With three crisp bangs of SGA Vice President Emma Kurt’s gavel, the chaotic 194th session of Student Senate began Wednesday at 9:30 in Harvey Hall.
Most of the chaos centered around a resolution presented by Jesse Dahms, senior business administration major, and Christian Winter, senior Christian studies major, asking that the university require freshman athletes to live in freshman dorms.
Dahms explained that some coaches require their players to live in upperclassmen dorms with their teammates instead of in buildings with other freshmen. While this helps teams bond, Dahms and Winter asserted that separation from an environment surrounded by other freshmen causes athletes to miss a key part of the Union experience.
“By living not with other freshman, those freshman are missing out on important freshman opportunities,” Dahms said. “A whole slew of things that Union offers are taken away, and they never really get to meet or interact with the rest of the freshman class.”
Dahms drafted the resolution after two athletes approached him expressing regret that they hadn’t bonded more with their freshmen class. Dahms investigated and found Residence Life staff had been trying for several years to require athletes to live with their peers, but were met with stiff opposition from coaches.
Vigorous debate ensued after Dahms’ presentation.
Cody Mitchell, senior business administration major, expressed concern the resolution would anger coaches, as Residence Life had already attempted and failed to change residence requirements for student athletes.
Allen Bradley, senior accounting major, pointed out that living in freshmen dorms doesn’t guarantee that community will form among the students and that many freshmen who live in the Ayers quad are still separated from the majority of their peers.
Especially opposed to the resolution was Will Donelson, junior cell and molecular biology major and cross country athlete.
“Have you ever been a freshmen athlete?” Donelson said to Dahms. When Dahms shook his head no, Donelson continued: “Well, as one of the people who have been a freshman athlete, I cannot support this bill. The camaraderie you build is worth it,” he said, and recounted how living with upperclassmen cross country athletes his freshmen year made his transition to collegiate athletics rich and enjoyable.
Dahms countered that one good experience did not mean there were no bad ones.
“I’m happy that you had a good experience, but I think there’s also a lot of cases where athletes who lived with other athletes wished they had lived with freshman,” he said.
Several senators said they would be more in favor of the bill if the wording was modified to “allowed” instead of “required” in the title, though SGA Attorney General Garrett Wilson, junior business administration major, reminded everyone that resolutions are simply “a public opinion that most of [senate] likes.”
Ultimately, the resolution failed.
All other legislation for the night passed, however, including bills to provide $200 to Union Broadcast Society for a trip to a conference in California, $200 to Enactus and $200 to Alpha Tau Omega.
Debate broke out again over funding for Alpha Tau Omega.
Ryan Harris, senior engineering major, asked if annual dues could be raised slightly for each of ATO’s approximately 30 members to cover the cost of the fundraiser each year, allowing the $200 to go to an organization that operates on a lower budget.
His query brought no response from the fraternity members presenting the bill, but several outbursts from other senators.
Ultimately, Molly Foster, senior zoology major, pointed out that there is always money left over at the end of the semester, so giving money to ATO wouldn’t take money from another club.
Three other resolutions also passed. One requested the University formally ask the city of Jackson to put streetlights on Walker Road. Harris presented the bill and mentioned many Union students must drive the dark stretch to get to Cherry Grove or to enter campus after 11 p.m.
“It’s only a matter of time before someone ends up in a ditch,” he said. “Union is one of the largest contributors to Jackson’s Gross Domestic Product, if Union sends an official request, they will have people out soon.”
Another resolution requested an additional Automated External Defibrillator be placed on campus. Currently, the one closest to Harvey Hall is in the field house.
The final piece of legislation, presented by Jaylon Douglas, freshman engineering major, requested that Union allow pet fish in dorms. Laughter rumbled through the ranks as the resolution was read.
“This bill is aimed at changing it so we don’t treat small lovable pet fish as contraband,” he said.
After legislation, the senate heard from representatives of the EDGE program and the Vocatio Center as well as Student Activities Council. They also selected nominees for Mr. and Ms. Union as well as homecoming court representatives, which will be announced pending administration approval.