Policies to assist undocumented students, prevent sexual assault and implement a university-wide syllabi bank are among the SGA’s priorities as student legislators return to the campus for spring semester.
The Student Government Association will hold its first meeting of the semester Feb. 1. Here are a few things they’ll be working on this spring:
Supporting undocumented students
The SGA will continue its efforts to designate the University of Maryland as a sanctuary campus for undocumented students, said SGA President Katherine Swanson. The SGA, Residence Hall Association and Graduate Student Government all introduced legislation last semester voicing support for undocumented students and sanctuary campus policies after President Trump’s election.
Throughout his campaign, Trump promised to repeal former President Barack Obama’s executive actions, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows undocumented immigrants who meet certain guidelines and came to the U.S. before turning 16 to work for two-year intervals, pay in-state tuition at this university and receive protection from deportation.
Because Prince George’s County is one of three jurisdictions in the state of Maryland that has policies in place to protect undocumented immigrants from prosecution by federal authorities, Swanson said the SGA’s action would be largely symbolic and would act as a show of support. Sanctuary campus policies have already been in place at this university, she said.
“For us it means that President Loh and [University of Maryland Police] Chief [David] Mitchell have agreed that they’re not going to encourage [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to come on our campus, and they’re going to try to stop it in every way they can without obstructing federal law,” said Swanson, a senior government and politics major.
Additionally, the SGA is working with university administration, staff, faculty and members of other student organizations to discuss the needs of undocumented students, she said, noting that she also hopes to work with the College Park City Council on an ordinance reaffirming the sanctuary city policy.
A.J. Pruitt, SGA student affairs vice president, said he hopes to expand a program that provides an immigration attorney through the undergraduate and graduate student legal aid offices a few times a month.
“Moving into next semester, as an SGA we’re going to have to talk about … what can we do that’s not just voicing our support, but that is really affecting people,” said Pruitt, a junior economics and government and politics major.
Sexual assault prevention
The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation into this university’s handling of sexual violence reports on Jan. 11, adding to a list of 223 colleges across the country, The Washington Post reported.
Swanson said discussing the investigation with Loh is the “first thing on [her] agenda” when they meet at the start of the spring semester. The SGA in September proposed an annual $34 student fee to support what Title IX Coordinator Catherine Carroll called an under-resourced and understaffed Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct, but then withdrew the proposal after the administration announced it would fund six new positions to address sexual misconduct on the campus.
“My initial thought is like, ‘We told you so,'” Swanson said. “But I don’t know what’s going to happen, and honestly I don’t know if [Loh] knows yet.”
Swanson said the SGA’s Sexual Misconduct Prevention Committee is working on a survey about how students receive information from the university in an effort to better advertise sexual assault resources on the campus. The Student Affairs Committee is also in the early stages of exploring ways to implement sexual misconduct prevention or bystander intervention training as a requirement for student groups to receive certain levels of SGA funding, Pruitt said.
The Student Affairs Committee is also moving forward with plans for a student group, on-campus tailgate, similar to the tailgates run by the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association. Pruitt said while space and funding are always an issue, the committee hopes to hold two or three tailgates in the fall “for all student groups to be able to participate in that sort of experience.”
“We sort of say this every year and it never really materializes, but I am really hopeful that next year we will be able to have at least those two or three student group tailgates,” Pruitt said.
Revisiting syllabus bank
The Academic Affairs Committee plans to focus on “holding the IT department accountable” for implementing an online syllabi bank that was signed into university policy in 2012, said Academic Affairs Vice President Fasika Delessa.
The IT department has assured the committee they are working on and prioritizing the project, which would post all course syllabi in a centralized location at the time of registration, Delessa said. The SGA passed a bill urging the department to implement the project nearly a year ago, and Delessa said her committee “definitely want[s] to see [the policy] come to fruition, so for sure we’re going to be focusing on that and following through.”
“If you see a class that has a lot of assignments, and that semester you’re also working part time, and you’re taking 16 other credits … You have sort of a right to know what you’re getting into when you’re paying thousands of dollars for classes,” said Delessa, a junior management major.
The Academic Affairs Committee is also exploring options to provide more resources to first-generation students, expand University Libraries’ textbook reserve program and include preferred pronouns on class rosters “to truly make every student feel welcome and comfortable in classes,” Delessa said.
Including pronouns on class rosters was one of 64 demands that a coalition of student groups and activists submitted to this university’s administration last semester to serve marginalized communities on the campus.
The SGA is moving forward with a student leadership grant project that will provide funds to students in financial need who are actively involved in campus student groups, allowing them to devote more time to their organizations and spend less time working. The SGA plans to hold a crowdfunding campaign for about 40 days this semester and hopes to raise $5,000 to put toward these grants, Swanson said.
Pruitt’s committee will also be spearheading a feminine hygiene products campaign this spring. The initiative would supply pads and tampons in some Stamp Student Union bathrooms on a trial basis, and if successful, could expand to more buildings on the campus. While his committee is still finalizing the logistics of the project, Pruitt said he expects a bill to move through the legislature within the first few weeks of the semester. The program aims to assist students who may be struggling to afford products that are a hygienic necessity.
“It has been a program that has been done at a couple colleges across the country, but I don’t think one as big as we are and with the sort of funding issues that we have,” Pruitt said. “If we can do it, which I am confident that we can get it done, I think it will be a really unique program.”