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Student Senate Update: Oct. 6, 2019 – Senate seeks student role in provost searches, recognizes Kirkpatrick legacy


The Student Senate took Sunday, its first October meeting of Session 41 and 4th overall, to express interest in aiding in upcoming searches for three new senior vice provosts, as well as remember the legacy of outgoing Dean of Students John T. Kirkpatrick, among other business. 

The aforementioned cases took the form of the night’s two resolutions, with the larger of the two – R.41.05, entitled “On Recent Vacancies in Senior Vice Provost Positions” and introduced by Student Body President Allie MacPhee, Senate Speaker Nicholas LaCourse, Student Body Vice President Kelsey Crowley, Student Trustee Cailee Griffin, Deputy Speaker David Cerullo and Executive Officer Annah Santarosa – urging University of New Hampshire (UNH) administration to permit the Student Body President, or their “designee,” to serve as a member of the search committees seeking successors for Senior Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Dr. PT “Vasu” Vasudevan and the late Senior Vice Provost of Engagement and Faculty Development Julie Williams, Ph.D.  

The resolution also urged UNH administration to allow the student body president and the senate speaker, or their “designees,” to take part in the search for the next dean of students and senior vice provost of student life, currently held by Kirkpatrick until the end of the academic year. 

The motion stated that the three positions have a “direct and important impact on students in and outside of the classroom,” specifically calling Kirkpatrick’s dual role a “key actor” in promoting student involvement in the relationship between the University and the Student Senate through “shared governance.” 

According to the motion, Provost Wayne Jones sent out an email on Friday, Sept. 27, to UNH faculty on detailing his plans to establish search committees and “national searches” for the three positions. The university announced Vasudevan’s departure and Kirkpatrick’s retirement the same day. Both will continue to serve as provosts until July 1, 2020. 

As of this writing, UNH has not named a successor or replacement for Williams, whose death was announced by Jones on Oct. 2 through “UNH Today”, nor has the university updated its Engagement and Faculty Development website to reflect the vacancy. 

“So, we all [the motion’s authors] worked on this together, [and] we think it’s really important that we have student representation,” MacPhee said as she spoke of the resolution’s significance. “Although it’s already dictated [sic] in our bylaws, we just want to make sure that we have this out in the open, and we also think it’s really important that we have the Speaker of the Student Senate a part of the search committee for the dean of students, seeing as the dean of students works so tightly with the Student Senate.” 

Although the motion passed unanimously, its original version faced significant revisions; upon the addition of Williams’ role to the text – which was initially absent from the motion – student body vice president suggested a change in wording from “tragically passed away” due to sensitivity concerns. Further changes came from MacPhee, who announced a future resolution detailing Williams’ legacy and death, and advocated that the reasons for the vacancies, and therefore the names attached to each one, be dropped from the text out of fear of “shorting what the actual circumstance was” for each vacancy, citing Williams’ death as an example. 

Kirkpatrick received additional attention through the night’s other resolution – R.41.04, entitled “Recognizing Dean Kirkpatrick For His Commitment to UNH” and brought to the floor by LaCourse, MacPhee, Crowley, Griffin, Cerullo and Santarosa – which sought to thank him for over three decades of service to UNH and acknowledge the many students he has helped over the years and “the impact he has made on our community which will be felt for years to come.” 

The motion stated that Kirkpatrick “has served with the utmost distinction and dedication,” and highlighted key moments of his time at UNH, where he received his Ph.D. in 1983 and served as both dean and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts prior to his current roles. It also called him one of the student body’s “strongest allies,” adding that he was “instrumental” in creating a “reimagined approach to student life” through a series of student policy reforms, a series of “organizational changes” and revisions to the Student Rights, Rules and Responsibilities (SRRRs) earlier this year. 

Speaker LaCourse himself took time during his explanation of the resolution to praise Kirkpatrick’s role in “reaffirming Student Senate’s role in the shared governance structure of the university.” 

“I can say from my discussions with a number of alumni and from my experience in Student Senate that we definitely have been a lot more robust since Dean Kirkpatrick came to this role,” LaCourse added. “He’s opened up a lot of doors for us, really affirmed the role that we play, and I think this is the least that we can do for him as he exits the university…” 

The resolution ultimately passed unanimously. 

As the week’s featured guest speaker, Provost Jones, also the vice president for academic affairs, took time at the meeting’s start to explain his role – which he equivaled to the “number two” at a large corporation – to the body. He also updated attendees on changes at UNH over the last six months, including additions such as the new chief information officer (CIO) Bill Poirier, who arrived in August, and a new vice provost of enrollment management in Pelema Morrice, who began his role on Sept. 5 and originated from Great Bay Community College, where he served as its president for the past year, according to UNH Today

In addition, Jones alerted the Senate to multiple ongoing and upcoming searches for other deans and provosts beyond the three featured in Sunday’s resolutions, such as searches for a new Dean of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (CEPS) and the Senior Vice Provost for Research, formerly held by Dr. Jan Nesbit until her departure over the summer. 

Other topics covered by Jones in his half-hour talk included updates on the Spaulding renovations and a recent $9 million addition to College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) for expanding its nursing program and adding more “healthcare professional areas” mostly dealing with therapy. The provost added that the addition gives UNH room to freeze tuition, resulting in no upticks in tuition costs for in-state students for the following academic year. The provost stressed that the university is taking measures to hold out-of-state tuition cost increases “as close to zero as possible.” 

In other business, a bill introduced by Speaker LaCourse sought to approve the 2019 First Year Election Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), with the major change being a new “instant contingent run-off” method – or a “first past the post” method, per the Speaker – in electing future first-year representatives. Akin the current system used to elect the student body president and vice president, LaCourse explained that with the new method, if three theoretical candidates fail to reach 50 percent of the vote, the two highest-polling candidates would remain while the second-choice votes would go toward the top two; any candidate that wins 50 percent or more of the vote wins automatically without the need for a run-off. The bill passed the body unanimously. 

The Senate also unanimously passed a bill approving a Student Activity Fee (SAF) Concepts Amendment for the Organic Garden Club (OGC) for the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020). Moved by SAF Committee (SAFC) Chair Gareth Jones (no relation), the bill, per Jones, featured minor edits and reflected the club’s attempt to change their name to the Organic Farm Club and “better fit the mission of the club,” a move reflected in struck elements of the bill. However, following further research, OGC stuck with their current name because changing their name would have required the organization to reapply for its existing organic certification, the chair said. 

On the topic of membership, the Senate saw only one new addition to their roster in the form of new SAFC At-Large Member Payton Taylor, whose nomination saw unanimously approval. Outside of SAFC, however, no new student senators were welcomed to, or removed by, the body on Sunday, nor did attendees nominate themselves for the Election Committee overseen by Director of Public Relations Jonathan Goldberg. 

Following discussion of Resolution 41.05, the Senate ultimately adjourned at 7:24 p.m. 

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