The introduction and immediate postponement of the Student Senate’s first major resolution of Session XL concerning future long-term funding of the University System of New Hampshire (USNH) served as the high point in an otherwise routine fourth meeting of the fall semester.
The legislation in question – R.40.03, entitled “Urging New Hampshire to Support Higher Education” and introduced by Student Body President Ethan McClanahan, Student Body Vice-President Jake Adams and External Affairs Chair Liam Sullivan – aimed to urge New Hampshire legislators to increase funding for USNH to $93.5 million by 2020 and by 50 percent over the next 10 years.
The USNH consists of the University of New Hampshire’s Durham and Manchester campuses and School of Law, Plymouth State University, Keene State College and Granite State College.
The resolution was designed to address concerns surrounding insufficient overall state funding of post-secondary education, stating that while N.H state legislators “approved $800 million in additional expenses for 2018 and 2019,” “none” of those funds were allocated to USNH. The resolution revealed that the organization only received a $81 million budget for 2018 and 2019 from the state after requesting two annual budgets totaling $88.5 million and $93.5 million, respectively.
The motion also cited a 30.1 percent decrease in per-student higher education funding between 2008 and 2016, with a figure of $93 per student making NH the least financially supportive state in the country in terms of higher education spending per pupil; both figures served as additional motivators favoring its passage.
Adams announced the bill’s two-week postponement period shortly after delivering it to the body, explaining that several key economic factors and their effects on statewide collegiate funding require additional consideration and examination before returning the resolution to the floor for a vote. He stated that a number of the desired specifics regard the university’s gross economic impact on the Granite State.
“It is very significant,” Adams said. “We just don’t have the actual data because it’s hard to come by because it’s as open as the Internet is; somehow, you can’t find certain things you want.”
The vice president added that he hopes to “flesh out” details regarding “capital projects” – or how much money a state directly provides to improve upon local assets or infrastructure – and the university’s “operating budgets,” among other financial matters, with UNH administration. Adams stated the extra time would result in a “stronger proposal,” despite his initial reluctance to delay the vote.
“I really don’t like the idea of bumping anything to another week,” he said. “But the actual budget process will take place in June of next year, so this can survive a couple more weeks…[capital projects and operating budgets] might be instrumental in whether or not we actually get an increase.”
The vote to postpone the motion until Oct. 14 passed with two nays.
Sunday’s guest speaker Dr. Kevin Charles, BS, MS, D.Ed., Assistant Vice-President for Student Life and Executive Director of Health & Wellness, served as the meeting’s other major highlight, as he and Kathleen Grace-Bishop, MHSA, MCHES, Director of Education and Promotion, introduced Health & Wellness to the Senate, what services it provides to students, and recent changes to the program.
In explaining the mission of Health & Wellness, Charles described the organization as a “one-stop shop” for a wide variety of medical solutions, ranging from primary, specialized and tertiary or emergency medical treatments and health education initiatives to 24/7 non-urgent nurse assistance and “complementary” care in the form of services such as massage therapy, meditation and Paws & Relax.
Charles also described the Wellness Wheel, a diagram containing seven categories of health that students are encouraged to look after and properly maintain, including physical, mental, social and emotional health, among other categories.
“We operate from the concept of a wellness wheel…the idea is we want to treat people holistically, so we don’t just take care of bumps and bruises and pains and aches, [but] we also help people proactively,” Charles said. “We try to do what we can to educate.”
Another major talking point of Health & Wellness was the subject of Living Well Services, described by Grace-Bishop as “confidential, individualized education,” coaching and counseling on health-related topics that stresses involvement from educational groups, special events, and student involvement through “peer education and internships.”
Charles also updated the body on recent renovations to the Health & Wellness building across from the Memorial Union Building, which include new exam rooms with modern technology and a new floor in the lobby, among other improvements.
Sandwiched between the guest speakers and the resolution was a batch of regular business bills, including one introduced by Executive Officer Caelin McMahon that welcomed Non-Resident Sen. 8 Joseph Ramirez, Christensen Sen. 2, Terry John Robinson II and Hubbard Sen. Juliana Phillips as the body’s newest members, which passed with one nay. Another bill, brought forward by Student Trustee Christian Merheb and passed unanimously by the body, resulted in the approval of Alexandra West as the Senate’s Senior Policy Advisor.
Speaker Nicholas LaCourse also introduced bills on Sunday that added Sens. David Cerullo and Meagan McLean to the Election Committee and Sens. Gabryella Corricelli, Ramirez and McLean to the Judiciary Committee, while Director of Public Relations Brittany Dunkle used a bill to approve Sens. Nelson Idahosa, Stephan Toth, Elza Brechbuhl and Joseph Bradley as members of the Public Relations Committee. All three bills were passed unanimously.
Speaker LaCourse and Director Dunkle also brought to the floor a bill designed to approve of the Senate’s First Year Election Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) concerning rules and regulations regarding the upcoming election that will determine the body’s First Year Representative for Session XL. The bill concluded the assembly’s regular business, which adjourned at 7:06 pm following debate surrounding the night’s sole resolution.
The Senate goes on recess next Sunday due to the following Monday’s mid-semester break; its next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 14.