The 2014-2015 SGA Senate had its final meeting on Thursday, March 26. It was an interesting experience to serve as the law school Senator. Unsurprisingly, all of the legislation that was moderately controversial failed to either reach the floor for a vote or pass. This acceptance of the status quo can easily be explained by the successes and failures of some of the less-boring legislation passed.
There are several things that the Senate has reason to be proud of. They helped create the Honor Flight fundraiser, which raised a large sum of money to send World War II veterans to the World War II memorial. Additionally, the Senate has reached out more than in previous years through Say Hey SGA as well as through the creation of Town Hall meetings to hear the viewpoints of students. Several other important acts and resolutions were passed calling for more scholarships for low-income students as well as requiring all SGA officers to participate in Safe Zone training.
I was also pleased that the Senate passed my act and resolution encouraging individuals to vote by reminding them on Election Day of the elections for SGA and Homecoming. The act required the SGA to send out a reminder on Election Day as well as one an hour before the polls closed. The resolution asks the President of The University of Alabama to send a reminder to students encouraging them to vote. If both of these were to happen, it would be a great step forward in ensuring more people have a voice in SGA.
Despite these steps forward, there were several bills that died in the Senate or should not have or passed and did anyways. The most concerning to me was the act passed on the last day of Senate that puts almost all the power to decide block seating exclusively in the hands of the vice president of student affairs and an eight-member board that is chosen by the vice president of student affairs. Additionally, attempts to reform the election of the SGA Senate’s leadership to what it was several years ago failed two times. This is problematic because the Senate does not currently elect the leadership through secret ballot, making peer pressure a significant factor where it should not be.
Several other types of legislation died before ever reaching the floor or did not get passed. Despite the fact that all other SGA Senates in The University of Alabama System, the Black Warrior Riverkeeper and dozens of businesses and organizations have expressly opposed the proposed Shepherd Bend mine, the resolution never really had a chance to pass. Additionally, attempts to create parties for the SGA elections and attempts to get needed food and funds to low-income students and the FAC failed.
Overall, there were some important inclusivity attempts by this last Senate, but any significant attempt to really challenge the status quo failed. The next Senate can do what this one failed to do – really represent and pass bills to benefit all students. I would hope the next Senate, President Spillers and the Executive Board would make a real push to change the status quo and push some boundaries.
Matthew Bailey is a third-year law student. He was an SGA Senator representing the UA Law School. His column runs biweekly.