On March 21, the Student Senate adopted a new set of bylaws and constitution in a unanimous vote. One of the most important differences included the funding of honor societies. Ten days after the amendments were approved, students from the Department of Geography and Meteorology submitted a letter with 62 signatures to the Student Senate in support of reinstating funding for the Chi Epsilon Pi honor society.
“The way Student Senate defines an honorarium now in our new financial model is just a selective organization, but also, that’s what we focus on, they’re affiliated with a national organization. While we have other organizations that are affiliated with national organizations. We define honors as those that are national honors organizations,” said Student Body Vice President Ben Jacobs.
The concerns presented in the letter included the growing potential to hinder Chi Epsilon Pi’s ability to provide experiences, networking opportunities and friendships to those interested in the field of meteorology.
“As students of the Department of Meteorology, we express our support for Chi Epsilon Pi on the Valparaiso University campus affected by recent Student Senate budget changes. According to Valpo’s website, “The University of Valparaiso Chapter is dedicated” to recognizing high achievements in meteorology and promoting the understanding of meteorology as a science, both at the University of Valparaiso and in the wider community,” said the letter from students and faculty of the Department of Geography and Meteorology.
The letter discussed a variety of opportunities and events organized and provided by Chi Epsilon Pi. Additionally, the post highlighted apparent inconsistencies within the new financial structure.
The meteorological society argued that its funding is for conferences and helps students pay for attendance and travel costs rather than national dues. Additionally, the organization is not affiliated with a national chapter, which would have provided additional funding.
“A lot of these misunderstandings [for the bylaw and Constitution changes] came from the honorary change. There was some confusion among the fees themselves. We did our best to communicate with them beforehand, but I think there were too many misunderstandings between the counselors of the organizations and the students, on both of our sides,” said Jolie Foor, student body president.
Chi Epsilon Pi, like many other student organizations, holds a GPA requirement. Having a standard GPA apparently excluded a portion of students from becoming members of honor societies, which became miscommunication between the Student Senate and several honoraries.
“We had discussions with Chi Epsilon Pi about how they could become a special interest organization on campus. There was some confusion about the GPA requirements but again in our bylaws we didn’t say anything about the GPA requirements so they were allowed to become an organization because they are not affiliated with a national organization,” Foor said.
Primarily, the motivation to remove direct funding from honor societies came from the hope of fixing a technical glitch in the original statutes.
“We just wanted to close a loophole that was on campus if we had continued to fund fees as they are. Under previous definitions, this would have allowed organizations with national affiliations to seek funding from the Senate, which would have removed funding from other organizations,” Jacobs said. “For example, if we had kept that door open, it would have allowed Fraternity and Sorority Life and the fraternities and sororities to start asking the Senate for money because the way we financed the fees is a way we could have funded fraternities and sororities. So we wanted to close this loophole [so] that student organizations will receive the full amount they should receive.
On April 4, after concerns were expressed in the letter, Chi Epsilon Pi was recognized as a Special Interest Organization by the Student Senate. The change allowed Chi Epsilon Pi to access funding for events and conferences.
Low-income students are always encouraged to seek help from Student Life to pay their dues. Other Honor Societies seeking Special Interest Organization status should contact the Administration Committee, which will become the Operations Committee in the fall of 2022.
Due to recent Senate changes and the approaching end of semester, the 2022-2023 administration will be tasked with reviewing documentation and mitigating future confusion.
“We certainly expect, especially over the summer, to review these documents as a new administration. We will have a new electronic board and a fresh look for browsing documents. It’s something we’ve learned throughout this process. We are very fortunate that the student body is so involved in our decisions and our changes that are made and that they are attentive because they detect errors that we have not detected. I think it’s really important to remember that you have to be flexible and you have to be willing to make changes based on student feedback,” Foor said.
Despite the complications, the Student Senate’s new internal operating model and financial system will be in place beginning in the fall of 2022.
“Student Senate still considers this a victory because, while there are still things we need to fix and some things we need to communicate better, after restructuring and rewriting over 100 pages of documentation and procedures , it’s just a few things here and there, it was just an oversight,” Jacobs said.