Temple Student Government will finalize the structure and details of its newest and most ambitious initiative, a 36-seat student parliament.
The finalized structure will be announced later this week, said Student Body President Aron Cowen. He stressed that the parliament will be dynamic and adapt to students’ needs as the year progresses.
In August, Cowen said the main goal of parliament was to be “equitable and [have] roughly the same number of seats per group” represented. The only exception to this standard falls in the section of parliament referred to as “Special Interest” with the seats for multicultural organizations.
Multicultural organizations can fill two seats. The Residence Hall Association, commuters, athletes, Greek Life and disabled students each have their own seats as special-interest groups.
“‘Multicultural’ is the only special interest group with more than one seat, so we’ll get lots of voices,” Cowen said.
The multicultural organizations can include, but are not limited to, members from groups like the Black Student Union, the Queer Student Union, Hillel, the Newman Center or ROTC.
But would two seats be enough to represent so many groups with such large populations?
“That’s a tough and fair question,” Cowen said. “The thinking is more along the lines of, ‘Let’s at least make sure they have two seats.’ We want to make sure there’s a bottom floor rather than a cap.”
He added that there are also five at-large seats that students from an unrepresented multicultural groups could run for.
“We tried to get seats for students who have a really unique experience at Temple,” Cowen said. “The commuter’s experience is a really different experience. We wanted to give seats to people that have been historically underrepresented.”
Kelly Dawson, one of TSG’s vice presidents and the former president of BSU, said there were some groups they hadn’t considered giving an individual seat in the parliament, but would consider doing so in the future.
“We didn’t try and prioritize a certain group,” she said. “We know there’s a large group of people here and they have a specific group of needs, so we’re open to adding more. Essentially, there’s no way to include every single facet. I mean honestly though, ROTC is a significant group of people that I would think we would consider adding in. And I don’t think we actually thought about that [at first].”
“It’s hard to really know what exactly the right number is,” Cowen said. “I can only hope the parliament will thrive, you know? You learn by doing. We’ll make modifications as we go. This is going to be a living structure.”
Dawson said it would be “impossible” to have a completely perfect parliament right away, but added that having something to represent students “is a lot better than what [TSG] had last year.”
Residence Hall Association president Kelsey Mallon said she hopes a member of RHA will run for the organization’s seat in parliament. “This will offer a new, unique opportunity for a resident to get involved on campus and represent the RHA as a whole,” she said.
But Mallon said she doesn’t believe two seats is enough to represent all the multicultural organizations on campus.
“Since Temple has such a diverse student body, the parliament should reflect that by offering more seats in the parliament to represent the different perspectives of the students in all multicultural organizations,” she added.
“One of the reasons why I was hesitant about being in TSG was because I didn’t feel represented,” Dawson said. “I was not going to run because I thought, ‘Wow, I don’t know anything about TSG at all. I don’t even feel like they represent me. Maybe it’s just not for me.’”
“But now I’m on the administration and I am so glad to be able to give people the opportunity to feel represented.”
Julie Christie and Taylor Berkoski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gillian McGoldrick contributed reporting.