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The Blue & Gray Press | October 18, 2017

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SGA Executive Cabinet rejects motion to issue statement in support of DivestUMW

SGA Executive Cabinet rejects motion to issue statement in support of DivestUMW

By MARIAH YOUNG

The University of Mary Washington Student Government Association’s Executive Cabinet rejected a motion by the Student Senate to issue a statement from the SGA in support of DivestUMW’s actions during their most recent meeting on Monday, April 6.

The Student Senate, at its weekly meeting on Wednesday, April 8, motioned to overturn the Executive Cabinet’s decision, but failed to receive the two-thirds majority vote required.

In a 2-5-2 vote, Legislative Action Committee Chairman Joe Dolan and Student Government Vice President Nate Levine voted in support of the motion, while Judicial Review Board President Lanieta Budi, Association of Residence Halls President Mia Bolesis, Honor Council President Catherine Purtell, Commuter Students Association President Evan Smallwood and Diversity and Unity Coordination Committee Chair Kopper Carter voted against the motion. Academic Affairs Chair Sarah Clay and Interclub Association President Matt MacAloon abstained from the vote.

The motion, which proposed to have the SGA publish a statement of support for DivestUMW originally passed the Senate the previous week.

The proposed statement would read: “The University of Mary Washington Student Government Association supports DivestUMW’s continuing action to ensure student voices are heard by the administration and the Board of Visitors, given the Board of Visitor’s refusal to fully consider their proposal for the creation of an exploratory subcommittee on the feasibility of divestment.”

The SGA Executive Cabinet voted to “release a statement of their own accord regarding the failed motion,” according to the SGA Executive Cabinet minutes.

During the Executive Cabinet meeting, Zakaria Kronemer, co-founder of DivestUMW, and approximately five other members of the student group were present.

According to Kronemer, DivestUMW’s activism on campus, including the sit-in at George Washington Hall, which is currently in its second week, has received widespread support from students and faculty.

“There is a unique and monumental support for this issue that has not happened at this university before,” said Kronemer.

During the most recent Student Senate meeting, SGA President Samantha Worman said, “There is nothing morally wrong with [divesting], it would better our futures.”

While some Executive Cabinet members supported the statement because it reflected how students’ voices have not been recognized, others were not comfortable specifically mentioning DivestUMW and believed the endorsement would exclude students who have different opinions about the issue.

At the meeting, Worman said discussing options at the next meeting would give the members time to come to an agreement that would represent the viewpoints of the members of the Executive Cabinet.

“We’re constantly moving forward as a university, and the cabinet will do our best to represent those views and values in our future statement,” said Worman.

According to Nate Levine, the Executive Cabinet will need to get Senate approval for any statement they want to publish on behalf of the whole student government.

During the Senate meeting, many student senators voiced concern about the rejection of the original motion.

“By not supporting the group that is taking action, or not saying their name, it is not giving them the support they need,” said senior Patrick Burnett, a student senator.

Worman insisted the Executive Cabinet would work to issue a motion that was not exclusively about DivestUMW, but rather one that focused on student activism as a whole.

“We are going to be in support of student empowerment and activism,” said Worman.

According to Worman, the statement will be issued before the coming BOV meeting, where Worman also plans to address DivestUMW’s status and efforts.

Some senators indicated there may not be full support of divestment or the sit-in on the university’s campus, but according to Burnett, DivestUMW collected over 1,000 signatures from current students, 250 alumni and two-thirds the current faculty.

According to Ray Santivasci, the support of Greek life of campus should have been approved if that was the standard.

“We should not support an individual group. It is unfair to the percentage of the student body that we haven’t heard from,” said Santivasci. “We have had a 1,000 signatures from a student body before then the president silenced the student body with a moratorium.”

According to Burnett, the Student Senate better represents the student body in comparison to the Executive Cabinet because there are more members, and they are “better connected.”

There are 17 members on the Executive Cabinet in total, and 18 student senators were present during the vote to overturn on Wednesday.

Additionally, while Burnett says they are representative, according to the Student Government Constitution overseeing the Student Senate, in order to be truly representative, each residence hall with more than fifty students should have a senator on behalf of the Association of Residence Halls.

According to the Constitution, the senate body voting members should consist of the university population divided by fifty. With a student population over 4,000, the Student Senate should consist of at least 80 members.

The Student Senate already issued its own statement on March 26. That statement, posted on Facebook, read: “The UMW Student Senate supports DivestUMW as they stand behind President Hurley and more than 1500 students who have signed the petition to divest. ‪#‎divestumw‬ ‪#‎mymarywash‬”

The BOV refused to establish a sub-committee to investigate pathways toward fossil fuel divestment. ‪#‎whoseside‬ are they on?”

The motion to issue the statement was not introduced in Senate until April 1. At that time, the motion passed in the Senate and did not continue on to the Executive Cabinet.

The Student Senate concluded without crafting a new statement.

Emily Hollingsworth contributed to this report.