chartered organization has a liaison so they are connected to the Senate and they have a contact to ask what is going on,” Prentice said.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Senate seat was also discussed. Current Dedman Senator Harvey Luna said the senator would address issues like gender free housing and restrooms. He also said the senator would also create a new image for SMU.

“The senator may not solve all the issues, but it would get the student body talking,” Luna said.

Representation was not the only issue discussed during the meeting.

Transfer student Jan Anderson asked about increasing the DART’s Mustang Express shuttle to include weekends. Joe Esau, Senate’s parliamentarian and candidate for Student Body vice president, said he already talked to the Sustainability Committee about expanding the hours of operation for Mustang Express but found funding to be an impediment. It would cost about $60,000 per year to make the change.

Many of the officials Esau talked to all have the same question.

“The key thing I’ve gotten back is where is the money coming from?” Esau said.

Esau encouraged students to talk with their senators and ensure their voices are heard. He then said that is how the Dedman Recreational Center came about.

Campus EMTs and LGBT Senate Seat in Question

March 28, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By: Stephanie Collins
spcollins@smu.edu

The student senate held its second ever Town Hall meeting, which is intended to allow students to voice their opinions and closely interact with student senators, Thursday.

Although this kind of meeting was used by SMU student senators long ago to directly address the needs of students, it has not been used in the past 10 or 15 years, according to first year Dedman I Senator Parminder Deo.

“This is a much more open, casual setting,” said Deo.

The meeting, which was held in the Umphrey Lee dining room, focused on the recently discussed issue of adding an LGBT seat to the student senate, as well as an initiative to create a student-run emergency medical system program on campus.

Student Zac Friske presented the idea of a student EMS system, a proposal the student senate has been working on for over a year.

Because of SMU’s location, both the Highland Park and University Park fire stations respond to emergencies on the campus. According to Friske, however, there has been concern that emergency response teams are not always able to make it to campus within the promised five-minute window.

Because a heart attack, for example, requires emergency attention within three minutes, Friske said, it is essential that emergency response teams are more available to the SMU campus.

The student EMS system would be a volunteer organization of SMU students or members of the surrounding community who are EMT trained and would be able to provide emergency assistance immediately from on-campus locations.

“We want it to be open to every major, not just pre-med students,” said Friske, who said that any student could be trained and volunteer for the program.

The cost of EMT training, however, is around $1,000. Although EMT certification would last up to 10 years, the price may be steep for students looking to volunteer.

“We are working on finding a way to lower the cost. We want it to be open for everyone,” said Friske.

The other major topic discussed at the meeting was the question of whether or not to form an LGBT seat for the student senate.

Dedman II Senator Harvey Luna discussed the issue, who said that if the seat is created, only students who identify themselves as members of the LGBT community will be able to vote for the senator who takes the position. This does not include students who have been trained by SMU’s Allies program.

According to Luna, the LGBT community specifically has needs that should be addressed on campus, which is why a student senate position would be beneficial.

The next Student Senate Town Hall meeting will be held Wednesday, March 30 at 4 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg commons.

Senate Report: Campus Minorities Win Victory

March 1, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Andy Garcia
atgarcia@smu.edu

After issues navigating through the Senate Organization Committee the Women’s Graduate Organization has gained chartered status from the SMU Student Senate. Also, legislation supporting the university’s LGBT students in now in effect. All this and more on today’s Senate Report.

Senate Report: Tuesday, March 1 from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

Senate Report: Tuesday, Feb. 22

February 22, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Andy Garcia
atgarcia@smu.edu

Find out what legislation was passed today and what is on slate for next week, senate might see a debate for a new seat very soon. All this on your Senate Report.

Senate Report: Tuesday, Feb. 22 from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

Debate Continues on Adding LGBT Senate Seat

March 24, 2010 by · Comments Off 

by Kathryn Sharkey
ksharkey@smu.edu

As the day for campus elections nears, some may be wondering what happened during the debate about adding a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender special interest seat to the Student Senate. The LGBT debate was in full swing last semester and garnered even Dallas media attention with articles in the Dallas Morning News and even air time on the local news. The motion to add the seat did not pass in the senate, so the rumor was there would be a referendum vote of the student body some time this semester.

