StuGov continues to work through issues as Senate clarifies stance on Fritz-Schrader statement


Student Government discussed recycling in their meeting Feb. 10.

Jake Tubbs

Issues from previous meetings persist: another open forum saw students speak out against racism on campus during Wednesday’s Student Government meeting.

With an open forum in session, Somerle Rhiner, junior in sociology and women’s and gender studies, touched on the recent shooting in Atlanta. After her speech, Rhiner called for silence, which lasted 10 minutes. 

“After saying their names, I would like to use the rest of my time to take up space at open forum by allowing marginalized folks to have their space during this time,” Rhiner said.

After the silence ended, Breanna Diaz, vice president of the Multicultural Greek Council and a junior in child, adult and family services, first spoke on the discrepancy between minority and white students. She touched on how unbalanced the race distribution is. 

The exact percentages of race distribution at Iowa State for the 2019-20 school year:

75.2 percent – White 

15.3 percent – Multicultural 

2.5 percent – Black 

0.2 percent – American Indian 

3.6 percent – Asian

6.3 percent – Latino

2.6 percent – Native Pacific Islander

These numbers were compared to the percentages of the United States, where 13.6 percent of citizens are Black and 16.7 percent of citizens are Latinx.

When comparing their ethnic diversity to Iowa State, 77.3 percent of University of Iowa students identify as white. At Northern Iowa, it is 85 percent. 

Diaz touched on the lack of support minorities in the Iowa State community receive and called out the staff and higher-ups representing the university.  

“We promote giving back to those in the Ames-Des Moines community who belong to marginalized groups,” Diaz said. “All while we receive less support from Iowa State staff, Student Government members and even Wendy Wintersteen herself. These are all people who are here to support all of the Iowa State students but only adhere to white students.”

Diaz ended her speech mentally exhausted and pleading for change. 

“I am tired and I am angry,” Diaz said. “I want a campus and a community that does not require our pain and our tears in order to realize that they need to do better.”

Scott Nguyen, senior in aerospace engineering and president of the Multicultural Greek Council, followed Diaz and echoed many of her points. He also called out Sen. Daniel Pfeifer and accused him of laughing at and making jokes about the minority speakers during meetings. 

Pfeifer responded, “I made no jokes last week.”

Nguyen also noticed the lack of Black senators in Student Government and said that Sen. Jack Bender, who is Black, is a “token” senator.

While Bender acknowledged that he is the minority in the Senate, Jacob Frier, senior in finance and a member of the finance committee for Student Government, called out Nguyen about his description of Bender. 

“Over the past year, I have gotten to know Mr. Jack Bender,” Frier said. “He’s an amazing guy, and if you haven’t gotten the chance to meet him, I believe you should. He has an honorary character, I mean, just a fun guy. To demean him and paint him solely because of his color and call him ‘the token Black kid’ and joke about it, that’s not cool. Let’s look toward people’s character and not just bring us to color.”

The last speaker for the open forum was a new face that has not spoken at any of the previous meetings. Nathan Oh, senior in architecture-professional degree, touched on how upset he is with Iowa State administration and what it is like to be an Asian American right now. 

“I don’t feel safe to be in my own skin,” Oh said. “As a multicultural student and an Asian American, I don’t feel safe. The last few weeks have already been difficult and absolutely upsetting. I never thought it could get any worse. The responsibilities at ISU are upsetting, and I don’t feel like they represent all students. I’m sorry to see the campus differently than I ever have before. I really hope we take better action in Student Government, in this community, and ISU to provide a safer environment for everyone.”

After the speeches from the student body, a short topic of note was the CyRide BioBus. Looking to fund their program, BioBus representative John Cramsey talked about the process. 

“What BioBus does is we take vegetable oil from UDCC and we convert that into biodiesel,” Cramsey said. “We take that biodiesel and give it to the CyRide system.” 

The bill passed, and members of BioBus can now work to rebuild their reactor and repair their generator. 

One of the final points of the night centered around the Fritz-Schrader statement about Iowa State assistant teaching professor of sociology Rita Mookerjee’s tweets. 

The bill made it clear that the president and vice president do not speak on behalf of the Senate and the senators. 

“I do think we need to take a stand as a Senate and say we disagree with them on this point, that the tweets in question were prejudicial,” said Sen. Mason Zastrow, senior in political science. 

While some wanted the Senate to separate from Fritz and Schrader’s statement, others, like Sen. Daniel Hayes, senior in political science, saw the bill as not meaning much anymore as what is done is done. 

“I find that this gesture by passing this piece of legislation would weaken the significance that any bill put out by the president and vice president of the Student Government,” Hayes said. 

It was also pointed out by a few senators that the president and vice president do speak for the Student Government and student body. This is also pointed out in the Student Government Constitution. 

“When students elect a student body president, they are electing someone that represents all of the students,” Sen. Zach Mass said. “When the president chooses to issue a statement, we, as a Senate, can disagree with it; we can pass a resolution that says we disagree with it, that’s a separate power that we have. Any pretension that the president does not speak for Student Government or the student body is just flatout wrong.”

After many clauses in the bill were cut and some of the purpose of the bill was lost, Sen. Advait, the author of the bill, boiled down and clarified what the vote on this bill really meant. 

“Generally, if you disagree with the statement, then you vote yes. If you do agree with it, then you would vote no.”

Twelve senators voted yes, six senators voted no and two abstained, and the bill passed.