The OU Student Government Association held a virtual town hall Monday night to answer questions from the OU community on how the OU Undergraduate Congress operates.
The event included a moderator, Congress Vice Chair Alexis Marvin, who regulated questions asked by OU students through a Google Form and via social media with the hashtag #AskOUrCongress.
The first question asked what the legislative process looks like in congress.
Congress Senior Associate Drew Brown said the process of writing legislation in Congress starts with an idea. He said this idea starts by communication with other students.
Brown said after the idea is formed, there are templates available on the congress Engage page to create a piece of legislation. He said this provides an avenue to change SGA’s codes and laws.
The bill will then potentially be approved by the appropriate committee chair, Brown said. Then, it will be seen by the entire committee, where members have a chance for questions and debates. The committee will then vote on the bill, resulting in either a recommendation of pass or fail by the committee.
The bill will go to the weekly general body meetings held every Tuesday where a member will introduce the bill and receive questions and potential debate, Brown said. Then, congress members will vote on the legislation.
If the bill is passed, it will go to the Graduate Student Senate to be presented again. If it’s passed by the Senate, the bill will go to OU President Joseph Harroz’s office to be signed, Brown said.
“There's really a lot of opportunity to make our campus better,” Brown said. “Even if it’s really small and everybody’s on board with it anyways, a lot of times those unspoken rules start turning little mole hills into mountains, and we have a really massive result at the end. It’s really cool to watch.”
Associate Mackenzie Cozort said a lot of ideas from the SGA suggestions box go directly to the Campus Outreach, Safety and Concerns Committee. She said the committee can then create either a project or a legislation out of the concern.
“We'll look at those concerns and figure out ways that we can actively make changes,” Cozort said.
When asked if the congress is able to advocate on behalf of the student body to the OU administration, Brown said the congress can advocate for the OU administration and state, local and federal governments to adopt a certain position on a topic through resolutions.
Congress Chair Crispin South said he communicates directly with different administrators. He said every Monday, he has a meeting with members from the SGA Executive Branch and OU Student Affairs to discuss “pressing issues” facing the OU student body.
“That interaction directly with administrators, paired with passing a resolution … has been pretty effective in getting some kind of change to happen on campus,” South said.
During the extreme winter weather in February, South said Congress received several student concerns regarding the CASH application deadline, originally Feb. 1, after power outages hit areas on campus and in Norman. The Student Financial Center extended the deadline to Feb. 18 after SGA notified the scholarship office of students unable to finish their applications.
Cozort said if bills at the federal or state level are affecting minority communities negatively, the congress will pass resolutions to advocate for those bills to fail. In its March 10 meeting, congress passed one such resolution recommending the Oklahoma State Legislature to fail House Bill 1888 — a bill that would have stripped funding for gender orientation, gender identity and sexual orientation, according to Human Diversity Committee Chair Caitlyn Harman.
South said to increase transparency and accessibility within Congress, meetings are public. He said agendas will be posted on the SGA’s website before each meeting.
“There's a whole time dedicated to student concerns,” South said. “If you have a student concern and you would like to bring that directly to Congress, you'd have the opportunity to do that.”
When questioned about how congress connects with the Norman community, Harman said the Congress connects with the Norman community through members on the External Affairs Committee serving as Norman City Council liaisons and interns for Oklahoma senators and representatives.
Representative and International Student Liaison Nishit Garg said members of the EA Committee work closely with Norman Mayor Breea Clark and other city council members.
“These are ways that we (engage) with the community,” Garg said. “We hope to expand on this in the future.”
Marvin said SGA elections for open representative seats and the Campus Activities Council Chair will be held April 6 and 7. She said information can be found through the Information on Candidates Booklet.
“We wouldn't be able to do anything that we do if we didn't have these elections,” Marvin said.
“We are more than happy to answer any other questions and make sure that we're doing what we can to represent (students) and to serve them,” Marvin said.