The deadline for a task force committee to present their recommendation on Senate Bill 62 to the University of South Dakota’s Student Government Association has been extended an additional week to Feb. 4.
A recommendation was scheduled to be presented to SGA Jan. 28, but the deadline has been extended to Feb. 4 due to scheduling conflicts with task force members.
After the reading of Senate Bill 62 Dec. 10, which would reserve four at-large SGA senate seats for traditionally marginalized on-campus organizations, it was referred to the Student and Internal Affairs committee to be reviewed, where it currently stands.
Senator Alexis Oskolkoff, who proposed the bill, said the Student and Internal Affairs committee divided their assessment of the bill into two areas — internal affairs is looking at the legislation’s in-house disciplinary actions, and student affairs is working with students and the traditionally marginalized organizations recognized by the bill.
“It felt like we were being underrepresented through SGA,” Oskolkoff said. “It felt like our voices weren’t being heard.”
After asking for an ad hoc committee, Oskolkoff said Internal Affairs is planning to bring in a couple of lawyers with background in diversity to check the legality of the bill.
The bill is outlined as a sunset provision, which means it would be effective for four years to observe what worked and what actions should be changed to make it better.
“If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but at least we gave it a try,” Oskolkoff said.
The bill was first presented to SGA Dec. 10 and drew a student gallery of more than 60 people, the largest in SGA history.
SGA President Erik Muckey said the reason the Dec. 10 reading of the bill sparked so much interest and debate is because the bill is nothing like what has ever been seen at SGA.
Muckey said regardless of the bill’s outcome, the experience is a huge step forward in opening the conversation about diversity and inclusive excellence actions.
“It’s difficult to see such tension over an issue when it’s not necessarily the issue itself that’s the problem,” Muckey said. “It’s the means of attempting to bridge the gap between traditionally marginalized students and SGA.”
Because of the controversy Senate Bill 62 stirred at the meeting, Senator Tyler Tordsen suggested a task force be created so people could voice their opinions and ideas on the relationship between SGA and students. He said the goal of the group was to have discussion about what changes could be made within SGA itself and between students.
“Students don’t feel connected to SGA anymore,” Tordsen said.
He said having the meetings open to outside students would allow them to express their thoughts, which added to the productivity of their first meeting, Jan. 17, which focused on gaining a better relationship between SGA and the student body.
Tordsen said there are many directions the task force can go about trying to improve this relationship, whether it is requiring safe-zone training for newly elected SGA senators or other ideas brought to the attention of the group.
“I’m really glad that this bill, regardless of what happens to it, created that discussion and that those discussions are continuing in the direction that we need to go, as a student body, as a campus, as a community,” Tordsen said.
Follow reporter Josie Flatgard on Twitter @josie_jayne