On April 9 at the Mercyhurst Student Government (MSG) meeting, senators voted on a proposal that would restructure Senate. The official proposal was named the “RCR (RSCO Council of Representatives) Integration Proposal” drafted by Charity Ludwig.
The RCR was created as a way for the RSCOs, or Recognized Clubs and Student Organizations, to be represented in MSG. Though the proposal was about RCR integration, RCR did not develop it.
“This was not a proposal by the RCR, but about the RCR. There was no discussion from the Senators. When proposals are brought to a vote, two senators are allowed to speak in favor and two senators are allowed to speak against,” Sophia Jensen, Ridge College senator, said.
Before the voting took place, the proposal was approved by Laura Zirkle, vice president for Student Life; Sarah Allen, MSG adviser and executive director of Campus Involvement; the Senate Operations and Facilities Use Committee; and the MSG Executive Board.
All MSG senators that were present at the meeting were allowed to partake in the vote.
“Prior to the meeting, all senators and members of the executive board were sent a copy of the proposed changes to the constitution to review before the meeting and vote,” said Kimberly Kramer, senior class senator. “The senators did their due diligence and came prepared, as they typically do before a big vote.”
Two members of RCR, Emma Kindschuh and Oscar Collazo, were present at the meeting. When asked to speak about the proposal on behalf of the RCR during the MSG meeting, they declined.
Charity Ludwig, junior Ridge College senator, headed the proposal for Senate.
“Integrating RCR into the general Senate as part of the system seemed to be the next logical step in developing the organization,” said Ludwig. “It was not to take away seats from other eligible students, but rather to diversify the representation of students who sit on Senate.”
With the passing of this proposal, eight of the seats in Senate would be occupied by members of the RCR.
“Senate will consist of 24 elected members: 16 Senators and eight Representatives. There will be two Senators from each class (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior) and two Senators from each college (Hafenmeier, Ridge, Walker and Zurn). There will be two Representatives from each of the established RSCO constituencies: Cultural & Diversity, Recreational, Academic and Service & Honors,” the drafted proposal said.
After meeting introductions and a formal start, the proposal was put to a vote.
“A motion was brought to senate and when voted upon, it (the proposal) failed with a vote of 10-12,” Kramer said.
Senators that voted explained that the decision was difficult, but ultimately came down to how the restructuring would take place.
“I voted ‘no’ on the proposal after much consideration and debate. I believe the RCR members should receive the ‘pay’ that senators receive,” said Mitchell Marsh, sophomore class senator. “However, in the proposal there were many other changes as well. I do not agree with the way the voting would change and I do not agree with decreasing the number of senators. MSG already struggles to listen and hear students’ voices.”
Others voiced that the RCR is important, but that they are involved differently that the senators that make up MSG.
“The RCR is a great organization with great representatives, and no one is denying that, but I don’t believe in limiting the stake of senators within the organization,” said Kramer. “Senators are quite valuable to this campus in a different way than members of the RCR are. Not to say that they are inferior by any means — each group just has different skills, ideas and opinions to bring to the table.”
Kramer continued on to say that incorporating RCR into Senate is important, but the change was too much too fast.
Other senators agreed and even suggested placing a member on the executive board instead of taking away so many Senate seats.
“I think RCR should have a representative that serves on either E-board or is a member of Senate, but the amount of senators we would lose made this change seem too fast,” Hannah Gibson, Hafenmaier College senator, said.
Some were concerned about the restructuring of Senate would lose student representation by the elected Senators. Those who were in favor of the proposal believe that the changes were positive and would move MSG in a forward direction.
“This proposal would not have reduced the size of MSG Senate as some have been saying. It would have added more constituencies to the Senate, increasing the variety of representation,” said Jensen. “Instead of only having senators from the colleges and classes, there would have also been senators from the four identified categories of clubs: Academic, Honors, Cultural and Diversity, Recreational, and Service and Honors.”
Increasing the variety of representation would have lowered the number of representatives per constituency, but that is not a new concept for MSG.
“Because of the increase in constituencies, the number of Senators per constituency would have been reduced from three to two,” said Jensen. “The practice of having three Senators per constituency is recent within the last few years, before there were only two per constituency.”
Marrazzo feels that because there are so many clubs and organizations on campus, that it is imperative their voice be heard in MSG.
“With almost 100 active clubs on campus, it is vital for MSG to do everything in its power to provide clubs with an adequate outlet for their concerns to be heard and addressed,” Marrazzo said.
Even with the proposal failing to be accepted, senators from both sides are sure that in the future, compromise and collaboration is possible.
“Compromise between Senate and RCR is absolutely achievable and can happen over time,” Gibson said.
“There will absolutely be collaboration between MSG and the RCR in the future,” Jensen said.
RCR integration was a part of Marrazzo’s presidential platform, and he will continue to make their participation a priority.
“As MSG President, I still have every intention of ensuring RSCOs have every opportunity to voice their concerns and that MSG addresses these concerns to the best of our ability,” said Marrazzo. “The result of this vote will require me to reevaluate some of my ideas for next year, but RSCOs have always been and will continue to be one of my top priorities.”
Marrazzo hopes to introduce a proposal next year with a similar goal of the RCR Integration Proposal.
“I would like to work with the 2018-2019 Senate to create a proposal that will increase MSG’s ability to represent the students,” said Marrazzo. “My hope is that this proposal will be heavily focused on representing the voices of clubs on campus as this most recent proposal did.”