Block seating outside scope of Code of Laws

Block+seating+outside+scope+of+Code+of+Laws

Katherine Martin

The Student Government Association student organization seating committee met last night to begin allocating football seating privileges to selected student organizations despite the fact that no University policy permits the SGA to regulate the student section in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“There’s not a policy you could look up and read,” said UA spokeswoman Cathy Andreen. “Student organizations determine their own operating procedures and bylaws, which are subject to review and approval by Student Affairs.”

However, neither the SGA Constitution nor the Code of Laws establishes operating procedures to regulate the block seating process.

SGA communications director Seth Morrow said the SGA president can create committees with the power to regulate student life without being authorized to do so by any of the University’s governing documents.

“It is not and does not require a policy or constitutional authority to implement,” Morrow said. “The SGA President has the authority to create committees and assign them tasks.”

Andreen mentioned a Student Organization Seating Handbook available from the SGA that was later released to The Crimson White.

Ryan Flamerich, speaker of the SGA senate and a member of the SOS committee, said members had not been informed of the handbook or voted on making any changes to it.

“I am not aware that there is one,” Flamerich said.

Morrow said organizations that use other people’s blocks are subject to disciplinary actions.

However, neither Morrow nor Andreen provided details about how individual students can be penalized for sitting in a block reserved for an organization to which they don’t belong. No such penalties are mentioned in the Student Organization Seating Handbook or the Code of Student Conduct.

According to Andreen, block seating was first implemented “decades ago because students have always wanted to sit with their friends at football games.”

Block seating became an issue in the 70s because a number of students saved seats in the student section of Bryant-Denny, according to CW archives.

An editorial in the Sept. 29, 1977 issue of the Crimson White states large signs with fraternity letters were placed over seats and those students who did not move were often subjected to having drinks poured on them among other forms of abuse.

On Oct. 13, 1977, SGA senators approved the establishment of the Student Organization Seating Commission to finalize and implement a block seating plan. Over the past three decades, the number of organizations officially represented on the block seating committee has decreased.

The original commission consisted of a director, three members appointed by the SGA president and approved by the senate and representatives from Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic, Association for Women Students, Afro American Association and the Student Dorm Association. Those specifications are no longer in the SGA Code of Laws.

Of the 34 organizations awarded seating sections last year, at least 16, including all organizations on the front row, had no black members. A proposal by Flamerich to count an organization’s diversity towards its application was not included in the final application posted by the SGA last month.

The current Student Organization Seating Committee was created through an executive order signed by SGA president Grant Cochran. It called for seven members to be appointed from the SGA legislative branch by Flamerich and another seven at large members to be appointed by the SGA executive council.

The executive order also stipulated that that the executive council would appoint the committee chair. The SGA executive council includes the SGA president, vice presidents, executive secretary and the chief of staff.

The executive order was signed on May 10, 2011, and Flamerich made his appointments on June 27. The executive council made its appointments almost two months after the executive order was signed, and the committee was officially formed on July 7. The SOS committee did not meet until last night.

Because members came to the meeting to score student organization’s applications on a rolling basis, the full committee has not discussed the application process. The first home game against Kent State is Saturday.

Flamerich appointed himself, Carly Evans, Will Pylant, John Brinkerhoff, Fred Horn, Jonathan Thompson and Laura Sojka to the committee. All are elected SGA senators.

The executive council appointed Meredith Julian, Harrison Webb, Raymond Dawkins, Sean Keeler, Matthew Calderone, Jesse Blount and Robert Fender, with McKenzie Jones serving as chair. None hold elected positions within the SGA.

According to Morrow, committee members will not be able to participate in drawing up the seating chart. Instead, the committee chair will work with athletics and the faculty block-seating advisor to develop a map the committee will vote on later in the week.