“It's not about the majority every time,” disappointed ASG President Noah Star said tonight after an almost four-hour-long debate. The debate was about a resolution that would change the division of representatives in senate but failed to pass with 17 for, 17 against and one invalid vote. “We can be a lot better.”
The resolution proposed the following changes in the number of representatives:
- Student groups increase from 15 to 21
- Greek representatives decrease from 12 to 8
- Off-campus representatives decrease from 8 to 6
- Residential representative numbers remaining at 15
Most of tonight’s debate centered around the decrease and change in allocation of Greek representation. Currently, Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council hold 5 representatives each while Multicultural Greek Council and National Panhellenic Council only have 1 each. The new resolution would have given each council two representatives and give the extra spots to students groups.
Opponents stated that IFC and PHA incorporated a larger percent of Northwestern’s population and included students living in on-campus Greek houses; these students are not represented by residential or off-campus reps.
And they’re right – over ten times more students are involved in PHA and IFC than MGC or NPHC. But does a larger population that is almost 70 percent white and mostly composed of middle-class-and-up students need eight more representatives than smaller but more diverse communities?
“Having these many seats just goes to show how much value we place on this institution,” Medill junior Treyvon Thomas.
Many argued that giving all four councils the same amount of representatives would give more weight to marginalized student voices not often heard in senate, as would increasing the number of student groups represented. These groups may feel discouraged by previous rejections for senate seat applications and ASG’s choice to fund groups like Dance Marathon rather than smaller groups that include more low-income students and people of color. It could also be years of not seeing their needs reflected in ASG legislation.
“It isn’t that these students aren’t motivated, it’s that they’re marginalized,” said Communication senior Amanda Walsh, the ASG senator for Quest Scholars, a group that works to make Northwestern more inclusive for low-income students.
Proponents of the resolution also noted that out of the 10 available spots to PHA and IFC representatives, the average number of seats actually used is 6.8 due to a lack of applicants. Star stated that IFC President Will Altabef, Communication junior, has expressed support for the resolution.
The reduction of inefficient off-campus representatives was also addressed. Many off-campus students who came to express their opinions stated that they did not even know who their representatives were, and that they had rarely or never been contacted by them. Reforms in the new resolution would have cut off-campus reps and created more student group reps.
With the addition of these five new student group seats, none of the groups who applied to ASG this year would have been rejected.
After heated arguments and hours of drawing and redrawing hypothetical plans for action, the senate’s vote left Northwestern students with the same system of representation that the night began with.
“We need to do something,” said Star. With plans to look at the deeper structural flaws behind ASG’s under-representation of the marginalized voices they are supposed to support, tabled for the upcoming weeks, hopefully that “something” comes soon.