Student government representatives reflect on academic year

BloomTU and Parliament passed initiatives on COVID-19 protocol and academic accommodations.

Quinn Litsinger, a junior political science major and former student body president, stands outside of Paley Hall on April 16. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

BloomTU members, whose tenure came to an end on Monday, campaigned, governed and fulfilled their posts during the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, Temple Student Government passed resolutions and initiatives concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, restructuring the executive branch and advocating for student health.

BloomTU, which took office in May 2020, began its term by hosting a virtual community check-in in June to address racist comments made by students on social media and an instance of police brutality against a Temple University student, The Temple News reported

The executive branch helped lobby Temple to stop funding the Philadelphia Police Foundation in June, said Quinn Litsinger, the former student body president and a junior political science major.

“The fact that we got the university to agree to do that, I think that sent a very powerful message to students about what the university was willing to do as long as students made their voices loud and clear,” Litsinger said.

Both the executive branch and Parliament rearranged their leadership during the school year.

In September 2020, TSG restructured the executive branch by turning the vice president of services and vice president of external affairs positions into one vice president position and two chief executive positions, The Temple News reported.

Parliament elected Haajrah Gilani, a sophomore journalism major, as speaker and Kiara Marable, a senior philosophy and political science major, as vice speaker in January after Issa Kabeer, the former speaker and a second-year diversity and leadership graduate certificate student, and Arshad Shaik, the former vice speaker and a junior neuroscience major, stepped down because of their handling of the former freshman representative’s resignation after the freshman representative posted a video deemed anti-Semetic on his personal social media, The Temple News reported

TSG’s COVID-19 initiatives were the most impactful legislation passed, including opposing the university’s fall return plan, Litsinger said.

TSG advocated against Temple’s return to in-person classes during the fall semester for the health of students, faculty and community residents, The Temple News reported. Temple moved classes online on Sept. 3, 2020, after the university recorded more than 200 positive COVID-19 cases.

“The voice we had and the sway we had in the university’s decision, I think, most impacted students, I would hope for the better,” Litsinger said.

Parliament advocated for Temple to add Wellness Days to the spring semester after the university replaced spring break with an extra week of winter break, Gilani said. 

It was important for students to know that Parliament was listening to their needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilani said. 

Student government was unable to pass resolutions concerning Temple’s fossil fuel divestment or a student voting seat on the Board of Trustees, Litsinger said.

“Having a student voting seat on the Board of Trustees would be the most powerful change that Temple or Temple Student Government could make when it comes to changing the game of student advocacy,” Litsinger said.

The student body president occupies a non-voting seat on the Board of Trustees and is invited to speak at the board’s public meetings, Litsinger said.

BloomTU planned to demand that Temple divest from any fossil fuel assets as soon as possible and reinvest it in green energy alternatives, according to TSG’s initiative tracker.

Litsinger would like RenewTU to continue advocating for a tuition freeze for the next academic year and for course caps for classes, he said.

Bradley Smutek, a junior history major and the new student body president, and Samantha Quinlan, a sophomore media studies major and the new vice president, who were inaugurated on Monday, plan to advocate for a student voting seat on the board and revisions to Temple’s Climate Action Plan, The Temple News reported.

Smutek plans to ask Parliament to draft a resolution calling on Temple to freeze tuition and will address the tuition freeze in his first address to the Board of Trustees on May 11, he said.

“Our energy is going to be put toward a tuition freeze for students,” Smutek said. “Those conversations are ongoing at the board level in terms of raising tuition.”

Townley Sorge, the new speaker of Parliament and a junior public health major, and Manny Herrera, the new vice speaker and a freshman biochemistry major, were two of five candidates who ran unopposed for Parliament positions.

The remaining Parliament positions will be filled through appointments, which Gilani and Sorge want the new Parliament to abolish, they said.

“I don’t think it was something that was very fair to have, I think it gives a lot of room for people to just join and not fully understand what they’re committing to,” Gilani said.

Haajrah Gilani is an Intersection Editor at The Temple News. She played no role in the writing or editing of this story.

Samantha Quinlan is a freelance reporter at The Temple News. She played no role in the writing or editing of this story.

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