In one of the longest meetings of Session XXXIX thus far this semester, the UNH Student Senate faced its tallest order yet on Sunday, as it was dealt five main resolutions, packed within a total of eight bills, and accompanied by concerns of professional and personal conduct, all to commence the third month of 2018.
The night’s five major motions covered topics concerning both local student affairs and issues affecting the entirety of the Granite State. Its first – R.39.25, introduced by External Affairs Chair Hayden Stinson and long-titled “In Support of Sensible Drug Reform” – fell into both categories.
The resolution urged both the state’s General Court and Governor Christopher Sununu (R-NH) to pass HB 656, which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana within the state.
The student resolution also pushed local lawmakers to support efforts to “end to the ongoing opioid addiction crisis” through “legalization efforts.”
R.39.25 reinforced its argument with a “recent” poll conducted by the UNH Survey Center that showed a two-thirds majority of state residents in favor of recreational marijuana use, as well as findings that illustrated, per the bill’s text, support for HB 656 and decriminalization “across the party divide,” specifically citing favor from a majority of state Democrats and nearly half of local Republicans.
Despite public and political approval, according to R.39.25, the move still faces disapproval from Gov. Sununu, who is quoted as saying that he opposes HB 656 “in the middle of one of the biggest drug crises the state has ever seen.” Within the student assembly, the motion ultimately passed with two abstentions.
The following resolution, R.39.26, voiced its support for victims’ rights in New Hampshire, brought forward by External Affairs Chair Stinson, this time accompanied by guest and Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) advocate Marinda Weaver. The motion sought to raise awareness and support for Marsy’s Law, an amendment to the state’s Victim’s Bill of Rights that would include a collection of “constitutional rights,” such as the right to be “notified of all parole, bail, etc. of the accused,” among other rights.
R.39.26 resolved to urge the state electorate to approve of the amendment during the “plebiscite” – defined as, per Merriam-Webster, “a vote by which the people of an entire country or district express an opinion for or against a proposal,” – in the November election.
The law comes at a time when New Hampshire currently joins 15 other states that lack constitutional rights for “victims of crime,” ranging from sexual abuse to murder; in support of this claim, the motion cited statistics from Marsy’s Law’s official website, which found that 14 murders and “nonnegligent manslaughters,” 667 sexual assaults, 468 robberies and 1,543 “aggravated assaults,” had been committed in the Granite State in 2015 alone.
The resolution also stated, according to a Feb. 2018 Foster’s Daily Democrat article, that the rights of defendants in New Hampshire are protected by the state’s constitution and “prioritized” over the statutory rights of victims.
R.39.26 additionally showed that Marsy’s Law was already fully endorsed by Gov. Sununu and NH Attorney General Gordon J.F. MacDonald, as well as by SHARPP Director Amy Culp, who has said that the amendment would be “tremendous support for those who those who need it most,” and for supporters “within the system.” The motion passed the Student Senate with one abstention.
R.39.28, the meeting’s fourth scheduled resolution, was introduced by Academic Affairs Chair Audrey Getman and resolved to urge UNH administration to implement a “Grade Exclusion Policy,” which would allow students who decide to change their major to drop up to two courses that would “allow students to remain in good academic standing,” according to the motion.
The bill also stated that the ability to drop two courses from their academic records would potentially allow students to show off a more honest academic record.
The bill plans to follow trends set by colleges such as the Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts Lowell and North Carolina State University, as all three already have similar course-dropping policies for students.
Despite the potential benefits, the motion received considerable backlash from a number of student senators, with Non-Resident Sen. 1 Cailee Griffin commenting that the move may create red flags for employers hiring students who drop grades in order to artificially raise their numbers, as well as paint the university as a whole as an institution most interested in “trying to boost our students grades as opposed to doing something about the quality of content,” being instructed.
Chair Getman countered the qualms of Sen. Griffin and others, stating that students could only drop elective courses that are disconnected from their current major and discovery requirements, and that they would have to submit their request through an “academic variance” application to prevent the policy from being easily manipulated by dishonest students.
The motion ultimately passed with five nays.
R.39.27 was titled “Condemning Infringements on Shared Governance and Supporting Faculty Senate Motion XX-M24” and was brought to the floor by Chair Getman. It resolved to push UNH administration to implement Motion XX-M24 from the UNH Faculty Senate, which aims at granting students the ability to, per the Faculty Senate’s text, “satisfy a Discovery category regardless of whether it also counts as a major requirement.” Its implementation was “paused,” by College of Liberal Arts Dean Heidi Bostic in May 2017, violating the 1966 Joint Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities that grants both to students and faculty “shared governance,” alongside UNH administration on academic matters. The motion passed the Student Senate unanimously.
Meanwhile, R.39.29, the agenda’s final scheduled motion, urged UNH administration to release a more publicly accessible academic calendar to showcase additional “important dates.” These dates would include final exams and university holidays, as well as when final grades will be available to be viewed by students. The motion introduced by Chair Getman and Hunter Hall Sen. Evan Smith passed the assembly with two abstentions.
In other senatorial business, Sen. Smith introduced two additional unscheduled bills for consideration. The first, titled “Campus Accessibility in Winter Months” aimed to increase accessibility through more at-the-ready “campus accessibility vans,” provided by Student Accessibility Services (SAS) for students with disabilities.
The second dealt with improvements to general dorm maintenance, urging the Department of Housing and Facilities to “thoroughly clean buildings of mold,” and structural upgrades across the board in all dorms on campus.
The former bill passed with one nay and one abstention; the latter passed with one abstention.
A bill advocating for improved salting, sanding for all walkways, more effective, efficient snow clearing from accessibility ramps and walkways throughout campus, courtesy of the UNH Department of Facilities, passed with one nay. It was introduced by Stoke Sen. 1 Nicholas Crosby, first-year Representative Dennis M. Ruprecht and Campus Structure Chair Ethan McClanahan.
Aside from resolutions, the Student Senate also took the time to discuss concerns about personal and professional conduct in and outside of the Senate floor; Senate Speaker Douglas Marino expressed concern that members in the Senate “sometimes aren’t as good at remembering to lift each other up,” as they are at keeping each other accountable.
“…it’s not a weakness to acknowledge…that we are students,” Speaker Marino said to the assembly when speaking of recognizing personal stresses alongside senatorial pressures. “…there are going to be times when we need to be there for each other.”