This semester amid internal divisions over a racial slur-related incident and a slew of resignations, Associated Student Government (ASG) has made some steps toward campus health and safety, efforts that senators hope will continue into the spring semester.
The controversy surrounding a video of two white senators singing along to a Kanye West verse containing a racial slur has been at the forefront of ASG’s internal politics since October, culminating in the resignation of four senators and one executive cabinet member.
Despite the disarray caused by the incident, ASG has passed significant legislation this semester.
ASG oversaw zero cutbacks in student organization funding, a drastic change from the 50 percent cutbacks last year which Speaker of the Senate Cole Hankins attributed to the finalization of the Red Brick Rewards program this semester.
The senators passed legislation to sell pregnancy tests and emergency contraceptives at all on-campus market locations. Pregnancy tests are sold at Emporium, due to work done by college of arts and science senator Jannie Kamara over the summer. Emergency contraceptives are also now sold at the Student Health Center.
Senators are working with administrators to implement these two bills.
Legislation was also passed in favor of removing the Ingress Door Policy (informally known as the one-door policy), which requires residence halls to lock all but one door from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Although no actions have been taken by the administration to alter this policy, Hankins said there has been a lot of dialogue surrounding the issue.
Student Body President Meaghan Murtagh, Student Body Vice President Vincent Smith and Hankins all cited the mental health forum as one of ASG’s biggest accomplishments this semester. The main speaker was Kevin Hines who survived a suicide attempt off the Golden Gate Bridge.
“We had a really good speaker, really powerful,” Smith said. “[He] kept a lot of people’s interest, which was really good, and we had a good showing out, which was really cool as well.”
One of Murtagh and Smith’s goals when they took office was to create a culture shift regarding drinking and sexual/interpersonal violence. This semester, Murtagh has worked towards realizing this goal with the Miami Initiative Team (MIT) which seeks to begin conversations with high school and middle school students in the Talawanda school district to denormalize binge drinking.
Murtagh feels as though ASG has made distinct progress over the past semester.
“Overall, I think it has been successful,” Murtagh said. “There have definitely been parts that kind of made us fall back a little bit, but I think that we are in the process of really moving forward.”
Murtagh and Smith are creating an action plan of what they hope to accomplish next semester. One thing they both mentioned was they plan to encourage all student organizations to add a safety chair, who would be responsible for knowing about sexual assault resources and should be able to assist members of their organization with health and safety-related issues.
Throughout the semester, Hankins emphasized following through on initiatives.
“At the beginning of the year, one of the things I really harped on was making sure that the stuff that we start now is stuff that we’re finishing later in the year, so just overall I think a big goal should be finishing what we started,” Hankins said.
While Hankins does not write legislation himself, he wants senate to realize its potential to tackle larger topics at Miami such as finance, mental health and sexual/interpersonal violence.
“I think that senate has the capacity to really be something that takes on bigger issues,” Hankins said.