The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Student Senate finalizes plans for new seat

Student Senate approved legislation to amend the SMU constitution and add a new Graduate Affairs Officer by a vote of 34-3-1 Tuesday. If passed by the student body, the official will serve on the executive committee and act as a representative for graduate students.

The Senate approval marks the first step in the amendment process. The constitution cannot be changed without a referendum. Therefore, the student body must vote on the legislation for this new position within the next three school weeks.

Student Body President Austin Prentice said the process would be conducted just like general student senate elections where students vote online. The amendment will need three-fourths majority to pass.

The new student body officer will have the same responsibilities of Senators who write legislation, debate and exercise their voting rights.

Prentice described the new position as a liaison between graduate students and Student Senate.

“It’s not a special interest seat. It’s an officer position,” Prentice said.

It’s been an 18-month process to bring this legislation to fruition. Jason Sharp, a first-year law student, worked with Prentice toward a resolution to ensure the issues that affect graduate students are heard.

A lot of the issues that graduate students face relate to the distinction between full-time and part-time status. Sharp gave the example of PhD students who are working on their dissertations. These students are technically enrolled in zero credit hours but have full-time status. Given that they are enrolled in zero credit hours, they don’t receive access to Dedman Recreation Center, student health services, the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center or sporting events.

“Now, once this position is passed by the student body, we will have one point of contact,” Sharp said.

This amendment will give one voice to graduate students who make up 44 percent of the student body.

As of now, each academic school receives a minimum of two senate seats according to the student senate constitution. The Dedman School of Law and Perkins School of Theology are the only schools without undergraduates. Graduate students in other colleges must compete with undergraduates for Senate seats.

Sen. Nick Bertasi did not vote for the legislation. He felt that graduate students should run for Senate seats in their respective colleges.

“I believe this is a super-senator position,” Bertasi said.

Student Senate Vice-President Alex Ehmke noted that graduate students do not interact with most of the undergraduate students on campus. These individuals make up a large part of the student body but are scattered around campus.

“They don’t have as many opportunities to build some sort of electoral coalition,” Ehmke said.

Lyle Sen. Joseph Esau said when he spoke with his constituents, some of the undergraduates were for the legislation, but he abstained based on the fact that he felt he represented graduate students as well as undergraduate issues equally.

“I didn’t want to give the message that current Senators in the chamber don’t represent graduate students,” Esau said.

Be sure to look for emails from Student Senate in the coming weeks about voting for the legislation. More information can be found at http://smu.edu/studentsenate

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