The Ithaca College Student Governance Council discussed ways to partner with the Center for Civic Engagement after two bills encouraging students to vote were not approved by the administration.
The 2020 Ithaca College Voting Act and the Excused Absence for Poll Workers Recommendation were passed at the SGC’s Oct. 5 meeting. Both bills focus on making voting more accessible to students. Senior Agnes Scotti, a sponsor of the 2020 Ithaca College Voting Act and a newly confirmed SGC senator, said that she was disheartened after learning that the bill did not pass, especially because she was not formally notified by the administration and received no explanation as to why the bill did not pass.
“Voting has never been more important, and I’m just a bit confused why the administration wouldn’t want to get behind a bipartisan bill like this that aims to unite people even in the worst of times,” Scotti said via email. “While I respect my college and all that it stands for, more transparency is preferred.”
Sophomore Lila Weiser, senator-at-large, asked Dave Harker, director of the Center for Civic Engagement, about the bills. Harker recommended that the SGC send more information about the bills to the Center for Faculty Excellence (CFE). He said the Center for Civic Engagement has a good working relationship with the CFE. Harker said that there is a large number of faculty members at the college on board with the bills but questioned how they could work top–down from the administration to get the messaging out.
“This is fundamental to our democracy and we need to take that seriously, and that could be a great first step in building toward future years,” Harker said. “Making this a holiday or making sure that excused absences built in … everybody’s syllabus.”
He said that the center is currently focusing on political engagement, including providing resources to students to make sure that they have the information they need pertaining to the upcoming general elections. He emphasized the importance of educating students about elections that happen every year, not just every four years.
Senior Yetunde Smalls, SGC vice president of campus affairs, asked Harker about the changes being implemented to the Integrative Core Curriculum (ICC) and how civic engagement potentially could fit into new courses.
Harker said that while he thinks the ICC is a good starting place, he would discourage creating a mandatory requirement for civic engagement in the ICC curriculum because of the lack of resources and infrastructure. However, Harker said that he would love to integrate civic engagement throughout other areas of the college, like freshman seminars, capstone projects and internships. Currently, students enrolled in the Honors Program can take a Civic Engagement Seminar.
“I think the next step is how do we just draw it all together and make it a more specific and more identifiable and a more accessible piece of IC,” Harker said.
During the meeting, the SGC also confirmed Scotti as a Class of 2021 senator and freshman James Zampetti as the School of Humanities and Sciences senator. There are currently 17 out of 25 filled senate positions on the SGC. In comparison, in September 2019, 19 out of 36 positions were filled, while in September 2018, only four positions out of 24 were filled.
Scotti said in her platform presentation that one of the reasons she ran for the position was that she was inspired to continue working with the SGC after her experience with the bill. She said that she wants her fellow students’ voices to be heard and amplified and emphasized and that she wants to keep working on holding the college accountable.
Senior Connor Shea, president of the SGC, asked Scotti how she would collaborate with senior Jasmine Morrow, the other Class of 2021 senator, to foster a relationship with the senior class. She said that while the Class of 2020 also had its senior year impacted by the pandemic, those issues are still affecting the Class of 2021.
“We are living in a pandemic and our entire senior year could possibly be online,” Scotti said. “So that’s definitely something we need to grapple with, and I definitely want to work with collaboration to make sure that 2021 isn’t feeling unfulfilled.”
Zampetti emphasized his past leadership experience in high school and ran on a platform that focused on transparency from the college’s administration, as well as mental health resources and education for students.
When freshman Liza Dhameeth, Class of 2024 senator, asked about his plans to encourage transparency, Zampetti said that he thought about a possible amendment to the SGC Constitution that would give the Communications Committee more direct contact with the administration. Currently, the Communications Committee attempts to find new methods of increasing communication with the campus community, according to the SGC Constitution.
“If students have questions about certain policy changes or any shifts in the dynamic of IC, to be able to contact the administration directly and to be able to get answers to them from them would be extremely important,” Zampetti said.