Special Senate Session: The ‘Fire’ Spreads to Student Government

On the evening of November 18th, Purdue Student Government senate convened for a special senate session to address mostly race and diversity-related legislation. The special session was called (in part) in response to protests led by Purdue’s Social Justice Coalition, who have expressed concern about what was described in their post-protest demands as the “hostile environment caused by hateful and ignorant discrimination on Purdue’s campus.”

The Purdue Student Government senate consists of up to three representatives from each of Purdue’s 11 undergraduate colleges and programs, elected by popular vote within each college in early April for the following academic year.

Several student-constituents from various colleges brought concerns to their senators during the past week, and dozens of concerned students attended the night’s meeting. Members of the Social Justice Coalition gave a lengthy presentation at the beginning of the session. Following is a description of each bill and its outcome.

Bill 15-45 “Creation of PSG Committee on Outreach and Representation”

This bill sought to create an Ad Hoc Committee within PSG, comprised of members of all branches of student government, which would work to remedy the proposed problem that the elected PSG Senate does not actively represent the student body.

This bill passed senate with a unanimous vote.

Resolution 15-21 “PSG Stands with France”

This resolution proposed a formal statement on behalf of the student body to expresses condolences to all of those greatly affected by this tragedy and stands with France united against terrorism.

This resolution passed senate with a unanimous vote.

Resolution 15-22 “Purdue Student Government Statement on Mizzou and Racial Inequality on Purdue’s Campus”

This resolution asked PSG to formally endorse the following statement:

We are saddened by the recent events at the University of Missouri and Yale University. This is a time to reflect on the fact that we must all continue to work together against any act of discrimination and/or institutionalized oppressive practices that could obstruct our growth as a university community. The Purdue Student Government Senate and student body wishes to reaffirm our commitment to embracing and celebrating diversity in all of its forms, and we will continue to work actively with the University Administration and campus organizations to ensure that all individuals feel welcome, valued, safe and respected in our university community.

This bill passed senate with a unanimous vote.

Resolution 15-23 “Strengthening of Emerging Leaders Scholarship Fund”

This resolution sought to make a formal statement to the university that funding for the Emerging Leaders Scholarship Program should be doubled to increase financial aid to underrepresented minority students.

This bill passed senate with a vote of 25 – 1 – 0.

Resolution 15-24 “Purdue Student Government Stands with Missouri University”

This resolution asked PSG to formally endorse an open letter from the Social Justice Coalition outlining solidarity with Missouri University and acknowledge that Purdue University is an environment in which underrepresented minority students are “disrespected, ignored, and violated” in addition to being a campus where the administration is “FAILING to create the environment that they claim the university encompasses.”

This resolution received lengthy discussion on the floor. Many senators felt the wording of the open letter was confrontational, one-sided, and Senator Romary worried that the letter conveyed a “militaristic” spirit as opposed to a “diplomatic” one.

Members of the audience referenced the lack of black students in the Purdue Student Government senate as evidence of the problem outlined in the letter.

Other senators clarified that the passing or rejecting of Resolution 15-24 is purely regarding the open letter itself, and not indicative of PSG’s overall stance on diversity issues.

One member of the audience described the potential not passing of the resolution based on the wording of the open letter as “if I threw a baby out the window and you didn’t catch it.”

At the end of the allotted 10 minutes, a 5 minute extension was voted on and passed unanimously with 2 abstentions.

A member of the audience explained that any watering-down of the letter would be “speaking for us,” and ultimately silencing the voice of underrepresented minority students.

Senator Young reiterated that PSG’s support of the diversity efforts is not completely dependent on the outcome of Resolution 15-24, and was joined by Vice President Wilmoth and Senator Morrison in encouraging the members of the audience to run for positions in the PSG senate, which not a single one had done in the previous cycle.

A member of the audience asserted that “white silence is white consent” as time ran out for discussion.

The resolution passed senate with a vote of 12 – 11 – 3.

The bills now will travel to President Mike Young’s desk for signing.