SGA inducts freshmen, talks sexual assault

By KAREN SHENG
For The News-Letter

The Student Government Association (SGA) met on Tuesday to swear in the Freshman Class Senators and to explore the issues that would be discussed at a dinner with University President Ronald J. Daniels. The Halloween Bus Funding Bill 2015 was also passed.

The meeting began with the certification of election results. The Freshman Class Council for the 2015-2016 school year was announced on Oct. 12. Freshman Class President Noh Mebrahtu and Freshman Class Senators Mi Tu, AJ Tsang, Akshay Bhamidipati, Ting Fang, Nina D’Amiano and Jennifer Baron were sworn in and briefed on the jargon, procedures and etiquette of a typical SGA meeting.

Every Halloween, SGA has traditionally allocated a portion of its budget to provide free transportation for students to and from Fell’s Point, a popular neighborhood in Baltimore, for Halloween festivities.

Members discussed ways to cut down on costs, such as encouraging the Office of Student Life and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to contribute a certain amount of money toward procuring buses or reaching out to alumni. The bill passed with a motion to raise the budget for the event to $1650 and extend the hours of operation to 3 a.m. with all in favor, no oppositions and no abstentions.

The SGA will have the 22nd annual dinner with President DanielsDaniels in lieu of the meeting on Oct. 22. The topics of discussion include health and safety, the role of the SGA on campus, the development of the new student center, and fraternity and sorority life on campus and its future.

For the issue of student health and safety, Executive Vice-President Jack Bartholet honed in on mental health and campus safety.

“We’ve identified [mental health] as a big problem; students are way too stressed, and we want [Daniels] to take action on that. We’ve identified some aspects of this school that we feel are contributing to this, and we want him to study them and bring it back to us,” Bartholet said.

Bartholet expressed concerns about the impact of stress on school spirit and community.

“Students don’t have to meaningfully engage in a lot of organizations, and I know that personally from SGA and the number of people that request absences due to exams,” he said. “That impacts culture and morale, which creates more stress and a more stressful environment.”

Additionally, Bartholet discussed the issue of campus security. He believes that the Allied Barton officers have a presence, but they do not have weapons and certain police powers.

“We’d like to propose that Hopkins hire more off-duty police officers and make safety more of a budget priority so that it can deal with crime around campus because the crime right now is pretty unacceptable and it reduces people wanting to come here and it makes people feel unsafe,” he said.

Similarly, Bartholet emphasized the importance of ensuring transparency when sexual assault statistics are reported.

“We ask that [the administration be] more transparent than they’ve been in the past. In some semesters there’s been listed zero allegations of sexual assault,” he said. “Clearly that is not the case. The school has not been transparent or didn’t track it accurately, so we’re asking not only for transparency in the future but to be able to move on from the transparency of the past.”

Likewise, he wants Daniels to ensure that students do not feel that the University avoids sharing information about sexual violence in order to avoid being painted in a negative light by the media.

“We’re asking the President to make it very, very clear to his administration that no decisions about sharing info, about sharing actions, take media into account. It should be based solely on safety,” Bartholet said.

SGA Executive President Jason Plush also mentioned “big, tangible steps” that the SGA will take to address the issue of sexual assault on campus.

“Setting up a sexual violence committee to come and speak in front of the SGA… for representatives of the SGA to be able to discuss the new policy, any concerns with the new policy as well as addressing recurring cases of assault on campus… meeting with President Daniels before the panel happens… [and] contacting the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and talking about stigmas around Greek life,” Bartholet said.

SGA also plans to combat the negative stereotypes surrounding Greek life during its meeting with President Daniels.

“We’re also going to work on strengthening the perception with staff and faculty and making everyone aware that Greek life brings value and that the President of the University supports our values,” Bartholet said.

Senior Class Senator Amanda Lourenco disagreed with the assessment.

“I think [President Daniels is] already showing us this by hiring two full staff members to be dealing with these issues. I don’t think Greek life is going anywhere. I think there’s going to be a re-hauling of it,” she said.

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