Today is the fourth day of the USSA National Student Congress, and it’s the big one.

The central item on today’s agenda is a full day of plenary sessions, at which the Association’s members will debate policy positions, constitutional amendments, and the group’s agenda for the coming year. As delegates enter the session, they will also cast secret ballots in USSA’s officer elections, which are contested this year for the first time in recent memory.

Several cozwntentious issues are on today’s agenda, though it’s impossible to say just which of them will make it to the floor — in years past, some of the most potentially divisive proposals have been withdrawn or dramatically altered at the last minute.

I’ll be here all day, so be sure to check back for updates.

6:45 pm | I’m going to be lending a hand with chair duties for the rest of the evening, so my liveblogging of today’s sessions has come to a close. If y’all want to keep the discussion going, though, you can do it at this open thread.

5:35 pm | The delegates have passed a resolution on veterans’ issues, and broke for dinner. Back in an hour and a half.

5: 20 pm | A resolution calling on USSA to implement a program under which students would “serve as third-party observers” in on-campus labor negotiations just failed by a six-vote margin.

5:15 pm | A resolution on the abolition of corporate personhood, the first in the “Externally Focused” section, failed. Arguments against it centered on the fact that a large number of administrative resolutions had already been passed, and that the Association’s time and energy are limited.

5:05 pm | The rest of the resolutions in the diversity section all passed as well.

My lack of comment on the last few individual resolutions should not, by the way, be taken as a negative comment on the resolutions or the debate that went along with with them. This was a great crop of proposals, and the floor debate brought out a variety of really interesting and important issues. In several cases, the resolutions themselves were amended from the floor in ways that strengthened them significantly.

4:45 pm | The resolutions supporting cultural, ethnic, and diversity departments, advocating an information and advocacy campaign on gender-inclusive bathrooms, and supporting diversity programs all passed.

4:21 pm | A second motion to end debate passes. The main motion fails — I counted about ten votes in favor.

That was the last item in the constitutional amendments section, so we move on to the “Diversity” section. First up: A resolution on accessibility for students with disabilities.

Also in this section:

  • “Advocating for Cultural, Ethnic, and Identity Departments and Programs”
  • “Concerning Gender-Inclusive Bathrooms on College Campuses”
  • “Cultural Resource Expansion and Development” (passed at the beginning of the plenary)
  • “Increasing Women’s Representation in Higher Education Administrative Positions”
  • “Institutionalizing Diversity”
  • “Women’s Centers on All Campuses”

4:08 pm | An amendment is proposed to change the proposal to a “male collective,” dropping the issue of sexual orientation and changing the body from a formal caucus to a meeting space at conferences. After a question from another delegate the name is changed to “man-identifying collective.”

4:04 pm | A motion to end debate fails.

4:00 pm | I’m not going to try to summarize the debate, but I’ll note that it’s been calm and civil, even a little subdued, so far.

3:52 pm | As the amendment is introduced, literally half the delegates get in line to speak at the “con” mike.

3:50 pm | The motion to direct the board to revamp the diversity guidelines failed. The plenary moves on to consider the constitutional amendment proposing the creation of a Sraight Male Caucus.

3:30 pm | A motion has been put forward proposing that the USSA board of directors revamp the Association’s diversity guidelines “to encompass all areas of diversity equally.”

3:25 pm | The constitutional amendment creating an Undocumented Students Caucus, renamed the “DREAM Students Caucus,” has been approved by the plenary.

3:20 pm | The first constitutional amendment on the agenda has just been approved — the USSA Private College Caucus has been replaced with the Minority Serving Institutions Caucus. The plenary now moves into discussion of the creation of an Undocumented Students Caucus.

3:07 pm | CSC chair just asked for a drum roll … Victor Sanchez has been elected vice president of USSA.

3:06 pm | The CSC has reported that Lindsay McCluskey has been elected USSA president.

3:01 pm | But first … they’re redistributing the delegates’ voting cards.

3:00 pm | CSC entering the room now. Election results coming in moments.

