SG introduces new student athlete senator position

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Photo by Peter Burleigh

The Nov. 18 Student Government (SG) meeting was attended by more non-SG members than prior meetings this fall. The increased participation was a result of SG president Joe Scholz’s effort to support the establishment of an NCAA student-athlete senator, which would be included in a proposed redrafting of the SG constitution. 

That evening, the Senate voted 20-1 in favor of a draft that includes the establishment of an NCAA student-athlete senator.  

The University News sports editor Anna Wilgenbusch was one of the 17 student-athletes to attend the meeting. She  was asked by Scholz to aid his campaign on social media with a picture for Instagram, and described his campaign as being “as aggressive as it is personal.”

Scholz said that “my goal has been to, first and foremost, affirm the necessariness and worth of constituency specific representation.” 

The Senate already includes constituency specific senators for commuters, international students and seminarians. Scholz explained that students who are a part of these groups experience their time at UD differently than others do and have needs that should be represented in the Senate. 

In a speech given to the SG Senate, Scholz asked that the Senate “stand strong in voting support of giving student-athletes direct and guaranteed representation within our Student Government.”

In his speech, Scholz mentioned three reasons having a student-athlete senator is important: that student-athletes at UD need a voice that can be dedicated to their needs, that with the elimination of residence hall senators the opportunities for athletes to serve as senators has diminished and that student-athletes deserve a voice as a group which makes up almost 25 percent of the student body. 

Another student in support of the proposal is sophomore Jordyn Fields, who played volleyball her freshman year. Over email, Fields characterized herself as “a strong force of encouragement” for the proposal. 

Fields sees the change as potentially helping not just the athletes on campus, but everyone. One way she imagines the proposal could be beneficial to the whole student body is in regard to the limited space at the university gym. 

“A student athlete senator would have the ability to push for more equipment for the athletes, that would free up space for more students wanting to stay fit,” said Fields. 

In support of the proposal, year-round athlete Anna Wilgenbusch has said that “this bill shows that student-athletes are just that, students and athletes, and we deserve a voice in the Senate!” 

Wilgenbusch, however, has also considered possible downsides to the proposal. “Initially, I was concerned that this bill would deepen the perceived divide between students and student-athletes on campus … I also heard the concern that student-athletes would not have time to participate in student-government activities between practices and traveling for their sport,” said Wilgenbusch in an email. 

Junior class Senator Blaise Schnieder, who voted against the proposal in an informal vote during the Nov. 18 meeting, explained his misgivings about the change in an email.

Schneider agreed with the need for representation but felt more thought should go into the decision. “A relatively large percentage of UD students are athletes—their concerns should not be ignored,” Schneider said. “I am not certain that a student athlete senator is going to provide the culture change necessary for greater support of our student athletes.”

The proposed change is part of a larger project SG is working on: a redraft of the SG constitution. The redraft is being led by the constitutional review committee, co-chaired by senators Benedict Baughman and Katie Groves. 

According to Groves, “The reason we formed this review committee was to address inconsistencies between the constitution and bylaws and to make the document as a whole more coherent.”

One example of an inconsistency is that quorum is defined as 3/4 majority and later 2/3 majority within the constitution.

Groves explained how the proposal for a Student-Athlete Senator fits into the redrafting process. “Since forming the committee, a number of other constitutional changes have been brought forward, i.e. the Student-Athlete Senator and a full committee restructuring,” Groves said. “If we had not already been redrafting, these would have simply been amendments and would have been proposed and voted on in a meeting. But since we are redrafting, we are just including them in the redraft.

Part of the process includes informal votes from congress on the content of the constitution draft.

In order for the new constitution to be ratified, the completed draft must be passed with a three quarters majority of the Senate, ratified by the president of the university and then approved by 10 percent of the student body, as is called for by the current constitution. 

The Senate’s goal is to have the student body ratification happen quickly and take place during the early part of next semester. 

Scholz said that the goal of the process is to redraft “the constitution in such a way that it will stand the test of time.”

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