On March 21, Student Senate passed a new set of bylaws and Constitution in a unanimous vote. One of the more prominent differences included the defunding of honor societies. Ten days following approved changes, students from the Department of Geography and Meteorology submitted a letter containing 62 signatures to Student Senate in support of restoring funding to the Chi Epsilon Pi honor society.
“How Student Senate defines an honorary now in our new financial model is simply an organization that is selective, but also, this is what we hone in on, they’re affiliated with a national organization. While we have other organizations that are affiliated with national organizations. We define honoraries as ones that are national honorary organizations,” said Student Body Vice President Ben Jacobs.
Concerns presented in the letter encompassed the increasing potential of hindering Chi Epsilon Pi’s ability to provide experiences, networking opportunities and friendships to those interested in the meteorology field.
“As students in the meteorology department, we are voicing our support for Chi Epsilon Pi on Valparaiso University’s campus impacted by the recent changes for budgets by Student Senate. According to Valpo’s website, ‘The Valparaiso University chapter is dedicated ‘to recognizing high achievement in meteorology and promoting the understanding of meteorology as a science, both at Valparaiso University and in the wider community,’’” stated the letter from the students and faculty of the Department of Geography and Meteorology.
The letter addressed a variety of opportunities and events hosted and provided by Chi Epsilon Pi. Additionally, the message pointed to apparent inconsistencies within the new financial structure.
The meteorology society argued that their funding goes towards conferences and helps students afford attendance and travel costs rather than national dues. Moreso, the organization does not have an affiliation with a national chapter, which would have provided additional funding.
“A lot of those miscommunications [for the bylaw and Constitution changes] came from the honorary change. There was some confusion among the honoraries themselves. We tried our best to communicate with them beforehand, but I think there were too many miscommunications between the advisors of the organizations and students, on both of our ends,” said Student Body President Jolie Foor.
Chi Epsilon Pi, similar to numerous other student organizations, holds a GPA requirement. Having a GPA standard seemingly excluded a portion of students from gaining membership into honor societies, which became a miscommunication between Student Senate and multiple honoraries.
“We had some discussions with Chi Epsilon Pi about how they could go about becoming a special interest organization on campus. There were some confusions on GPA requirements, but again, in our bylaws we didn’t actually say anything about GPA requirements, so they were allowed to become an organization because they are not affiliated with a national organization,” Foor said.
Principally, the motivation to remove direct funding to honor societies came from the hope at closing a technicality within the original bylaws.
“We simply wanted to close a loophole that was on campus that if we would’ve kept funding honoraries as they are. In previous definitions, it would’ve allowed organizations with national affiliations to apply for senate funding which would’ve taken away funding for other organizations,” Jacobs said. “For example, if we would’ve kept this door open, it would’ve allowed for Fraternity and Sorority Life and fraternities and sororities to start asking Senate for money because how we funded honoraries is a way we could’ve funded fraternities and sororities. So we wanted to close that loophole [so] that student organizations will be getting the full amount they should be getting.”
On April 4, after concerns were brought forth in the letter, Chi Epsilon Pi was recognized as a special interest organization through Student Senate. The change resulted in Chi Epsilon Pi gaining access to funding for events and conferences.
Low-income students are still encouraged to seek out aid from Student Life in paying for their dues. Other honor societies seeking special interest organization status are to reach out to the administration committee, which will become the operations committee in fall 2022.
Due to Senate’s changes being recently passed and the end of the semester approaching, the 2022-2023 administration will be tasked with reviewing the documentation and alleviating future confusion.
“We definitely expect, especially over the summer, to look over those documents as the new administration. We’ll have a new e-board and fresh eyes to look over the documents. That’s something that we’ve learned through this whole process. We’re very lucky that the student body is so involved in our decisions and our changes that are being made and that they’re paying attention because they’re catching mistakes we didn’t catch. I think that’s really important to remember is you have to be flexible and you have to be willing to make changes based on student input,” Foor said.
Despite the complications, the new internal Student Senate operational model and the financial system will be put into place beginning fall 2022.
“Student Senate is still taking this as a win because, while there’s still some things we need to fix and some things we need to better communicate, after a restructuring and rewriting of over 100 pages of documentation and procedures, it’s just a few things here and there that were just an oversight,” Jacobs said.