For ASSP Vice President of Finance Nathan Bennett, the role of ASSP and Senate is to respond to student need.
“The entire role of ASSP is to actually empower students,” Bennett said in an interview.
Many ASSP members sought to respond to this call by passing by-law changes this year in alignment with the goals of ASSP core.
Bennett sought to respond to this mission through the lens of accessibility, responding to student concerns that had been brought to their attention. Essentially, Bennett wanted to see how ASSP could become more involved in moving toward more accessibility on campus.
Other changes include the implementation of an accessibility fund for club use, a more inclusive definition of diversity, the elimination of gender distinctions in the People of Promise nominations and the inclusion of gender nonconforming students in the Student Ministry Coordinator program.
These by-law updates were passed within the last few weeks of Senate meetings of the year and proposed by the current acting body of Senators. All changes approved by Senate will be in effect at the start of the following academic year.
In Bennett’s situation, additional conversation began when the Student Budget Committee met with Disability Support Services Assistant Director Annabell DuMez-Matheson and Senior Ali Steenis to discuss ways in which ASSP could contribute to ensuring accessibility on campus.
According to Bennett, the group decided that establishing an accessibility fund would be ideal, as it would allow clubs to receive additional funds to make events accessible to all students.
ASSP Vice President of Intercultural Affairs Jess Sloan introduced by-law changes that would expand the definition of diversity.
“Diversity’s never just been about race,” Sloan said. She hopes that the updated definition broadens how diversity is perceived.
Sloan explained that the updated definition would encompass gender identity, sexual identity and ability, among other traits. Overall, Sloan wants to ensure that marginalized students feel represented on campus and that the future VPIA knows that representation is fundamental to their role on ASSP.
Bilen Yitbarek, the Vice President of Campus Activities, also updated her by-laws to discard the gender distinctions for People of Promise, which were divided between one award for men and one award for women in the past.
“It is time for inclusive language to become more consistent through the constitution,” said Yitbarek over a text message. “I have heard feedback through the People of Promise [process] last quarter about how … it was limiting [to] male and female, which is something I didn’t think about originally.”
The feedback that Yitbarek received prompted her to propose the change in the nomination process and what eventually led to its passing in her by-laws.
Vice President of Ministries Shongi Motsi, who could not be reached for comment, proposed by-laws that allowed gender nonconforming students to serve as SMCs.
Sophomore sociology and theology double major Emma Fellenstein, who serves as an SMC on Third West Ashton, is particularly excited for the changes in SMC qualifications.
“I absolutely love that,” said Fellenstein after learning about the changes to the program, and added that the by-law change is a “no brainer.”
Fellenstein stated that as an SMC, it is part of her job to ensure that each floor resident feels like a part of a community.
While Fellenstein wonders how SMCs from more conservative backgrounds may react to the news, she believes that a large portion of the SMC staff will be in support of the changes.
According to Fellenstein, the SMC ministry is making sure residents feel accepted and included, regardless of the background of particular residents.
“The job of an SMC is to make everyone on the floor feels included and to feel part of the community,” she said. She added that gender nonconforming residents could feel more welcome and included if they saw themselves reflected by the floor leadership, so the changes were welcomed.
Overall, these by-law updates show SPU student leadership’s dedication to inclusivity and will be seen in action next year.