The 51st legislature of the Student Government Association (SGA) overruled College Council’s (CC) decision to deny Emory Chinese Student Association (ECSA) a charter in SGA’s last meeting of Fall 2017. SGA also formalized its charter appeals process; funded a ceremony for seniors graduating early, a finals event and winter break shuttles; and voted to pass a resolution in support visual arts at Emory. All bills were passed.
SGA granted ECSA a Non-Recommended for Funding (NRF) charter with eight votes in favor and one vote against. SGA debated the inclusivity of ECSA holding events solely in Chinese and whether duplicity of chartered organizations should be allowed.
NRF charters are granted to “newer” organizations and organizations without a need for funding, according to CC’s website. An NRF-chartered organization can be granted a Recommended Funding (RF) charter if it proves to CC that it “has established a presence on campus through programming and membership.”
ECSA Co-President Zeil Ren (19C), ECSA Vice President Skye Tao (19C), ECSA Chair of Public Relations Eric Leng (20B) and ECSA member John Wei (21C) appealed to SGA regarding CC’s decision to deny the organization a charter due to allegations that ECSA hosted events in Spring 2017 that were conducted only in Chinese, which is not explicitly forbidden in chartering bylaws. ECSA’s presentation included pictures from a calligraphy event they hosted November 2017 and an international event co-hosted with the Office of Admissions, where Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair spoke to prospective students living in Shanghai about Emory. According to ECSA’s presentation, the organization must be chartered in order to use Emory University’s name in its club name, reserve spaces on campus and participate in activities fairs.
At the hearing, CC Vice President of Administration Kristi Yu (18C) and CC Chief of Staff Jake Greenberg (18B) said that CC receives its funding from the Student Activity Fee (SAF) fund and should only fund organizations that are accessible to the entire community, which excludes events that are not hosted in English or are not bilingual. However, multiple CC legislators noted that ECSA is working to make more of their events bilingual.
College Junior Representative Madelyn Zapata (19C) asked CC why the language barrier would cause CC to deny a charter request.
“Saying that English is inclusive and Chinese is not, for me it’s discriminatory because maybe English is not as inclusive,” Zapata said.
Yu said the language barrier can discriminate against both the students hosting and the students attending those large events.
“We don’t want students to feel like their money is being spent for large events where they can’t even feel like they are included in or welcome to,” Yu said. “But then on the flip side, for the students hosting it, it also isn’t welcoming for them either if they feel like they’re always being attacked because they can’t hold events freely.”
CC also said they were trying to prevent duplicity within chartered clubs, and Chinese Undergraduate Student Organization (CUSO) serves a similar purpose of bringing Chinese culture to Emory.
Zapata said the language exclusivity and club duplicity issues should not affect SGA’s decision-making.
“There’s a clause in the finance thing that talked about exclusivity, [and] I don’t think I interpreted it the same way that maybe College Council interpreted it,” Zapata said. “Exclusivity doesn’t have to be defined as English … [and] they want to do non-funding, so the finance clause should not be part of our decision.”
SGA Freshman Representative Austin Graham (21C) asked CC if any CC document prevents awarding charters to two clubs that serve similar purposes, and both CC representatives said nothing explicitly prohibits two charters.
“I think that they serve a big enough role for international students who already have a harder time than most people maybe adjusting to a completely new country, a new way of life,” Graham said. “If this organization helps them adjust effectively, then they deserve the full rights of a chartered organization.”
ECSA representatives said they were unaware of the issue of duplicity affecting their charter status. Tao countered CC’s argument saying ECSA focuses primarily on international students and their transition into Emory.
“One reason I joined ECSA was [because] I was an international student,” Tao said. “There [were] so many mentors that I … met during their summer fair [on] adjusting into the college life program. Also, CUSO, at the time, wasn’t an option for me. It wasn’t out there.”
Wei added that ECSA members helped him with class and major selection and managing tuition payments.
Emory Student Nurses Association (ESNA) Representative Stefka Mentor (18N) voted no on the issue because she agreed with CC’s argument that CUSO already serves the same purpose as ECSA.
“I think other options should have been explored further regarding chartering,” Mentor said.
Speaker of the Legislature William Palmer (18C) and SGA Attorney General Elias Neibart (20C) reintroduced Bill 51sl34, which would formalize the charter appeals process. During its previous meeting, SGA voted in favor of the bill, but the bill requires two consecutive approvals by the legislature to be passed. The bill was unanimously passed with nine votes.
SGA Vice President of Programming Fahad Alhelal (17Ox, 19B) proposed Bill 51sl37, which would allocate $2,699.02 to fund catering for the Recognition Ceremony for early graduating seniors hosted by Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society in collaboration with SGA. The Emory Activities Board contributed $150 to the full price of $2,849.02. The bill was passed with eight votes with Graham abstaining because he did not feel enough information was given about Mortar Board and early graduation.
“I feel like we should do something for those people, but I think that we should also recognize the fact that they have a choice whether or not to participate in regular commencement even if they do graduate early,” Graham said.
Sophomore Representative Johanna Gadomski (20C), Graham, VP of Communications Konya Badsa (15Ox, 18C), and SGA President Gurbani Singh (18B) proposed Bill 51sl39, to fund $4,500 for the winter break shuttles from campus to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The bill passed unanimously with nine votes.
Bill 51sl36 allocated $175.51 to fund “Fun Before Friday,” an SGA outreach event for freshmen with free cookies and beverages. Alhelal, Graham and Freshman Representative Alice Bodge (21C) proposed the bill to incentivize freshmen to attend and meet student government representatives and relax before finals. Freshmen would also be encouraged to take a student experience survey. The bill was passed unanimously with nine votes.
Singh, Chief of Staff Mario Karras (17Ox, 19B) and Josh Patashnik (18B) wrote Bill 51sl38, a resolution that supports and advocates for visual arts at Emory. Palmer described resolutions as “non-binding, basically statements of opinion or moral commitments by the legislature” that don’t involve any monetary promise or policy change. Singh said the resolution was created to help what remains of the former Visual Arts Department, which closed Fall 2014, gain resources. Faculty still offer some visual arts classes.
“I had a meeting with a professor in the visual arts who felt that since the Visual Arts Department had been cut from Emory’s funding, he had so many students interested in taking his class, but he can’t offer it to that many because of the funding,” Singh said.
The bill passed unanimously with nine votes.