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Undergraduate Student Congress denounces acts of former Oklahoma representative, appoints new committee chairs

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Congress 04/26

Indigenous members of the Undergraduate Student Congress held up the Cherokee Nation flag during a meeting on April 26.

The Undergraduate Student Congress passed twelve pieces of legislation, including one denouncing a former Oklahoma state representative, and appointed new representatives and associates in its meeting Tuesday evening.

Rep. Taylor Broadbent presented a bill which denounced the acts of chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party John Bennett and called to exclude him from all future congress events due to his “perpetuation of Islamophobia, anti-semitism and anti-Indigenous rhetoric,” and his “encouraged acts of political violence.”

She said it is within congress’ best interest that they recommend keeping Bennett as far away from OU students as possible by preventing him from attending SGA events and recommending registered student organizations also do not allow him on campus.

Broadbent said this resolution is merely a recommendation and that organizations are allowed to utilize it at their discretion. She said she also recognizes that Bennett’s views are not indicative of his party, as evidenced by other Republicans criticizing his harsh words.

“It’s important to point out … in the subsections, (it states) that (Bennett’s) language is not necessarily things that represent the standards of Republicans, and I do not believe that these are the general beliefs or thoughts of Republicans in our state," Broadbent said.

SGA Director of the Department of Exterior Jayke Flaggert and SGA President Zack Lissau have both been informed of this bill, and Broadbent said Lissau shared her sentiments.

The bill passed with a vote 16-2-1.

Congress unanimously voted to appoint Susannah Lee and Manuvel Sibichan as co-chairs of the Crimson Leadership Association, a Student Government Association program for first-year students to learn about SGA, and to connect students to campus resources.

Session 108 representatives, associates and committee chairs were also appointed, with Abby Halsey-Kraus returning as Congressional Administration Committee chair and congress parliamentarian.

Rep. Hudson Haskins was appointed as Campus Outreach, Safety, and Concerns Committee chair, Rep. Weslie Griffin was appointed External Affairs Committee chair, Carolyn Berggren to Human Diversity, Rep. Rylee Houston to Sustainability, Anne Mullins to University Policy and Rep. Demetri Papahronis to Ways and Means.

Congress resaw six bills — CB-108-01, CR-108-01, CR-108-02, CR-108-03, CR-108-05 and CR-108-06 — that were seen in Committee of the Whole last week because they were motioned to be tabled and had gone through the Graduate Student Senate on Sunday, April 24. All bills were passed unanimously except for the Supporting Indigenous Communities Resolution of 2022, which had one abstention.

Broadbent presented three congratulatory bills addressed to student congress advisors and leaders, Norman Mayor Breea Clark and winners of the previous City of Norman elections respectively. 

There is a precedent, Broadbent said, for the External Affairs Committee to send out congratulations bills that were set by other legislative houses.

She also presented the Hush Act of 2022, which sought to outline the proper decorum during questioning and debate. All four bills passed unanimously.

Congress Chair emeritus Crispin South presented a bill that sought to allocate office spaces to several different student organizations in the Conoco Leadership Centers. The bill also passed unanimously.

Former External Affairs Committee Vice Chair Nathaniel Buxton and Superior Court Justice Jori Cowley concluded the meeting with senior speeches in front of the congress body.

Buxton said the advice he’d give to all representatives and associates is to know when it’s time to stop.

“Part of this experience here at the Undergraduate Student Congress is allowing everybody to get an opportunity to lead,” Buxton said. “As much as you might be probably the best person for the job, it’s also a great opportunity … to get somebody ready to take your position. When they see (that) position (is now theirs), they are ready and they can take over and they can do your job as well as you did.”

Cowley said she loved her time as a justice, but didn’t like her time as a representative. She said, as a member of the Cherokee Nation, she didn’t always feel heard and was actually hurt when some of her peers tried to speak for her and her community.

She said it was important for her, as an Indigenous woman, that her community is recognized and helped by the institution that was built on stolen land.

She, along with other Indigenous members of the body, held up the Cherokee Nation flag and conducted a moment of reflection to think about what congress could do for their Indigenous constituents.

“Never forget that every day you walk here, you’re walking on the bones and heritage and cultures and erasure of Indigenous populations,” Cowley said. “That’s really important to me. Land acknowledgments simply aren't enough. … I think that is a small step in the right direction, but it shouldn’t stop there.”

Kaly Phan is a journalism sophomore and junior news reporter at The Daily.

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