Northwestern University’s Associated Student Government held yearly parliamentary elections, announced a new project to put Wi-Fi on the lakefill and squabbled over a controversial constitutional amendment during Wednesday’s three-hours-and-15-minutes-long meeting.
Present ASG members elected previous Off-Campus Senator Ani Ajith to the position of Speaker of the Senate. “Can you stand for three hours without getting grumpy?” previous Speaker Wilson Funkhouser quipped.
The positions of Parliamentarian, Treasurer and Clerk went to their only applicants, Off-Campus Senator Brandon McNamara, finance committee member David Chi and dorm senator Carly Blumenfeld, respectively. Student Groups Committee Vice President Lauren Masterson was reinstated to her position.
Former senator Dan Tully and his bill’s Senate sponsor, Greek senator Aaron Zelikovich, spoke for their proposed constitutional amendment, a provocative whopper with an inherently controversial element: religion.
This amendment, which failed 14 to nine votes with two abstentions after surviving several awkward wording changes, would have allowed the Senate Election Committee to change the date of ASG’s Spring presidential election, partly so it would not interfere with religious holidays. On a personal level, this amendment would specifically solve possible presidential candidate Tully’s Easter celebration problems.
However, there are many religious holidays, and some argued that a later election date could conflict with midterms — even fewer students would pay attention, much less vote.
Tully’s concern that his colleagues were more concerned with academics than religious beliefs was met by both agreement and hostility during debates.
An argument over the central issue dissolved into concerns over wording that ended up distorting the original meaning of the amendment — in its final form, it would not be able to change the date of this year’s election. The Senate would need to approve the new Election Guidelines before they were put into effect.
The new text would read: “The Election Committee reserves the right to change the time of election. The election shall be conducted by a secret ballot vote of Northwestern University undergraduate students. The senate shall approve the Election Guidelines by the last week of Winter Quarter.”
One senator studying the projected image of a word document containing the proposed changes said, “It just doesn’t make sense.”
The ASG members who stayed to the bitter end of the meeting bypassed two rounds of debate, where a final vote killed the amendment.
In other ASG news:
The 5k Initiative from Winter Quarter, after being narrowed down to the final four — Wi-Fi on the lakefill, standing desks, motion sensing light switches and charging stations — was decided by a 700-count vote with a majority in favor of Wi-Fi on the lakefill. More details on the project are yet to come, according to ASG President Austin Young, but the 5k Initiative will definitely be getting an overhaul next year.
“It’s more valuable to do the 5k process once a year with a larger price point,” Young said.
Money given by Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin for the Spring Quarter initiative will go to cover part of next year’s target of $15,000. According to Young, Telles-Irvin will jump on board if the project goes to support a goal of the administration’s 2011 Northwestern Strategic Plan.
The ASG Transportation Working Group presented ongoing efforts to improve Northwestern shuttles and SafeRide. They are set to determine “current challenges facing the NU transportation system,” according to a PowerPoint presentation by the group. Main goals included increasing SafeRide funding and thereby possibly decreasing wait times for Friday night drunken returns to campus, creating a Park Evanston shuttle stop and making schedule adjustments to fit class times better.
The new proposals for the night both involved handing Senate responsibilities down to new members — one bill wanted new senators to participate in legislation writing training in their first quarter of service while the other would create specified ASG how-to binders for each position.
Full disclosure: Ani Ajith has written for North by Northwestern.