“According to our by-laws, a student wishing to place a motion to be voted on by the student body or to create a referendum vote, needs to submit the signatures and ID numbers of 10 percent of the student population,” Patrick Kobler, SMU Student Body President said in an e-mail. “This did not happen so the motion will not be voted on by the student body,” Kobler said.

Political science and philosophy major, Tom Elliot actively campaigned for the addition of the LGBT seat in the fall. He hopes that this is not the end for this debate.

“The reason there is not going to be a re-vote, is simply because I don’t have the time to single-handedly push the issue like I did last semester,” Elliott said in an e-mail.

“I consider it a failure on my part, because I was unable to encourage my peers in the LGBT community to make the issue their own and continue forward with the cause without my initial motivation,” said Elliot.

The Great Debate

Last semester, the debate about special interest seats, including the addition of the LGBT seat, was in full swing.

Freshman political science major, Philip Hayes is against special interest seats in the Student Senate.

“There needs to be a set method of representation,” Hayes said last semester. “In the Civil Rights movement, Rosa Parks didn’t want a special bus. She just wanted to use the same bus.”

Elliott disagrees.

“It’s natural for someone to represent his own interest, so if a certain group is not in that person’s interest, they won’t get a voice and the typical majority groups will not represent them,” Elliot said.

The Student Senate at Southern Methodist University faced a struggle over minority representation as failed legislation, including a recently tabled piece, stirred up debate during the fall of 2009.

The Student Senate currently has four special interest seats: one for an African-American student, one for an Asian-American student, and one for a Hispanic-American student. The debate was, and continues to be, whether these or even more special interest seats, such as LGBT, transfer student and disabled student seats should exist.

“The most common argument is overrepresentation. Someone with a double major is represented by two seats and then also represented by special interest senators, so why should this person be represented by maybe four people when the common single major student is represented by one,” said sophomore Brad Mitchell, Student Concerns Chair of the senate.

“The term overrepresentation annoys me because on a college campus I see no problems with that,” Elliott said. “It seems more beneficial to me that someone with more needs has more representation.”

Elliot believes that these seats are necessary to meet the needs of students within these groups on campus because not everyone starts out in society at an equal playing field and some students need more accommodation. If someone has more needs, the Student Senate doesn’t have the authority to choose what category a person has a voice in, Elliott said.

“I know discrimination and prejudice exists in the minds of others, so the question is how to move past that,” said Hayes. “And I believe that is to treat everyone as individuals and equals.”

Hayes disapproves of special interest seats because he believes they create inequality by treating certain groups differently, giving them special benefits, he said.

“When you have some seats only certain students can run for and others that all students can run for, that’s inequality,” Hayes said.

The solution he advocates, and what the tabled legislation would have put into effect, is to only have general election seats. Nothing prohibits any student, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or anything else from running for a general seat, he said.

Hayes thinks students don’t need someone with their exact life experiences to feel represented as senators should be able to listen to and empathize with all other students.

The Big Picture

The larger, associated issue that comes into question with this debate is the question about how far America has really come in minority relations, including race and sexual orientation in that definition.

A 2006 CNN poll regarding racism showed that 49 percent of black respondents saw racism as a “very serious problem,” while only 18 percent of whites did. Forty-three percent of whites and 48 percent of blacks said they knew someone they considered racist, but only 13 percent of whites and 12 percent of blacks considered themselves racially biased.

This is because “we’ve reached a point that racism is like a virus that has mutated into a new form that we don’t even recognize,” University of Connecticut professor Jack Dovidio, who has researched racism for more than 30 years, told CNN. According to Dovidio, up to 80 percent of white Americans have racist feelings they may not even recognize.

For SMU, this is manifested in its struggle with its external image.

Elliot thinks SMU may have a poor image from the outside that its students are not accepting of minority student groups, of being homophobic and not providing race or class interaction, and that image is just as hurtful as if the university itself were acting racist.

In actuality, the university is the opposite, trying to make campus more acceptable to others and the administration and admissions department put a lot of effort into reaching out to people of different backgrounds and making campus more diverse, said Elliot

“But it appears that the student body is not in line with that and the student senate’s refusal to accept proposals reinforces that,” he said.

Anthony Tillman, Assistant Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Director of Student Retention also has concerns about the campus climate.

“I’m not completely confident that there’s a comfort level for minority students to go to the majority population and express concerns,” Tillman said. “And the opposite where the majority population goes to the minority population to ask about concerns. I’m not sure we’re at that point yet with that free and open dialogue,” he said.

