Council Clippings

This edition of Council Clippings covers the SGA meetings from Jan. 22, 2005.

Bill of the Week Spotlight: Veritas Forum

FAILED: Joint Allocation to Veritas Forum, requesting $4,497.50 for a multi-day event centered around religious topics. Passed GSS 18-3-4, failed UHR 8-24-4.

This joint allocation bill requested funds for the Veritas Forum’s Big Question Week to be held next month. The Veritas Forum is a Christian organization that organizes academic lectures and forums for open discussions on religious topics. The bill requested $4,497.50 to cover the cost of the multi-day event, including $1,000 for rental costs of the Ferst Center. The Joint Finance Committee’s recommendation to strike the $1,000 for the Ferst Center was amended in both the UHR and GSS, citing that there were cheaper venues available and that the Ferst Center has a policy of free rent for student organization events that will likely house 500+ attendees.

In the GSS, there was brief discussion on the aim and subject matter of the event, in which the speakers for the bill assured that the event would not preach Christian ideas, but rather just try to engage the Tech community in a more open discussion about different world views. In the GSS, it was easily passed by a vote of 18 in favor, 3 opposed and 4 abstentions. However, when the bill came up in the UHR, the bill was defeated. There was concern, since this event is free, that non-Tech students would be “free loaders” at an event funded by Tech student activities fees. Also, there was discussion that the organization would not qualify for the fee waiver since they have yet to hold a formal event on campus, so lending the money was out of the question. The bill failed, with 8 in favor, 24 opposed and 4 abstentions.

Overall, the bill was defeated and will not receive SGA funding, despite the GSS having passed it, due to a clause in the SGA constitution about the required ratio of votes from both houses. The Veritas Forum bill failed because it did not meet the required 0.6 enactment ratio of votes. The GSS passed the bill, so only 40% of the UHR votes were needed for it to pass. However, only 25% of the UHR voted to pass the bill, which caused the bill to fail.

Guest Speaker: Andy Altizer

Andrew Altizer, director of Emergency Preparedness at Tech, spoke on Tuesday to discuss the Emergency Notification System. The system will undergo a full test next Tuesday around 11-12 p.m. to identify possible problem areas, so as to avoid mishaps like last semester’s infamous ES&T Building alert. The system has been undergoing testing and revision, Altizer said. He hopes to increase the amount of people who receive the alerts to around 60% of students so that there would be enough people in one room who get the alerts to “get the point across” to everyone. Ever since the mishap last semester, subscriptions to the alert system have been steadily increasing, with about 18,000 people signing up for text or voicemail message alerts and 20,000 for emails. Since there is such a high volume of people who use cell phones to get the alerts, one main focus of the test next week will be to examine cell phone delays. Altizer said that getting the alert instantly is very important, and that Tech and other universities who are implementing similar alert systems have talked with mobile carriers to prevent these delays. However, Altizer said he expects at least one carrier to have delays, and if the delay is significantly longer than others, Tech will go into more talks with the company to resolve the issue. Altizer indicated that a forum will be available online for students to report the functionality of their alerts. Altizer also announced updates for next year that are slated to include weather alerts as well as a live updating blog in case of a campus-wide crisis.

Altizer also discussed the ongoing implementation of remote door locks on campus buildings. Currently there are 70 academic buildings with remote locks. He stated that it is a tough decision to decide whether or not to install remote locks on campus doors because they could either protect people from someone outside or prevent someone from getting inside to safety.

Joint resolution postponed

The Georgia State House Bill 154 is a proposed piece of legislation which would require the Board of Regents to report to the Georgia General Assembly on its efforts to maintain “academic freedom and intellectual diversity.” In the GSS open forum discussion on Jan. 15, Senator Mitch Keller called the bill an “absurd piece of legislation,” while other senators discussed the vagueness of the bill, as it fails to describe what “academic diversity” actually means.

In this week’s meeting, UHR author Sarang Shah spoke about the bill, insisting that the “value of our degree…will diminish should this bill pass.” He then summarized the bill, remarking on how freedom of expression would be lost to faculty and staff and that individual opinions would be interpreted as “political bias.” Ending his address, he said, “Not all ideas are born equal. They must stand the test of peer evaluation.”

Discussion on the bill went in various directions. Support for the Resolution came with tags like “unnecessary government interference,” UHR has “passed such resolutions in the past”—suggesting precedent and general uneasiness about free speech impediments. Representative Robert McEntyre suggested that the UHR cannot speak for the entirety of campus, stating that it would be “more proactive if a petition is seen” rather than a house resolution. Others suggested that a survey for all Tech students may be a measure to take, and still others pointed out that it would be irrational to assume all students on campus would be willing to make an informed decision and that any summaries would be biased.

The discussion concluded with no movement made other than to postpone the bill until next week. In the GSS session this week, the bill was hastily tabled and also postponed to next week without any discussion due to time constraints and concern about losing quorum because the meeting was running over time.

Next week

Next Tuesday will be the fifth meeting of this semester for the UHR and the fourth meeting of the semester for GSS.

The UHR and GSS will consider two new bills: a joint allocation bill to the CRC, which is requesting funds for a new pickup truck for their fleet of vehicles, and a joint allocation bill to the Badminton Club for new nets and shuttles.

Also up for consideration will be the bills postponed for one week from this past week’s meetings, including the joint allocation bill to the Black Graduate Student Association and the joint resolution for the opposition to the Georgia State House Bill 154.