GVSU student senate releases DACA statement

Senators debate organization's role in politics, consider other issues at general assembly

By Joshua Vissers | 9/10/17 9:12pm

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GVL / Spencer Scarber President Thomas Haas speaks to Student Senate during their first session on Thursday August 31, 2017.

The Grand Valley State University student senate spent nearly an hour at its general assembly Thursday, Sept. 7, amending and approving a statement to be released in support of students affected by the announcement of the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The statement, which affirms student senate's support for DACA students, passed with 24 of the 30 counted votes but generated some discussion on how political an organization like the student senate should be.

“We are a non-partisan body, and we need to stay that way,” said senator Ethan Schafer, who was concerned the senate might become ineffective if it became too political of an organization. Other senators agreed, but supporting potentially apprehensive students seemed to be the more urgent need.

“Not taking a side is taking the side of the oppressor,” said senator Darwin Harris to a chorus of snaps of approval from other senators. Four amendments were made to be sure the meaning and wording of the statement was accurate, and it was passed by secret ballot. The full statement was released on student senate social media platforms.

Courtesy / GVSU student senate - The GVSU student senate crafted and released a statement Thursday, Sept. 7, confirming its support for DACA students in light of President Donald Trump's plan to abolish the program. The statement was approved by 24 counted votes out of 30.

The resolution to support Indigenous Peoples Day was not voted on this week due to a technicality.

“It has to sit on cabinet for five days before it can be voted on,” said senator Joe Cadreau, who first proposed the resolution. 

The student senate bylaws (article ii, section 7) require resolutions to be submitted on a specific template at least five days before the meeting in which it’s voted on. 

Cadreau plans to get the resolution on the meeting agenda for Thursday, Sept. 21, and is using the time until then to generate support for it.

Before the meeting closed, one student stood to speak during the public comment period. Beau Vansolkema, a social work major who transferred from Grand Rapids Community College, began by identifying himself as a transgender student.

“I would constantly ask you to reach more out to this campus,” he said, concerned that the student senate meetings aren’t welcoming enough to potentially insecure segments of the student body. “One of the reasons they’re not coming forward and speaking is because of the language that is happening at these things." 

Specifically, Vansolkema pointed out the generalized use of the word "guys" to support his comment.

“I don’t personally find that offensive; however, I will say that many LGBTQ-plus individuals do find that offensive,” he said, recommending the senate reach out to inclusion centers to find ways to be more welcoming to those students.

The next student senate general assembly will take place Thursday, Sept. 14, at 4:30 p.m. in the Pere Marquette Room of the Kirkhof Center. 

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