The election of a new speaker and the unanimous passing of two major resolutions and amendments capped off the month of February for the UNH Student Senate at Sunday’s meeting. 

Gathering in Room 115 at the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, in an executive session closed off to the public, including The New Hampshire, the body voted in Interim Senate Speaker Douglas Marino as the new official speaker, resolving the major hurdle of finding a permanent speaker that would serve until the end of Session XXXIX, an issue that had persisted since José Calvo’s resignation as speaker one week prior.  

Prior to the closed election, all other nominees had either declined to accept the nomination for speaker or had dropped out of the running shortly following their acceptance, leaving Marino as the only eligible contender. 

Following the election and the adjournment of the assembly, Speaker Marino called his election as speaker an “honor” and stated that he is “excited to continue to conduct the business of Student Senate on behalf of the student body, and I think we’re going to have a very exciting remainder of the session.”   

Regular Senate proceedings dealt with two standard motions on Sunday; one of them, titled “Bylaw Amendments Concerning Non-Partisanship of Certain Officers,” pushed for more resilient representative non-partisanship of the Student Senate Officer Corps through changes to the Student Senate Bylaws. The bill and its changes were passed unanimously by the Senate with no abstentions. 

The new guidelines, according to the bill, require members of the Officer Corps, which consist of the speaker, parliamentarian, executive officer, director of public relations and historian, to stay “above the partisan nature of policy-making in order to better serve the body as a whole,” with additional amendments allowing the Officer Corps to increase their support for “elected officials…and their appointees” and their respective “capacity to fulfill democratic mandates imposed upon by the student body through their respective elections.”  

The second of the two motions, Resolution R.39.24, voiced the assembly’s support of a statewide “ban” on “conversion therapy,” defined as, according to the U.S. National Institute of Health, “any treatments, including individual talk therapy, behavioral…group therapy or milieu…treatments, which attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.”  

R.39.24 resolved to “commend” the NH General Court and NH Gov. Chris Sununu for their efforts to prohibit the “heinous practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ on minors,” as well as “urge” the state to increase its support and provide additional assistance for “vulnerable LGBTQIAP+ youth” living in the Granite State. The resolution passed the Senate with one abstention.    

On top of the aforementioned motions, the Senate voted unanimously in favor of the removal of Michael DaSilva and Cody Belanger as student senators, with the former desiring to “focus on school,” according to Executive Officer Chelsea Evankow, while the latter cited “unanticipated inconveniences” that resulted in him dropping his status as a full-time student on campus, urging the assembly in a letter obtained and read by the executive officer to increase their population limit to give a voice to part-time students in student government. 

Meanwhile, the senate unanimously approved the appointment of Sarah Ocanovic as Student Senator representing the Jessie Doe student dorm for the remainder of the session.  

In addition, External Affairs Council Chair Hayden Stinson announced that R.39.23, the motion supporting the Seacoast Growers’ Farmers’ Market’s, would be pulled from Senate consideration due to “valid reasons” from UNH administration related to their inability to utilize the “Fishbowl” area as a potential location for the annual farmers’ market; Stinson said the organization would be utilizing land nearby Durham’s Town Hall this summer.      

In other communications, Academic Affairs Council Chair Audrey Getman, whose statement was read by Student Body President Carly Rotenberg due to illness, announced her intent to begin discussion of a resolution to be introduced in a future Faculty Senate meeting concerning classes during common exam time; Community Development Council Chair Elena Ryan discoursed publicly about previous discussions within her Community Development Council concerning potential changes to social media policy; and Judicial Affairs Council Chair Josh Velez urged his peers to examine, study and provide feedback for recent amendments concerning changes to the “Students’ Rights, Rules and Responsibilities” guidelines, stressing that it is “very important that we [in the Student Senate] understand” the significance of the alterations, especially for council chairs and new respective rules that apply specifically to them. 

Benjamin Strawbridge is a News Editor and Official Senate Correspondent for The New Hampshire student newspaper based at the University of New Hampshire, where he reports on the university's Student Senate and other breaking news; he joined TNH in Sept. 2017 as a contributor.
Strawbridge currently attends UNH as a English/Journalism major and part of the UNH Class of 2020.