The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Student Senate passes resolution expressing support for The Battalion

Photo by Photo by Meredith Seaver
Koldus Building

The Texas A&M Student Senate met on Wednesday, Feb. 16, passing a resolution in support of The Battalion and hearing presentations from Student Body President Natalie Parks and Faculty Senate Speaker Dale Rice.
Beginning the meeting, Student Senate Speaker Iman Ahmed gave her opening remarks, which were much longer than usual. Ahmed said she reached out to President M. Katherine Banks to attend the meeting, though she declined the invitation due to a busy schedule.
“I offered to fully accommodate the president’s schedule through a special session, willing to offer availability at whatever time and date works best for her, utilizing Zoom so that she does not have to come in person and also sharing that Student Senate would take less than an hour of her time,” Ahmed said. “It is with regret that I share with you all today that I was still met with unavailability and was told that she would not be free until just before spring break.”
Ahmed said President Banks’s lack of willingness to have a dialogue with students could greatly affect student and administrative correspondence.
“If [President Banks] waits this long to meet with students through their elected representatives, you all as Student Senate, to have a dialogue regarding the future of this university, I fear that irrevocable damage will be done to her relationship with the student body, and that damage will not be able to fixed,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed finished her remarks by urging Banks to come and talk to the Student Senate.
“I believe the next two weeks are critical for the dynamics between students and the administration which are dwindling by the day,” Ahmed said. “Therefore, at this time I’m urging the president’s office to reconsider and carve out a single hour of our next two weeks to make time to meet with the Student Senate and demonstrate to the student body that they are still a priority and that they are the forefront of this university.”
However, students may not be at the forefront of the university for President Banks, according to a statement from Banks to Ahmed. Meghan Hein, an agricultural economics junior and chair of the rules and regulations committee, asked Ahmed, “Is it true that President Banks has said before that students are not the forefront of this university?”
“I can unfortunately confirm that that was said,” Ahmed said.
Editor’s Note: On Thursday, President Banks agreed to meet with the Student Senate in a special session on Monday, Feb. 21.
A special guest to the meeting, Dale Rice, a professor of journalism and speaker of the Faculty Senate, attended the meeting to share the importance of students and faculty working in tandem to better A&M.
“We’re facing challenging times at Texas A&M University,” Rice said. “It’s really important for us to ask how faculty and students can work together to help this university that we all love become an even stronger institution as we move forward.”
Rice focused on The Battalion issue as the first of his points, simplifying the issue to one question regarding the situation.
“In my view, it’s pretty simple,” Rice said. “Are we going to have an independent student newspaper on campus controlled by the students? Or is it going to become, in essence, a marketing arm of the university with the potential for censoring those student voices.”
Rice also said the argument about the situation must be focused on independent voices, not on the issue of print versus online.
“If we’re not careful, we’ll let debate over print versus digital cloud our thinking and divert us from the much more important issue of protecting students’ free speech and free press rights,” Rice said.
Rice said that what happened to The Battalion is not an isolated issue.
“What’s happening to The Batt is part of a much bigger, more disturbing problem in our university: the history of top-down decision making that seldom involves any consultation with those affected by the decisions,” Rice said. “Shared governance is not supposed to work this way. We, whether it’s faculty or students, should be at the table discussing decisions that are going to affect us. And our input should matter in the process.”
And yet, Rice said he did not see this as an exclusively bad situation and said this can help to bring faculty and students together.
“We can see that students and faculty share the same concerns about the decision making process, and our frequent lack of involvement in it,” Rice said. “So while I’m disappointed in what is happening to The Battalion, I also see opportunity here, the opportunity for Texas A&M students and faculty to work more closely together on shared concerns, and the opportunity to establish stronger channels of communication between your student government and our Faculty Senate.”
Rice then moved to a period of question and answer from the Student Senate body. Hein asked Rice, “Have you ever seen this kind of change of power in presidents lead to making big decisions in a really fast manner?”
In response, Rice said, “I think the question becomes, ‘Have there been any that are as sweeping as we’re dealing with with the results of the MGT [consulting] report and things like the consolidation of three colleges, the movement of departments to other colleges and those sorts of things?’ I’ve been here 14 years and I haven’t seen anything that sweeping in that time, and I think you would be hard pressed to find that level of change that quick.”
Kristina Samuel, a biology junior and chair of the community relations committee, asked Rice what the sentiments about this issue were among the entire Faculty Senate body.
“I would say the Faculty Senate is quite unified on this issue,” Rice said. “Several senators said that they hoped that we would do a resolution that would show our support for the students, and I heard no one objecting to that at all. I think it is pretty remarkable the degree to which faculty and students are seeing eye to eye in this situation, and personally, I think it’s wonderful.”
Tyler Smith, an agricultural economics junior, asked whether the Faculty Senate would consider any compromise to this issue.
“From most of the faculty who communicated to me, they also favor complete reversal,” Rice said.
Rice also talked about the importance of A&M’s “green light” ranking from FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the highest ranking a college can get for protecting First Amendment rights.
“We’re one of the few universities in the country with a green light from FIRE, which really takes a look at the way in which universities make sure that they are home to free expression,” Rice said. “One of the legal counsel for FIRE just sent a long letter to President Banks … calling the university to reverse [this decision], and it cites lots of both legal precedent and constitutional precedent to make the argument, and make it pretty convincingly, that a reversal is the proper thing.”
After this, the senate moved into consideration of the one resolution of the night, the #SaveTheBatt resolution, brought forward by Ahmed and Parks. Ahmed introduced this resolution by highlighting the importance of this issue.
“We believe that this is probably the biggest issue we’ve ever seen students, faculty and everyone unite alike, regardless of their differences,” Ahmed said.
Parks echoed this sentiment, highlighting how unique this situation is.
“This is honestly probably the biggest thing that I’ve seen happen in recent years at A&M,” Parks said.
This resolution stated the senate’s support for The Battalion.
“The 74th Session of the Student Senate stands in support of The Battalion maintaining their ability to print and remaining an independent student organization without having their resources taken away,” the resolution reads.
The resolution also voices support against “all forms of administrative overreach and pressure applied to any student organization.” Additionally, through this resolution, the senate demanded that administration consider student voices when making decisions.
“The 74th Session of Student Senate demands that the university administration include students as necessary stakeholders in all future decision-making spaces and calls for an end to unilateral decision-making by the university in which no students are consulted,” the resolution reads.
This resolution passed by unanimous vote and was met with thunderous applause.
Parks came back to this issue in her executive report at the end of the meeting. She talked about the value of student organizations and the value of including students in these decisions.
“Student voices need to be heard in those spaces because we are the experts in those organizations and in those different fields,” Parks said. “This is what we do on campus. This is our Aggie experience. And that’s why our voices are important.”
Parks also talked about how the process of these decisions, from lack of communication to lack of written documentation, left something to be desired.
“When student leaders are sat down and given a list of demands to make a decision that will change the structure of everything they’re doing in less than 24 hours, these actions are incredibly unacceptable,” Parks said. “When nothing pertaining to these orders is written down in the form of a memorandum or any form of written correspondence such as email, it leads students in these spaces to be exceptionally confused about what’s going on and … why they weren’t included in those conversations to make those decisions as to how to go forward.”
To address some students’ concerns, Parks is establishing an executive task force on student organization rights, informing organizations of what their rights are. This task force, along with a push for greater communication between students and administration, has highlighted two steps that student and faculty leaders hope to take from this issue.
“The most important thing that we can do is work to convince the university that our participation and decision making process is critical,” Rice said. “It is so important for the university and for better understanding of why decisions are being made, and better understanding of the likely impact of those decisions.”

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