2:58 pm | We’ve moved on to the Electric Slide.

2:52 pm | “Cha cha real smooth…”

2:45 pm | Outgoing USSA president Gregory Cendana is entertaining the crowd with a dance while we wait for the CSC.

2:40 pm | Still waiting on the CSC. In the meantime, here’s the skinny on the first proposed constitutional amendment.

When NSA was founded after the Second World War, a sizeable fraction of its membership was private colleges and universities. But as student lobbies based at public colleges grew in the 1970s, and the Association’s focus shifted to student legal rights and electoral organizing, the private colleges tended to fall away. (The rise of membership-fee referenda as a mechanism for affiliation with NSA/USSA probably played a major role, too — public institutions’ student governments generally have a lot more fee autonomy than privates.) Today USSA has a Private College Caucus, but no private college members.

Minority Serving Institutions — particularly Historically Black Colleges and Universities — were also present in NSA from the beginning, but unlike private colleges, MSIs have seen significant growth in USSA membership in recent years. On that level, dropping the (inactive) Private College Caucus and replacing it with an MSI Caucus is a reflection of an organic shift in the Association’s membership.

We’ll see what other angles, if any, are brought out when the proposal comes to the floor.

2:30 pm | The Congress Steering Committee is meeting to certify the presidential and vice presidential elections. They’ll announce the results as the first order of business when the plenary reconvenes.

2:10 pm | There are four constitutional amendments in the packet. In the order in which they’re scheduled to be taken up, they are:

  • Replacing the Association’s Private College Caucus with a Minority Serving Institutions Caucus
  • Creating a new Undocumented Students Caucus
  • Restructuring USSA’s diversity guidelines
  • Creating a new Straight Male Caucus

I’ll give a quick explanation for each of these, and a little background on the issues they raise, as they’re brought to the floor.

2:05 pm | Delegates are drifting back to the room. Probably half or more of them are here already.

12:40 pm | With the first section of resolutions completed and constitutional amendments next on the agenda, a motion to recess for lunch has been made … and passed by acclamation. Plenary is scheduled to reconvene at two o’clock.

12:35 pm | Half an hour of debate on the high school outreach resolution, and when a motion to end debate passed, there were still lines of people waiting to speak at both the pro and con mikes. Resolution carried by a 2-1 margin.

12:30 pm | Interesting that the fact that high schoolers don’t have the vote is being presented as an argument against bringing them into USSA. For the first quarter century of NSA’s existence, most college students didn’t have the vote. This line of debate is really a reflection of how much the student movement — and NSA/USSA — has changed since the passage of the 26th Amendment.

12:15 pm | A resolution calling on USSA to conduct high school outreach is producing a surprising (to me) amount of debate. And it’s an interesting debate — what effect would reaching out to high schoolers have on USSA’s character?

12:05 pm | The membership task force resolution passed by a wide margin. I’ll definitely be blogging on this — non-student-government membership in USSA is a topic I find fascinating.

11:55 am | Debate has begun on a resolution that would create a task force to explore the possibility of creating a new USSA membership category for “student advocacy groups which may not be affiliated with campus student governments.” This is a question that goes back to USSA’s founding in 1947, and even before — the question of what the National Student Association’s membership base should be was hotly debated in the early discussions surrounding the Association’s creation. (It’s a subject that I discuss in some detail in my dissertation.)

11:50 am | Three resolutions have passed, one (asking USSA to create a manual advising students on how to apply to college) has failed.

11:15 am | Voting has concluded, the plenary has been called to order, and the day’s first administrative resolution is being introduced.

10:45 am | Voting is underway. It’s a secret ballot, but delegates are being called up to the front of the room individually to cast their votes.

10:35 am | Plenaries have begun, with Congress Steering Committee explaining election procedures.

10:00 am | At this writing, it’s ten o’clock in Los Angeles. Plenaries were scheduled to begin at nine, but yesterday’s meetings and discussions stretched far into the night, and delegate check-in is still ongoing at this hour.