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RSO funding, elections, and sexual harassment highlight SG meeting

Student representatives met on Wednesday at 6 p.m. for Student Government’s (SG) assembly meeting to discuss issues including the election of committee members, the University’s sexual assault policy, and revoking funds for Registered Student Organizations (RSOs).

First on the agenda were the elections for the Annual Allocations Committee, which distributes over $100,000 in funding, and Election and Rules Committee, which oversees SG elections and has the ability to take away votes and impose monetary penalties, according to Cameron Downing, a fourth-year in the College and the chair of College Council. The representatives elected eight Annual Allocations Committee members: Zehera Amhed, Karen Penkar, Leah Endalkatchew, Donny Copeland, Kyle Lee, Anne Harrington, Mandy Burton, and Ann Puschell. They also elected seven members for the Elections and Rules Committee: Nina Chihambakwe, Leah Endalkatchew, Heidi Reed, Brent Parris, Lieve Teugels, Teresa Lemieux, and Adam Wesolowski. Brent Parris was also elected as the new secretary for SG.

SG then voted to endorse two proposals. The first was a letter from UCDems to invite Barack Obama, the U.S. junior senator from Illinois and senior lecturer at the Law School, to speak on campus. The second endorsement proposal was a letter to the University from the National Organization for Women (NOW), which aims to improve the University’s policy on sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. The letter urges the University to review its current policy and was endorsed after much debate. NOW organizers requested explicit definitions of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault, a “no tolerance” policy, and detailed rights of the survivor and the accused.

Another pressing issue was the topic of revoking funds for RSOs that did not advertise enough for their events. The issue was raised by Jeremy Guttman, a fourth-year representative on College Council and chair of the Student Government Campus Services Committee, who claimed the American Constitution Society (ACS) of the Law School did not post a notification about a lecture by economics professor Steven Levitt on the Student Events Calendar (found at events.uchicago.edu/students) and had inaccurately estimated attendance. The subject spurred a tense discussion over attendance estimates for RSO events, the lack of communication between the undergraduate and graduate communities, and inadequate advertising for campus events.

There were also no plans implemented to revoke funding for the ACS or for RSOs with inaccurate attendance estimates. “We shouldn’t be talking about ways to punish, but help. If RSOs want to have events with three hundred people, we should encourage that,” said Robert Hubbard, president of SG. ACS did post a listing on the campus events calendar, which Hubbard deemed sufficient, due to possible confusion over having to post on both the campus events and student events calendars.

However, issues over how graduate students should advertise lingered after the meeting. “I was very upset when I found out that the American Constitution Society did not publicize an event which many undergraduates would have been interested in,” Guttman said after the meeting. “However, at the meeting we confirmed that graduate students just don’t care about trying to inform undergraduates about their SGFC-funded events, even though they are supposed to do so.”

Some graduate students mentioned the importance for undergraduates to seek out event information at the graduate schools, rather than expecting graduate organizations to actively seek out undergraduates. Mandy Burton, the Divinity School representative for SG, noted that graduate community life is extremely localized. “Graduate students interested in events outside of field of study are accustomed to be proactive whether it means going to Pick Hall or signing up for listhosts,” she said after the meeting. “While I wish as much as anybody that graduates and undergraduates were better informed, it’s not only ungenerous to graduate students who contribute dollars to student activities, but also incredibly arrogant to assume a universal standard predicated on an undergraduate model.”

Hubbard commented that there were no constitutional changes at the meeting. “The most important aspect of the meeting was the part of revoking funding for RSOs, because there are a lot of discrepancies about what types of events we should be funding, if we should be holding back funding, and it touches on the issue of getting publicity from graduates to undergraduates and from undergraduates to graduates,” he said.