I am writing to you to address multiple concerns with the past two issues of The Montclarion, which both featured the Student Government Association of Montclair State University, Inc. (SGA). The articles discuss the bill that was brought to the SGA Legislature to recommend to the University Administration to adopt policies that were in line with, and declare Montclair State University a sanctuary campus. The articles not only came off biased toward one side, but they also had incorrect information. In this letter, I will address the inconsistencies in both articles, as well as the lack of comments from members of the SGA. I hope this clarifies the events that occurred.
I want to start by clarifying what the bill was intended for. As was put out in a survey to the undergraduate population, the bill was merely a recommendation to the university. As a corporation, the SGA does not have the power to adopt university policies or declare the university a sanctuary campus. However, on page 11 of issue 20 of The Montclarion, it states: “Against the will of the Montclair State community, the SGA anonymously voted against the bill, which would have made Montclair State the first official sanctuary campus in New Jersey.” This statement is not only misleading, but also incorrect.
I want to summarize the events that occurred throughout the two-week process. The bill was brought to a discussion on March 15, 2017. The legislature felt that they did not have enough information, and were not getting any more information from the group of students. They motioned to not consider the bill at that time. This allowed for them to have an open discussion with Dr. Susan Cole, who was able to answer questions, not necessarily about the pros and cons of becoming a sanctuary campus, but about the impact the declaration would have here at Montclair State.
Between the two meetings, a survey was put out, and although over 70% of the students that voted were in favor of the proposed bill, the 70% came from a total of less than 10% of the entire undergraduate population. On March 22, 2017 the bill was once again discussed on the floor.
Amendments were made to remove the first and second policies, which stated:
1. Montclair State providing unequivocal support of the groups mentioned above and that it designates itself as a sanctuary campus in order to provide a safe and secure environment for the entire campus community.
2. Montclair State publicly asserting its status as a sanctuary campus by utilizing its autonomy as an educational institution in order to issue a refusal to cooperate with federal officials who seek to deport undocumented students.
Along with other minor amendments (spelling, term clarification, etc.), the bill was called into question, meaning the end of debate and discussion and voting on the bill. A member of the SGA Legislature motioned to vote by secret ballot, which is allowed under Robert’s Rules of Order, and the Legislature voted on the bill. The bill did not receive a 2/3 majority vote, which in turn failed the bill. The bill did not pass; there was no veto to the bill.
I also want to point out the lack of representation from members of the SGA. Although Gabe Wanissian asked me multiple times throughout the process for comments, I told him that I would be open to any and all questions once the bill process had come to an end. After the bill failed, Wanissian, along with the students who supported the bill, immediately left and did not ask myself or to my knowledge, any other members of the SGA any questions, as evidenced by the March 23 article. This lack of thorough reporting from Wanissian produced a one-sided article.
Moving forward, it is my hope that The Monclarion not only stay true to its mission statement of “reporting and publishing stories integral to the interests of the Montclair State University campus community,” report fairly and free of bias, and also will hold its members to a higher standard of journalism.