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January 25, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 27°F

News

SGC sees less engagement than previous semesters

Throughout the fall semester, the SGC has hosted a variety of guest speakers, including Interim President La Jerne Cornish and hosted listening sessions in partnership with the Senior Leadership Team (SLT). However, in comparison to previous semesters, the SGC has passed fewer bills and has seen a decrease in engagement. 

The SGC is the representative body for Ithaca College students that aims to improve student life on campus, and one of the ways is through passing bills to address concerns of campus community members. There are four types of bills: amendments, acts, resolutions and recommendations. Amendnts are changes to SGC bills that are effective immediately. Acts are meant to address long-term initiatives or issues and are permanent. Resolutions are temporary and address short-term initiatives or issues and expire with the senate they are enacted with. Recommendations encourage action to be taken by groups outside of SGC that have decision-making abilities, according to the SGC Constitution.

During the 2020–21 academic year, the SGC passed a total of 45 bills and at its last meeting of the semester alone, a total of six bills were passed. The SGC passed four bills by its last meeting of the Fall 2021 semester. 

At the Dec. 6 meeting one of the bills, the Hybrid Model Bill, was tabled with a vote of 8–0 with one abstention. The bill calls for the college to develop a hybrid model of education, which the bill defines as “the dual physical-digital learning environment in which the physical instructor simultaneously navigates the physical classroom environment whilst having the digital classroom open for active participation.”   

The Increasing Campus Lighting Bill was passed with a vote of 8–0 with one abstention. 

The bill calls for the college to install more lighting on campus by the 2022–23 academic year, and calls for more lights around campus. 

The SGC passed two other bills this semester: the Employee Vaccination Bill and the Varsity Athletic Senator Position Clarification Bill.

The Employee Vaccination Bill recommended that the college make it a requirement for employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. While all students were required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the same did not apply to faculty. Only 80% of faculty and staff are fully vaccinated, compared with 99% of the student population. At its Oct. 5 meeting, the Faculty Council voted in support of the recommendation, although there was some discussion about the negative effect the recommendation might have on faculty retention. The SLT declined to act on the recommendation.   

The Varsity Athlete Senator Position Clarification Bill changed the SGC constitution to align with the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), meaning that all candidates for the Varsity Athlete Senator position in the future would be internally selected by SAAC before proceeding through normal SGC election procedures. Those selected by SAAC would be the only ones allowed to run for the position.

Sophomore James Zampetti, vice president of communication, said in a statement to The Ithacan that he believes every member of the SGC has been an advocate for students and improve students’ experiences at the college.

“Our e-board was able to achieve some amazing and unprecedented things this semester, like sending out campus wide emails and hosting a sitdown with [the Senior Leadership Team] and the student body,” he said in the statement.

Zampetti said he felt this semester was successful and is looking forward to Spring 2022.

Engagement: 

SGC has seen a decrease in student engagement over the years, leading to vacancies in the senate and fewer students voting in SGC elections. In the 2018–19 academic year, only about 1.1% of students voted. Compared with about 7.7% in the 2017–18 and 2016–17 academic years and about 18.9% in the 2015–16 academic year.

There were 20 senators for the 2020–21 academic year with five seats not filled. The 20th senator was confirmed at the Dec. 7, 2020 SGC meeting.

There are currently 10 spots filled on the SGC senate out of 25 total positions for the 2021–22 academic year: two Class of 2022 senators, one Class of 2023 senator, one Class of 2024 senator, School of Business senator, Roy H. Park School of Communications senator, School of Humanities and Sciences senator, clubathlete senator, off-campus senator, Students of Color Coalition senator, graduate senator and four senator-at-large positions remain open.

Changes during Fall 2021: 

This semester, the SGC also faced a change with the resignation of its president, junior Déontae Guy. Guy resigned before the SGC’s Nov. 15 meeting and his resignation was effective Nov. 29. The executive board of the SGC submitted a statement to The Ithacan after the Nov. 15 meeting. In a message to The Ithacan, Guy said he did not have anything to add.

“Student Governance Council (SGC) is the sole representative body for the Ithaca College student community and works to implement change on campus and improve student life,” the statement said. “In light of the resignation of our student body president effective Nov. 29th, SGC wants to reaffirm our commitment to these goals to improve the Ithaca College community.”

During Fall 2021, Guy did not sponsor any bills. During the 2020–21 academic year, while serving as the vice president of communications, Guy sponsored one, however, executive board members can only co-sponsor bills.

Guy also served as the student representative on the Presidential Search Committee. The committee is made up of 17 people, including David Lissy ’87, chair of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees and James Nolan ’77, vice chair of the board of trustees. Both Lissy and Nolan are ex-officio members. Guy was the only student representative on the committee but was replaced by senior Leticia Guibunda, SGC vice president of campus affairs, as of Nov. 29, 

The SGC line of succession goes from the president of the student body, vice president of campus affairs, vice president of academic affairs, vice president of business and finance, vice president of communications, senate chair, chief of staff, student trustee, president of the Residence Hall Association, student liaison to the Alumni Board and then goes into the senate, according to the SGC Constitution. With the resignation of Guy, there is no president, and the constitution does not state what to do when a president resigns.

Connor Shea ’21, former SGC president for the 2020–21 academic year, said in a comment to The Ithacan that he believes the SGC is working hard to do the best work it can for students.

“I cannot imagine what it has been like leading the student body back onto campus amidst this ongoing pandemic,” Shea said.

Shea said he has seen students resign from SGC before. However, there has not been an SGC president who has resigned, according to records of previous reporting from The Ithacan. The online record goes back to 1926.

Shea said he has seen people advocating for students, but it is difficult to know what is going on with SGC when not in the room.

“I know there are some strong voices at the table who want to make good change for the student body,” Shea said. “I look forward to seeing them continue their work and advocacy throughout the remainder of the academic year.

Caitlin Holtzman can be reached at choltzman@ithaca.edu

Mel Andia can be reached at mandia@ithaca.edu

Syd Pierre can be reached at spierre@ithaca.edu