The 71st Session of the Student Senate had its last official meeting on Wednesday night, and took full advantage of the final chance to pass legislation.
The Student Senate passed a bill to establish an interfaith prayer and meditation room in West Campus Library on the second floor. The room is meant to be a place where students of any or no religion can have a private place to pray or meditate.
“Interfaith prayer rooms are important because we believe in religious freedom and being able to practice religion on campus,” Diversity and Inclusion Chair Adel Quntar said. “The fact that we can have a prayer room on the west side of campus, which would allow students from all religions to pray privately, is very important and vital for all students.”
The Student Senate also passed a resolution calling on the City of College Station to amend its Fair Housing Policy to make discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity illegal. Currently, there is no federal or state law protecting against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, cities and countries can pass laws if they feel that anti-discrimination clauses should include sexual orientation or gender identity.
According to the resolution, there are a dozen municipalities in Texas with laws that protect people from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity including Lubbock, Austin, Brownsville, Dallas and San Antonio. Off-campus Senator Zach Huebschman presented the resolution.
“The most recent study that we have from 2015 states that 30 percent of LGBT respondents… reported some sort of housing discrimination,” Huebschman said.
Student Services Chair Ashali Chimata presented a resolution opposing the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed changes to Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which the Student Senate passed.
According to the resolution, the new rules would require schools to take action only when harassment is “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” that it denies a student access to the school’s educational program. Due to this change, the government would only require schools to investigate the most extreme forms of harassment and assault, and not necessarily all cases, making it difficult for survivors to request that their perpetrator be moved out of their dorm or classes as an interim accommodation during the investigation.
The Student Senate also passed two resolutions supporting students with children. One resolution supported on-campus child care for students with dependents and efforts to increase access and affordability of on-campus child care. The second resolution called for priority registration for student-parents.
The Student Senate passed a resolution to recognize LGBT Pride month, and commend Texas A&M University for its participation in the Houston Pride Parade. LGBT Pride month is nationally recognized in June, but because Student Senate will not be in session over the summer, the Student Senate passed the resolution early.
The 71st session also passed a resolution acknowledging Arab Heritage Month.
Another resolution was passed to express support for establishing a book drive that would collect gently used graduate exam preparation books to donate to the University Libraries.
The Student Senate also passed a bill to allow donors and alumni to donate money to the Texas A&M Foundation to compensate Student Government leadership for their time and dedication. No money for compensation will be drawn from student fees.
The Student Senate voted to keep the Environmental Issues Committee as part of the Student Government Association. The EIC spent last year under a review process, after being put on review by an SGA panel because of a lack of membership and outreach, as well as ambiguous goals. After asking members of the EIC questions about their plans for next semester and debating the issue, the Student Senate voted against a bill to remove the EIC, 23-24 with one abstention.
“SGA is an integral part of serving the student body and we believe that environmental issues play a very important role in connecting SGA to the University student body when it comes to environmental matters,” EIC Finance, Media, and Membership Director Mayur Bansal said.
EIC Outreach Director Samantha Beachan said she was grateful to the Senators for giving her a chance to speak.
“They came in with open minds,” Beachan said. “I think a lot of our fears were that it wasn’t worth debating… but so many people seemed that they came in with open minds and I was very appreciative for the opportunity to speak.”
The Student Senate passed several logistical acts, including an act to remove the “Path to Success Brick Campaign,” an act to update election regulations, an act to update the finance allocation code, an act requiring all resolutions and bills to be fully read before the Student Senate before it is voted on and two acts updating SGA code.