Rifts return in USG with one week left

Desk security to change again during spring 2019 semester

Written By Amanda Andrews, USG Beat Writer

United Student Government (USG) passed four new resolutions at this week’s legislative body meeting to reform its constitution as part of the effort the organization is taking to revise the document.

One resolution, however, raised some controversy.

The resolution updated the dress code of USG, which currently requires senators and executive cabinet members to don the iconic USG polo and restricts various types of casual attire like hats or sweatpants.

The resolution, Parliamentarian Matthew Spadaccia claimed, would expand the dress code to allow USG members more flexibility and act more in accordance with how senators and executive cabinet members actually dress for USG.

Senator Jacob Berlin had a prepared, written speech protesting the resolution, urging his fellow senators to vote against it on the grounds that passing it would “eliminate possibility for freedom of individual expression” and called the resolution “toothless legislation.”

Berlin went on to criticize not only the requirement of the USG uniform, but some of the common practices exercised by USG as a legislative body.

“Respectfully, those who run the organization – the paid advisors we appoint – do not have any requirement for USG attire at the meetings. Also, our president is not wearing a USG polo [today],” Berlin said. “At a USG meeting, we have to keep our phones put away, we have to wait until we’re called on to speak, we have to excuse each others’ absences and now we have to dictate exactly what color and type of pants we wear under the table. This is not a mature organization, this is a daycare. There is no other politically elected body in America which requires uniforms.”

(The U.S Congress does not have a required “uniform,” although it does have a dress code).

Berlin’s derisive remarks inspired equally passionate responses from fellow senators, many of which were in defense of the president, the constitution and the organization. Senator Dennis McDermott was among the first to speak out against Berlin. 

“Although I appreciate the good intentions that you’re going for, I don’t appreciate the attacking nature of the intentions that you’re using,” McDermott said. “The language and vocabulary you’re using is coming at us in a very vociferous way that doesn’t suggest trust. You talk about trust, and you talk about all us being adults here and you’re calling individual people out in the room about not wearing a uniform. Now I can see where you’re coming from, but I would appreciate a better tone in the way you’re doing it.”

Senator Jessica Wrzosek said since the USG uniform is subsidized by the organization’s budget, it made the organization economically accessible and welcome for anyone who wanted to join.

A few senators did support Berlin and agreed that the dress code policy for pants went a little far. When it came to the vote though, there were only two nays and the resolution passed with a majority of senators’ approval.      

The other three resolutions concerned other USG logistics. One stated it would be the vice president’s responsibility to locate venues for USG legislative body meetings. It passed with a unanimous vote from senators.

Another made a change to a constitutional by-law to state that the president would chair all executive cabinet meetings and be able to vote in the case of a tie. It passed despite one nay and one abstention.

The third resolution reinforced that the parliamentarian would be the authority on constitutionality and it passed unanimously.

USG also had public safety come in as those week’s guest speakers. Assistant Vice President Jeffrey Besong presented with two other members of the public safety department and Presley, a golden Labrador retriever puppy who will soon be in training as a therapy dog.

Besong came to answer any questions about Public Safety and clarified some changes that would be coming in the spring. 

Starting after the holidays, the desk attendant works overnight in Academic Hall will move to Lawrence Hall from 10 p.m to 6 a.m, Besong said, indicating the move was required since more people come through Lawrence Hall than Academic.

“So unfortunately, if you’re in Thayer, we’re going to ask you to go through in the evenings through Lawrence Hall,” Besong. “That’s what we’ve been asked to do by students, and we’re always talking to all of you and we take that into every opportunity we have or every change we make.”

Current Communications Director Allison Schubert and Recording Secretary Hannah Steiner will be resigning effective next semester. Executive cabinet will prioritize filling the positions of finding a new communications director and recording secretary. Reportedly, they have already received five applications for the two positions. Kearns stated that Schubert and Steiner cited academic reasons for resigning.

In the course of a single semester, the discord and drama that characterized the September meetings has largely dissipated, leaving with it a functional and sometimes overambitious legislative body determined to rebrand USG.

This semester’s election and the new senators have directly affected a shift in dynamics within the student organization.

This group seems intent on truly representing the student body and insist they are thoroughly committed to doing so with trying to make USG more accessible to students through monthly newsletters, poster boards, new committees and radio shows.

With USG revising its constitution, it does seem like this long-plagued student organization is finally on the mend. 

Discussions this semester have been long and sometimes still contentious, however. Senators are not so much debating the validity of the president and her decisions any longer, but arguing in more abstract terms as to what USG should stand for and how it should represent the students, both of which are questions that are not easily and quickly answered.

With the intensity of their rhetoric, it can be hard to remember these senators are also students who are involved in various different clubs and organizations as well.

Many USG senators felt their responsibility to the students is second only to academic requirements and that their roles are 24/7 jobs. In fact, they typically quietly reprimand any senator who does not agree with this idea.

There are a few major players in debate, including Senators McDermott, Alexa Lake, Mathew Johnson, Emily Harnett and President Pro-Tempore Ortego and Parliamentarian Matthew Spadaccia, most of whom are newcomers. They repeatedly challenge USG and university norms – even guest speakers sometimes if they feel it is in the interest of the students.

It’s unclear if this fervor continues into next semester, at least with as much intensity, and whether the possible election of new senators in the spring could change the current playing field.