SGA Votes in Favor of Grad-Undergrad Split, Moves Closer to Referendum

The 50th Legislature of the Student Government Association (SGA) voted Monday night in the first of two planned times in favor of splitting SGA into two autonomous bodies: the Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA) and the Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA).

After its vote on Bill 50sl19 Monday, SGA planned to vote on the bill a second time at its next legislative session Nov. 28 per SGA Finance Code policy, which requires SGA to pass any legislation that adjusts distribution of the Student Activities Fee (SAF) and therefore amends the code in two consecutive legislative sessions. If the bill passes a second time, it will be sent to a University-wide referendum, in which a majority of the student body must vote in favor of the bill for it to pass.

The bill passed Monday 21 for, zero against and three abstaining. SGA President and College senior Max Zoberman said at the time he believed  SGA would pass the bill for the second time at its next session.  However, because of “ambiguity and gray area” in the constitutionality of the voting procedure, he was reassessing their planned next steps with the bill, Zoberman said Nov. 26.

The bill’s main objectives are to make GSGA an independent governing body, to move the current eight graduate divisional councils under GSGA and to grant GSGA the power to set and collect its own SAF, according to according to SGA Governance Committee Chair and College junior William Palmer, who co-wrote the bill alongside Goizueta Business School Representative and graduate student Mark Neufeld and School of Law Representative and graduate student Stephen Lang.

Before voting on the bill Monday, the legislature amended it to include the explicit creation of a Joint Governance Committee, which would serve as a medium of communication between SGA and GSGA.

Palmer said that further details of the split, such as the specifics of the Joint Governance Committee, will be discussed at a later date. Legislators cannot add any more amendments to the bill than those added Monday, Zoberman said.

Speaker of the Legislature and College senior Justin Sia said that SGA’s main responsibilities regarding the bill will be to inform students about how the proposed changes will impact the student body before the referendum, if it were to occur.

Though legislators have not yet determined how to best communicate the details and significance of the bill to the student body, “holding [the referendum] in the spring would give us the opportunity to have those conversations in the most responsible way,” Zoberman said. “My ideal timeline would be to have this put to a referendum with the next round of SGA elections. Having it on Dec. 5 would be the quick way to do it, but the entire theme of this process … was an emphasis on getting it right, rather than on making it as expedient as possible.”

GSGA President and Goizueta Business School graduate student Jared Greenbaum proposed the change Monday, Nov. 7.

“If this passes, it will allow our graduate students to have a more visible and formal voice at Emory’s campus,” Greenbaum said. “[Monday] night showed that when we do come together, we as graduates and undergraduates from different schools and different divisions at Emory can make this university a better place and enrich the [student] experience for the better.”

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