Town halls show divided opinions on student judiciary

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Photo by Colin Lancaster.

As of Thurs. Nov. 9, all the Student Government (SG) town halls except the commuting students’ town hall have taken place.

These town halls are a place for senators to present legislation that has been passed or is under consideration to their constituents, as well as for students to provide feedback and voice new concerns.  

According to senators Patricia Brennan, Joe Griesbauer, John Bartee and Isabelle Melendez-Smith, the proposed student judiciary was the focus of most of the conversation at all of the town halls.

“The biggest thing that is going on now is that judicial review committee,” freshman senator Houston Kirby said.

Among other concerns, many students were concerned about the prospect of having students with potential biases as student jurors, what the jurisdiction of the judiciary would be, and how the jurors would be selected.

“I think they were most concerned about students judging other students,” Kirby said.

Senators assured students that the proposed judiciary is long from being implemented, and that if it was approved, the process to select the jurors would be very rigorous.

There would be a vetting process and likely only upperclassmen would eligible to be student jurors.

Despite the many concerns regarding the judiciary, there appears to be a large diversity of opinion on the topic between upperclassmen and underclassmen.

Melendez-Smith said of the sophomore town hall, “We put it to a show of hands and the majority were in favor of a judicial review board.”

However, the meeting did not include those sophomores who are currently in Rome.

“I’ve been working a lot with talking with our Rome constituents and it seems that they’re more against it,” Melendez-Smith said. “The overwhelming opinion, I feel, of the sophomores is that they don’t want to say whether they’re for or against before they have concrete specifics of what it would look like and how it would be organized.”

Meanwhile, Bartee said of the freshmen town hall, “Out of the people present at the town hall, the majority were for the proposed judicial board.”

While both freshmen and sophomore town halls had a clear majority in favor of the student judiciary, junior and senior town halls had a more negative impression.

Brennan said of the senior town hall, “[W]hile there was a strong focus on the particulars and there was some favor for the Judicial Review board, there has been a general negative opinion of it.”

Student Body President Angelo Novello said of the junior town hall, “A lot of students weren’t convinced that the benefits would warrant the effort it would take to do such a change and implement such a system.”

While the opinion on the judiciary seems split between classes, a potential compromise arose out of the junior town hall after students voiced their concerns.

“[S]ome of the politics majors suggested an idea that I thought was worthwhile was that possibly we could do the judicial committee as a temporary committee,” Griesbauer said.

”That way we could see how the process develops and how the board is formed… During that period [the students] could send in more concerns as they learn more… there seemed to be a lot more favor towards that proposition.”

Among the other issues brought up at the town halls were concerns about getting communal kitchenware for the freshmen dorm kitchens, for which the senate allocated $400 at the meeting on Nov. 13.

There were also complaints regarding dining services, which are being handled by the Senate Dining Services Committee, and the cancellation of the ‘80s TGIT.

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