Student Government Association senators unanimously opposed a proposed constitutional amendment to create a first-year student committee within the SGA at the Jan. 27 meeting.
Sophomore Drew Olkowski, class of 2017 senator, who proposed the amendment, said the proposed committee would have provided an outlet for first-year students to voice their concerns and to potentially solve them. The current class of 2017 senators would have chaired the proposed committee, and senators from all classes and student constituents could have been members.
The other four freshman senators all co-signed Olkowski’s amendment: Rachel Roizin-Prior, class of 2017 senator; Marcell Fischler, international student senator; Claire Noonen, music school senator; and Senator-at-Large Melinda Carmichael.
Olkowski said he wanted to create the committee in order to unite the first-year senators and work more exclusively on first-year issues, such as the new Integrative Core Curriculum and the college’s increased efforts to expand freshman classes and first-year programs.
“The most influential thing I’ve done so far this year is eliminating the library fines, which is great,” Olkowski said. “But that’s not really a first-year student issue, it’s merely an everybody issue.”
Before voting, the SGA held a discussion, and many members expressed concern about the amendment. Sophomore Elijah Breton, senate chair, said the committee’s core goals of bringing senators together and addressing constituents’ concerns were already implied expectations of senators.
“As senators, I really think you guys are some of the best leaders here at Ithaca College,” Breton said. “I personally don’t think that we need something that says we have to do this when I think it’s an unspoken expectation.”
Junior Isuru Perera-Somasinghe, vice president of academic affairs, said he was concerned that adding another committee would increase the SGA’s problems with bureaucracy.
“We are student bureaucrats sometimes, and we take on the same features of the administration that we criticize so often,” Perera-Somasinghe said. “A committee like this … seemingly creates a situation where we just dig ourselves deeper into that bureaucratic system.”
Perera-Somasinghe also said the SGA’s meetings are open to the public so constituents can voice their opinions, and a specialized committee to bring students in is therefore unnecessary.
Junior Crystal Kayiza, Park School senator, said the issues first-year students are currently facing should not be seen as unimportant.
“Although I don’t necessarily agree that a whole other body should be created, I do also think we need to recognize the fact that the … intention of the bill does have purpose,” Kayiza said. “There does need to be more discussion about the experiences of students in SGA.”
Fischler, who co-signed the amendment, said he hoped the initiative could succeed after being rewritten as a bill, which Cedrick-Michael Simmons, president of the SGA, suggested during the discussion.
After the deliberation period concluded, Olkowski and his four co-signers ultimately voted against the amendment, making the decision unanimous.
Olkowski said even without an amendment, the five freshman senators stay in touch over Facebook and have agreed to help one another on their bills, particularly with cosigning.