SGA Podium 2

The University of Georgia Student Government Association is hosting a pre-professional book drive this week. (Photo/Caroline Barnes)

The University of Georgia Student Government Association met Tuesday over Zoom for its first senate meeting since instruction moved online for the remainder of the semester.

Major legislation expressed support for an alternative to the canceled spring commencement ceremony, encouraged the adoption of an opt-in pass/fail grading system and encouraged expanding funding for students facing food insecurity.

Eighty participants, including senators, joined the last senate meeting of the semester to hear officer updates and vote on legislation.

Senators unanimously passed 10 pieces of legislation without debate. The legislation included sustainability concerns to add more recycling bins in individual dorm rooms and composting bins across campus to reduce food waste. Resolutions were also passed to advocate for students on campus in the future, such as providing free fitness classes and looking into creating living-learning communities.

During the contested portion of the meeting, seven pieces of legislation were open to more extensive debate. All legislation passed at the meeting is pending approval from President Rachel Byers and the SGA Supreme Court.

The Red & Black has compiled five major pieces of legislation from the meeting.

Pass/fail grading

Senators passed Resolution 32-16, encouraging UGA to create an opt-in pass/fail grading system. This system would allow students to choose whether they want to use the traditional A-F grading system or receive a pass/fail mark on their transcripts this semester.

Such a system would accommodate students’ stress or unique situations caused by the COVID-19 crisis and transition to online learning, the resolution said.

“We normally agreed on the assumption that students have access to the same resources, or an avenue through which they can get those, through the university,” said Senator Ciera Thomas, who introduced the legislation. “That’s not an assumption we can make anymore.”

The legislation was passed after nearly 30 minutes of debate. While the University System of Georgia Board of Regents has said it will not implement a pass/fail grading system, senators who voted for the bill said they believe it’s important to ensure students’ voices are heard.

“Regardless of what the regents have said or may do, it is our duty as senators to support the interests of students,” Senator Max Harris said. “There has been enough of an organized voice organically on this that I think we do need to speak out on it and in favor of it.”

SGA created a petition for UGA students, faculty and staff to voice their opinions on the opt-in pass/fail system. Senator Hunter Smith also advised senators to call the USG Board of Regents and explain their desire to rethink the decision.

After the meeting, Thomas said he began working on a joint petition with other USG schools. SGA presidents from Georgia Tech, University of West Georgia, Gordon State College, Georgia Southern University, Georgia College and State University, Georgia State University, Middle Georgia State University and Georgia Southwestern State University are organizing a letter to send to the Board of Regents on April 1, Thomas said in a text message.

The Wall Street Journal and the Collegiate Readership Program

Resolution 32-26, which aims to fund The Wall Street Journal and the Collegiate Readership Program, was passed unanimously. Senate President Pro Tempore Matthew McDaniel introduced the legislation.

“Rachel [Byers] and I have spoken closely with The Wall Street Journal to get a contract for the following year but also to have the libraries include it in their budget for the next fiscal year,” McDaniel said.

This legislation comes after the previous SGA administration canceled the College Readership Program, which allowed students to access online publications such as The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

“There's a lot of students throughout different parts of campus that find that reading these articles is a required part of their classes,” Byers said. “I'm really, really interested in just finding a way in which we can find funding for it to ensure the longevity of this program.”

Alternative commencement ceremony

Senators approved legislation encouraging the university to consider an alternative commencement ceremony for graduating students. The ceremony, originally scheduled for May 8, was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

While nothing has been decided in terms of a date, location or event, Senator Max Sumner said he spoke with people from the Office of the President who hope to “get a final commencement ceremony set on the books.”

Football tickets

Senators passed Resolution 32-18, which encourages the UGA Athletic Association to sell partial football ticket packages to students in addition to the typical full packages. Senator Sam Driggers presented the legislation, which would enable students to purchase a partial student package if they want one, he said.

Byers questioned the timing of the legislation. The student ticket allocation policy is revisited every three years, Byers said, and there is one more year left under the current moratorium on changing the policy. This resolution doesn’t deal with ticket allocation but ticket requests, which are not under the moratorium, Driggers said.

Food insecurity on campus

Residence Hall Association president Kelly Strachan authored Resolution 32-24: A Resolution for Expanding Resources and Funding for Students Facing Food Insecurities on Campus. The legislation aims to increase resources and funding for students facing food insecurity. It also seeks to open a second food bank on campus.

The authors of the legislation fielded no questions from senators. The resolution passed unanimously.

A video recording of the Zoom meeting is posted on SGA’s Facebook page. President-elect Asim Ahmed, Vice President-elect Cheryl Kwapong and Treasurer-elect Carson Kuck will be sworn in as the next administration on Zoom on April 6, Public Affairs Advisor Austin Gibbons said.