College Democrats and College Republicans scrambled to regain Senate representation Wednesday night after their seats were reapportioned to new groups.
The presidents of both organizations brought an emergency resolution to the Senate, called "Recognizing Students' Political Voices in the Senate," which called for a symbolic gesture of support but had no legislative power.
Senators voted to send the resolution back to the apportionment committee, a six-person group who chooses which student groups are represented by the 15 student group senate seats. Sending a resolution to the apportionment committee is unprecedented, said Noah Star, speaker of the senate.
The resolution asked Senators to recognize a need for the representation of College Democrats and College Republicans, and that "there is a significant cross-section of political interests in the undergraduate student body that must be represented," according to the resolution.
The groups presented the emergency resolution on Wednesday because they found out about their lost seats only a few days earlier, said Domonic Burke, president of College Republicans, and they wanted to gather support for their representation before their seats are lost next quarter.
The apportionment committee released the student groups that will be represented next quarter in the Senate on Wednesday before the resolution was presented.
The groups that will have senators next quarter are: Alianza; APAC/CSA/TASC/KASA; ASA; College Feminists/SHAPE/MARS/Title IX; FMO; Hillel; McSA/PARS; NCDC; NU Active Minds/NU Listens; NUQSN; Rainbow Alliance; SASA; SEED; Social Justice Coalition; and StuCo.
College Republicans have had representation for over 20 consecutive years and the College Democrats have had a seat for numerous non-consecutive years, the resolution says. Burke said the groups would consider sharing one seat if that was their only option for representation.
The process of allocation of seats, including how many groups applied for them, is private information that the apportionment committee does not disclose.
Star explained that the committee reviews applications, conducts interviews with the groups, and creates a ranked list for their representation. Groups are judged on their previous Senator's attendance if they had one, constituency representation and representation in other parts of senate body.
"We didn't think that allowing these groups would allow the Senate to be more representative," said Chief of Staff Andrew Green, saying that constituents formerly represented by College Democrats and College Republicans would still be represented by other senators. "We spent over ten hours reading over applications, interviewing and deliberating so it was a thoughtful process."
Parliamentarian Dana Leinbach said the senators representing the College Democrats and Republicans may have had attendance or turnover issues in the past.
"I wouldn't like to see one bad apple ruin the whole bunch because political groups on this campus do have a lot of weight," said Kevin Corkran, senator for the College Democrats.
Some critics said that the resolution would be unfair to the student groups who were recently apportioned seats but who were not yet represented. Proponents responded that the resolution was a chance for current political senators to share their opinions before they lost their seats.
Burke insisted that he did not think there was any malpractice in the apportionment committee.
"Perhaps there was a conscious decision to ignore this cross-section of this political voice on campus and listen to other voices," Burke said. "It's not accusing anyone of any wrongdoing or attacking any group that received apportionment."
After the resolution was sent to the apportionment committee to be review by a vote of 15 to 13, with eight abstainers, Star said he would discuss what that could mean with the political groups after the session ended.
Senators also passed legislation supporting Illinois MAP Grants, which are state grants given to college students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The average grant is around $4500, ASG Vice President Erik Zorn said, and about 500 students at Northwestern are recipients.
The legislation asks for funding for the grant to be raised back to its 2012 levels in the state budget, which would increase funding from about $360 million to $410 million.
Zorn and other senators will use the legislation to lobby the Illinois representatives for the grants' funding increase in the state budget. Northwestern's peer schools, including the University of Chicago, DePaul University and the University of Illinois have all looked at similar legislation, Zorn said.
Correction March 5, 8:50 a.m.: The article previously stated that Erik Zorn was president of Senate; he is vice president of ASG.