ASUN Meeting 11.10

Members of the Black Masque Chapter of Mortar Board speak during the ASUN meeting in the Platte River Room of the Nebraska Union on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Association of Students of the University of Nebraska passed four pieces of legislation at their meeting Wednesday night, including a resolution to encourage the end of the tradition of balloon releases after the first score at Husker football games due to environmental concerns. 

Other legislation passed included a bill to encourage office hours for ASUN senators, a resolution to support the Nebraska Climate Strike and a bill to allocate funds to pay for safer sex kits. A bylaw amendment to add a land acknowledgement to each ASUN meeting was discussed and will be voted on next week. 

Sen. Kat Woerner authored Resolution #6, a non-binding statement of encouragement to UNL to end the balloon tradition, which Woerner said dates back to the 1960s. The bill endured a considerable number of questions and a lengthy discussion and eventually passed unanimously after a roll call vote. 

Multiple states have passed laws against balloon releases due to environmental concerns, Woerner said, and helium is a valuable finite resource used for MRIs, coolant for nuclear power plants and rocket launches. 

According to the text of the bill, latex balloons can take anywhere from six months to four years to fully biodegrade. 

Marlene Beyke, director of administration for ASUN, encouraged Woerner and the senate to table the bill for one week to allow time for meetings with UNL Athletic Director Trev Alberts and other members of the athletic department. Sen. Zachary Wahab-Cheek made a motion to table the bill “out of respect” to Beyke, but the motion failed to garner a second. 

Woerner said after the meeting interjections from Beyke have been a pattern this year for her bills in particular, and this is the second time this month that she has spoken during discussion of one of Woerner’s bills. The senator said she was “offended” by the interjections, but didn’t know if it was against ASUN rules for Beyke to offer her opinion.

Woerner also authored Resolution #5 to support the Nebraska Climate Strike, which will begin at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, behind the Nebraska Union and will feature a march to the Nebraska State Capitol. The resolution passed unanimously.

Additionally at the meeting, External Vice President Patrick Baker announced in his executive report that all Campus Safety Officers in residence halls will undergo anti-bias training in the coming weeks and will dress in a red polo rather than police uniforms in the future. These changes follow a recent incident between a resident and a CSO, in which the CSO shouted at the Black resident to “Shut up.”

ASUN also funded safer sex kits in conjunction with the Residence Hall Association, the Women’s Center, UNL Housing and the LGBTQA+ Center. Senate Bill #9 will cost ASUN $3,010.60, matching RHA’s contribution to the program, and support the distribution of 3,600 kits over six months. Kits include condoms and personal lube packets. 

Stephanie Alderson, assistant director of the Women's Center, spoke in favor of the bill, and said the program did not have enough funding to fulfill demands from students in residence halls without additional support. 

“As of literally today, we hit 13,000 condoms distributed since July 1,” she said. 

The senate passed a bill tabled last week which encourages senators to hold one hour of office hours in their respective colleges per month. Sen. Bhagya Pushkaran asked if there was a demonstrated need among students for the office hours, which Sen. Brent Lucke responded to with concerns that the senate is reaching only a particular demographic of students with their current outreach. Pushkaran was the lone abstention on the bill, which gained the vote of every other present senator. 

The senate briefly discussed Bylaw Amendment #3, which would create a standing committee in ASUN titled the Sexual Misconduct Presidential Committee, following multiple high-profile cases of alleged sexual assaults and weeks of related protests at UNL earlier in the semester. 

“I think until this becomes a non-existent issue or an issue that a lot of students on campus do not face, this needs to be a standing committee in student gov,” Sen. Meyri Ibrahim said. 

Bylaw Amendment #2,  which would require a land acknowledgement to be read at the beginning of each ASUN meeting, will be voted on next week after a brief discussion last week. According to the UNL Native American Coalition, the University of Nebraska sits on the homelands of 12 indigenous tribes. 

Two members of the Black Masque Chapter of the Mortar Board, Abigail Schoup and Ethan Carlson, visited the meeting to encourage members of ASUN to apply to the board. Both wore the black robes of board members, and Carlson carried a large mallet.

President Batool Ibrahim was not present for the meeting. Internal Vice President Taylor Jarvis said Ibrahim was at a dinner for NU President Ted Carter.