At their meeting on Tuesday evening, the Student Government Association voted to pass two emergency resolutions in response to South Dakota state legislation regarding undocumented immigrants and free speech.
Senate Bill 103 would prohibit undocumented students from attending South Dakota Board of Regents universities, receiving in-state tuition and financial aid.
Matt Yetter, an SGA senator and political science, history and criminal justice major, sponsored the bill to oppose Senate Bill 103. Yetter said the university has no place to interfere with immigration policy and the bill will waste taxpayer dollars.
“It entangles USD in immigration policy which it shouldn’t be in because we’re an educational institution,” Yetter said.
Diedra Gatzke, SGA senator and accounting major, said she opposes the the Senate bill because it directly impacts USD students.
“It is immoral to prevent all these people from attending school,” Gatzke said. “We’re an institution for education and that should be our focus, not preventing immigration.”
Carson Zubke, SGA senator and finance major, voted against the resolution to oppose Senate Bill 103. Zubke said ignoring immigration laws could cause the problem to grow.
“People who are coming here without documentation are here illegally, so that is a criminal violation,” Zubke said. “They technically could be persecuted by that in court. That’s why it should be a principle issue of law instead of one of personal beliefs.”
The resolution to oppose the state Senate’s bill was passed 24 to 1. SDSU also proposed a similar resolution.
Later in the meeting, SGA president Teagan McNary sponsored a resolution that would oppose state House Bill 1073, which would remove the current regulations on free speech for both third-party and university affiliates.
Currently, according to South Dakota Board of Regents policy 3:3, free speech such as demonstrations and protests on campus must be timely and rational discussions. They also must promote the ethical and intellectual development of the student body and the general welfare of the public.
McNary said the House bill is redundant, and free speech on campus is already allowed and protected.
“I think the university and the Board of Regents do an adequate job of ensuring that free speech is allowed on college campuses, and I think they will continue to do that,” McNary said.
Gatzke said removing restrictions from free speech on campus could threaten students who are typically targeted by protesters, such as LGBTQ+ students.
The resolution to oppose the state House bill was passed 23 to 2.
McNary and SGA vice president Josh Anderson will be traveling to Pierre on Friday to speak on behalf of the SGA and the USD student body.