ASA approves senate seats for systemically non-dominant student organizations

The Augustana Student Association (ASA) recently passed a constitutional amendment guaranteeing systemically non-dominant student organizations a seat in the senate.

The amendment, which was introduced by Senator Giselle Mawadri, gives four student organizations a designated seat in the Senate. The organizations include the African Students Union, Asian Student Organization, Black Student Union and Gender and Sexuality Alliance, but more can be added in the future by ASA approval.

The amendment was introduced during ASA’s Feb. 17 meeting and was voted on during their March 2 meeting. The vote to pass the amendment was unanimous.

Mawadri said the purpose of the amendment is to bring voices of all perspectives into the Senate.

“Any time any discussion is being heard, we [will be] thinking about how it affects everyone on campus, not just a select few,” Mawadri said.

Mawadri thought of proposing the amendment after she noticed that many international students transferred schools because of a lack of inclusion at Augustana. After talking with other ASA senators, she decided to draft an amendment that would give these students an opportunity to express their opinions.

Mawadri said she was glad to see the amendment pass, but said there are still more obstacles to face going forward.

“There are definitely bigger issues at play,” Mawadri said. “Administration has their part to play in this.”

In the days following the meeting, ASA President Luca Amayo voiced his support of the amendment and its purpose. Alongside ASA Vice President Audrey Cope, Amayo ran on a platform of addressing issues regarding diversity and inclusion at Augustana.

“Audrey and I see [the amendment] as validation of the work we are trying to do,” Amayo said.

Both Amayo and Mawadri said that the amendment’s unanimous support signals a larger awareness of the problem of inclusion at Augustana.

“All the issues that we are trying to solve now have always existed,” Amayo said. However, he said that with a progressive-thinking administration and a socially aware student body, it was natural that the amendment came about during this climate.

At the same time, Amayo said that Augustana continuing down this path of inclusivity is “not a forgone conclusion.”

“There’s always going to be inertia, the desire to keep things the way they are,” Amayo said. “All this has done is ensure that everyone hears about the problems — but how the university will respond to that is yet to be seen.”

Leading up to the March 2 ASA meeting, multiple senators voiced their concern with the amendment, as it would increase the number of senators from 29 to 33.

To solve the problem, Senator Cole Tessendorf introduced an additional amendment that would decrease the Senate by four chairs, effectively keeping the Senate at 29 members. Tessendorf’s amendment passed 28-1.

Tessendorf said that he was in support of Mawadri’s amendment, but that he was worried about the Senate becoming too large.

“Sometimes adding more voices minimizes the voice of each person,” Tessendorf said.

Tessendorf’s amendment removed one seat each from the sophomore, junior and senior senator positions, reducing each of those from five seats to four. In addition, one at-large seat was removed.

Both Mawadri and Tessendorf’s amendments will take effect next fall.

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