A Student Government Association bill to reserve senate seats for “traditionally marginalized” student organizations drew one of the largest turnouts ever to SGA’s Dec. 10 meeting, according to President Erik Muckey.
Senate Bill 62 would require adding four at-large senate seats for 10 designated “traditionally marginalized” organizations.
Debate during the meeting centered around three strong opinions regarding the bill: potential legal issues with the bill, reverse discrimination and SGA’s outreach to all student organizations.
Senior Taylor Moore spoke out on behalf of the Union for African-American Students, and said many of the people present do not understand being told they are not qualified for positions because of their race.
“We cannot cover every student’s concerns, but that’s a starting point at least to get some idea of having these students’ voices heard,” Moore said. “Just to the point where students feel empowered enough to be comfortable here at this institution.”
Senior Dennis Smith, executive director of South Dakota’s Student Federation, said he was concerned with the legality issues SGA would face if the bill passed. Smith said he spoke with South Dakota Board of Regents members, and said they told him SGA would not be funding eligible if the bill was put in place.
During Smith’s turn speaking, multiple points of order were called because of reactions he was receiving from people in the front row of the gallery.
Other students also voiced their disapproval of the bill, believing students of “traditionally marginalized” backgrounds had plenty of opportunity to run for senate positions.
Senior Charlie Drapeaux, a Native American member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, said he wished to be judged on merit and initiative, not skin color.
The bill was sent to committee, and SGA intends to have a task force put together by their first meeting of the spring semester. Resolution of the bill is scheduled to be finished before elections in the spring.