Gene Thin Elk, director of Native Student Services, was honored with a unanimously passed resolution at the final Student Government Association meeting of the semester on Tuesday evening.
Thin Elk will be retiring at the end of the semester, following 31 years of service in his university position. As outlined in the resolution, Thin Elk worked tirelessly to provide a home for Native American students at the Native American Cultural Center (NACC) and helped to educate the housing staff about the cultural significance of smudging.
SGA senator Christian Skunk introduced the resolution. He said Thin Elk was “like the loving grandparent that we miss from being home.”
“For me, I put him above the rest of the staff because he has worked hard to ensure the success of Native students… always making sure that we have the resources and whatever necessities that we need at the university to move forward throughout the year,” Skunk said. “(His retirement is) a big loss to the Native American community.”
Skunk and senator Sydney Schad presented Thin Elk with a framed copy of the resolution at the meeting.
Also at the meeting, the bill appropriating funds to hire a student to broadcast SGA meetings from the Al Neuharth Media Center Freedom Forum was passed 12-10.
Bill sponsor senator Riley Paulsen said she’s pleased with the discussion of transparency in SGA that the bill has sparked.
“I’m really glad for the conversation of transparency this bill has brought,” she said. “This would hold us more accountable as a body and also improve our record keeping.”
However, senators also debated the ethics of paying a student to provide the services at the meeting.
Senator Afiwa Missoh said the external communications manager (ECM) should take responsibility for the task since that position is already paid to handle marketing.
“We already pay the ECM, so why would we pay somebody else to do it?” Missoh said. “It would have been easier if we had kept it in here and had her do it because she gets paid for it.”
Missoh said she supports the possibility of this role becoming a part of the ECM job description in the future.
SGA President Josh Sorbe said meetings will begin in the Al Neuharth Media Center for either the first or second week of the fall 2018 semester.
Also at the meeting, SGA passed emergency legislation for a partnership with the Vermillion Area Chamber and Development Company (VCDC) to promote community engagement and welcome incoming students in the fall.
Sorbe said he and vice president Madison Green will be working on this project over the summer.
“We’re looking at developing a student deals card, so it would just be a plastic card branded on the front, and then on the back it would say like different businesses and their deals,” Sorbe said. “Obviously, there’s still work Madison and I need to do over the summer to get specific businesses on board, and what the Senate did tonight was authorize us to do that.”
Also at the meeting, the resolution to express SGA’s displeasure to the university’s actions on lack of parking spaces was unanimously passed.
Vice president Green also announced the IT department approved the plan to allow graduates to access their university emails, and they will begin the research and implementation process as soon as possible.