Tillman approached the Student Senate regarding the bill that would remove all special interest seats and spoke to them about the administration’s concerns.

“Normally, the administration, we don’t get involved in student politics or government issues, however this particular issue had risen to the attention of the office of the provost and there was a concern that this could result in campus polarization along racial lines,” he said. “And, frankly speaking, that is the last thing we want to have as an issue.”

Diversity at SMU

In 2009, the SMU student body was 8.2 percent Hispanic, 6.5 percent Asian, and 5.8 percent Black, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

These statistics mostly follow with a 2009 Kansas Law Review article, which showed that of the U.S. population over the age of 25, more than 40 percent of Hispanics have less than a high school education and less than 20 percent of Blacks have more than a high school education. The article notes that the low number of Hispanic education attainment may be in large part due to immigration from countries where completion of 12 years of education is not the norm. According to the article, the Asian population, however, has higher rates of bachelor’s completion, master’s completion, doctoral completion, and completion of advanced professional degrees than do any other racial or ethnic group.

The article goes on to say that, “while the number of blacks earning four year college degrees has increased in absolute terms over the past forty years, there apparently have been little gains in bridging the educational attainment gap despite the presence of affirmative action.”

SMU is not unique in its struggle with the minority student population. This problem is nationwide as to how to include minorities in higher education.

In Elliott’s fight to gain an additional special interest seat for the LGBT community, he said he saw little opposition from the student body.

“It seems like there are a few senators in the chamber against special interest seats and it’s their prerogative to get rid of them,” he said.

Tillman suggests students take a deeper look at the student senate and how it currently stands.

“The way it stands, there are automatic seats for each school, so one could argue that we already have special interest seats for proscribed schools,” he said. “We should really think about what that term ‘special interest’ really means,” Tillman said.

The Future

So what happens now with the special interest seats?

Since the legislation to add the LGBT seat was already seen by the Student Senate this academic year, it will not be brought up again until the 97th student senate, Student Body President Patrick Kobler said.

Elliot said, “I hope the movement to advance LGBT issues at SMU doesn’t stop with me. I hope that someone else will pick up the torch and carry it on to advance equality for all SMU students.”

As the day for campus elections near, think about where you stand on the issue.

Campus News Blog: Student Senate Presents Legislation on adding a LGBT Senator

November 17, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Sarah Acosta

After a long battle this semester between the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender “LGBT” community and senate, two brave senators wrote legislation for the addition of a LGBT senator.

Dedman I Senator Patrick Sherrill and Dedman II Senator Lizzie Cochran, both sophomores, stepped up to the plate, after a little over a month of LGBT community members requesting for a LGBT senator at several student forums at senate meetings.

Like I mentioned in a previous blog, when senators did not respond initially to the LGBT’s request for a senator, facebook groups and an online petition for a LGBT senator were created.

The legislation was presented on Tuesday Nov. 17, and will be debated and voted on during the last senate meeting of the semester on Tuesday Nov. 24.

The senate’s reaction to the bill is still in question since open debate was not allowed during the presentation of the legislation. The student body and LGBT community will have to wait until next week to see how senate members truly feel about the bill, when the bill either passes or fails the voting process.

Campus News: LGBT Community Fights for Special Interest Seat in SMU Senate

November 3, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Sarah Acosta

On Oct. 7, 2009 the lesbian, gay, bisexuals, and transgendered community on the SMU campus urged the SMU Senate to create a special interest seat for “sexual orientation and gender identity.”

No legislation was drafted by senators after hearing this proposal, instead a piece of legislation fighting for less diversity by doing away with all seat titles and special interests seats was presented a couple of weeks later.

These actions did not discourage the LGBT community on campus, but seemed to fire it up even more. Shortly after the bill was presented groups on facebook were created such as, I support a “Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Senator” for SMU and Help to maintain equality on SMU with hundreds of members.

After receiving much controversy and complaints inside and outside of senate, the authors recently dropped the bill.

The LGBT community continues to fight for its special interest seat by urging the SMU student body to sign the “I Support “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Senator” petition online. Also on the Westbridge outside Hughes-Trigg students will also be able to sign the petition from Nov. 3- Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

LGBT Community Assembles at Stonewall Program Panel

April 3, 2009 by · Comments Off 

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