Activists alleged at the Students’ Association (SA) Senate meeting Monday that 55 groups—mostly Greek life organizations, along with a cappella troupes and sports teams—are violating the SA Constitution’s policy on gender and sex discrimination and asked the Senate to review and sanction them.
Without sufficient action, they warned, they plan to appeal the matter to the All-Campus Judicial Council (ACJC), SA’s version of a high court.
After over an hour of initial debate and after the activists left, Senate voted to review the constitutions of the named groups, to draft a statement favoring inclusiveness in organizations, and to organize a meeting between the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs and the activists.
Review and Revoke
“We’re asking you to review and sanction a number of organizations that are in violation of the SA Constitution,” senior Stephen Wegman, a former SA senator, said during the meeting’s open forum, which was consumed for over an hour by the topic.
Wegman cited Article V of the document, which says neither SA nor any group affiliated with it may discriminate against any person based on “age, color, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, national origin race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status, or political affiliation.”
Sitting with Wegman, sophomore Artemis Markakis read the names of the Greek groups accused of violating the SA Constitution, and junior Andie Burkey listed the sports teams, mostly club level.
“Senate should place these organizations on a probationary status in accordance with the SA Constitution, have their constitutions modified by the Policy & Review Committee and the Senate, or, we suggest as students concerned with their blatant violation of the Constitution, revoke their status as SA organizations,” senior Sarah Pisaniello, also with the group, said.
Debate Over Purview
The demands sparked a debate in the Gowen Room about which, if any, of the named organizations are bound by the SA Constitution and what, if anything, Senate or SA can do.
“Those do not fall under the direct purview [of either the Senate or the Policy & Review Committee, now called Administration & Review Committee],” junior Alex Guerrero said, chair of the committee, in response to the group’s list of Greek organizations.
Guerrero said that SA is examining the exclusivity of club sports.
Others later expressed concerns that the effort seemingly targeted at Greek life could hurt the music groups and club sports, the latter of which accepts all students regardless of gender or sex but is bound by league rules on who can play for what team.
“They are still subject to the SA Constitution because they are SA affiliated or recognized,” Wegman said of Greek groups, adding later that fraternities and sororities use SA resources.
He said later that there is no consensus on the definition of SA-affiliated since it is not made explicit in the Constitution, another point of debate in the chamber.
“If you or the Senate ignore me today, I will then appeal this matter to ACJC,” Wegman said, addressing Guerrero.
‘This is advocating for students’
Senator Joey Stephens, a junior, told the forum he did not think Senate should take up the issue and that it was not a priority for the student body.
“I’m really concerned that this issue is going to knock us off,” Stephens said as he detailed how Senate has been relatively unproductive this year.
Other speakers disagreed.
“When a body like this starts saying, ‘It’s not my job,’ that’s when a body like this starts to fail,” Senator Leif Johansen, a freshman, said.
“This is advocating for students,” Pisaniello said. “I think it’s kind of disrespectful to say it’s not worth your time.”
Alexandria Brown, a junior in the audience, responded to Stephens by saying, “It’s a lot better than discussing table arrangements for 30-40 minutes.”
Executives Push Action
Some senators, a portion of whom said they wanted to see the issue looked at, thought ACJC or the University administration would be better audiences than the Senate.
“If you’ve come to a forum to lobby changes to Greek life, you’ve come to the wrong forum,” junior Senator Josh Pachter said, adding, “I do want to see real change.”
SA President and Vice President Vito Martino and Lance Floto, both seniors, sided with those who thought the review should go forward, at the least.
“I think it’s simple enough to do that,” Floto said.
“We will take it on this week, and we will do it [if Senate does not],” Martino said, adding after, “Even if nothing is done, you’re trying your best to address their concerns.”
Senators set to start conducting reviews are Johansen, Pachter, and Stephens, as well as freshman Kamel Awayda and junior Zoë James.
News Editor David Schildkraut contributed reporting to this piece.