Outbursts over WKU Bill leads to Resignation, Diversity and Inclusion education held for Senators

The March 21st meeting of the Student Government Association Senate was on an expedited schedule to accommodate a Diversity and Inclusion workshop. The Senate started off by confirming Senator Kai Speed (Sophomore, A&S) to the constitutional review committee. 

Outburst over SB 12.44

Senate Bill 12.44, a bill to condemn the behavior of Western Kentucky University’s student body president, Cole Bornefeld, had its second reading. SB 12.44, a symbolic act, became the center of a heated debate that ultimately resulted in the resignation of Senator Nino Owens (Junior, A&S). The bill, which was identical to ones being heard at other Student Government Associations around Kentucky, was a condemnation of WKU student body president Cole Bornefeld for transphobia in liking aTurning Point USA instagram post with the text reading, “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Women Don’t Have Penises.” 

Senate Speaker Noah Young (Senior A&S) sponsored the bill and encouraged the body to vote for its passage to show that UofL’s SGA opposes any transphobic behavior by elected student leaders in Kentucky. College of Arts and Sciences President Liam Gallager (Junior, A&S) spoke in opposition to the bill with a speech advocating for First Amendment freedoms of religion and speech protections. 

After considerable discussion on the bill, the Senate Speaker indicated it was time to move to a vote. However, Senator Owens stood to speak after the motion to end debate had been called. During the ensuing confusion of how to proceed, a frustrated Senator Daniel Ngongo (Junior A&S) told Senator Owens to sit down, to which Owens loudly replied, “what are you gonna do about it, n*gga?” It was this outburst that led to Senator Owens announcing his resignation that Friday, stating in a letter to the Senate Speaker and Executive Vice President: “My conduct was one unbecoming of the position I hold in this institution: I offer no excuses for that conduct.” 

Other Action Before Diversity and Inclusion Workshop

Also covered in the meeting was SB 12.43 which advocated that Menstrual Products be put in the bathrooms on the Health Science Campus by the Women’s Center. It also advocated for a long-term investment by the University in providing funds for menstrual products in all restrooms. It passed unanimously. 

SB 12.45, a bill to express the Senate’s appreciation of the work done by the Student Activity Board (SAB) in planning events around campus also passed unanimously.  

Context for Diversity and Inclusion Workshop

Section 3.3.10 of the SGA Constitution mandates that the Executive Vice president must “Arrange a workshop to be given no later than five (5) months after their installation into office, which will heighten the awareness and sensitivity of all Student Senators to all cultures represented in the University of Louisville.” Executive Vice President Katie Hayden organized this workshop to be led by Marian R. Vasser, the Director of Diversity Education and Inclusive Excellence and Executive Director of Diversity and Equity at UofL. 

Several senators have expressed frustration in the lateness of this workshop which should have been completed by October of 2022. The Workshop comes after a lawsuit was filed with the UofL Supreme Court by Senator Kai Speed (Sophomore, A&S) accompanied by Senator Rebekah Flowers (Sophomore, A&S) and Senator Daydrianna Jeffries (Sophomore, Kent School of Social Work). The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed and EVP Hayden maintains that she organized the workshop to the best of her abilities, as she encountered several scheduling conflicts and communication breakdowns with UofL Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Vice President Lee Gill, who was originally scheduled to give the training himself. 

For those interested in the Student Government Association, the next Senate meeting will be held on April 4th at 7:30 in the Horn Auditorium at the College of Business. All Senate meetings are open to the public and students are encouraged to come and participate. 

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