Ardent questioning and intense debate dominated the chamber Sunday as the UNH Student Senate took on its sixth and longest meeting of the session with the primary goal of approving and passing the budgets of six major student organizations.
The approval of the budgets themselves followed last week’s senatorial approval of the corresponding concepts of ten prominent organizations, where each one presented a mission statement and their argument as to why they believe they deserve monetary support for the next fiscal year.
Although each budget received its own examination by the Senate, the proposed budget for the New Hampshire Outing Club (NHOC) caused the night’s greatest stir, as suspicions and confusion arose over the nature and intended goal of the budget, as well as the club’s main objective as to whether it took its trips just within the Granite State or nationwide as well.
NHOC Business Manager Josh Hollis told the Senate the increased and revised budget reflected growing interest and demand from students for trips, with the organization currently on its 37th expedition this semester alone, which he said filled the capacity of the Strafford Room; at the same time last year, it was on its 20th trip.
Hollis, more specifically, stated that alongside increased general revenues for more trips, lines were added to the budget to account for specific financial needs, such as increased funding for wilderness first aid, clothing proposals and staff certifications, among other categories. Adjustments to personnel stipends, lines for increase leadership compensation for “retention” and increased funds for higher quality supplies were also proposed.
In a debate that lasted over half an hour, UNH Student Trustee Christian Merheb and Judicial Affairs Chair Alexandra Work, among several other senators, probed Hollis on most of the budget’s lines, including, in one case, why the club desired to add a second separately stipended publicity coordinator following increased exposure and student interest in the club, or explain how much money was to be spent on trips within New Hampshire and on trips expeditions beyond state lines; Hollis responded to the latter concern by stating “we’re the Outing Club, not the only-New Hampshire Outing Club.”
In the midst of questioning, Non-Resident 8 Sen. Joseph Ramirez proposed a “non-debatable” motion to end debate on the NHOC’s budget, previously arguing that the Senate had had plenty of time to review the budget and its proposals prior to Sunday. As the yays and nays toward the motion were counted, Trustee Merheb proclaimed that the body was “stifling democracy” by prematuring ending debate. In spite of its 20 yays and 11 nays in favor of the motion, it required a two-thirds majority vote and failed to end discussion.
In voicing his support of NHOC’s FY20 budget and its $10,000 increase from last year, Student Body Vice President Jake Adams stated that there was a difference between money that the organization “needs” and funds that they “want,” but that the $10,000 was money they “need” to continue operations and properly fund its trips given increased student demand.
Trustee Merheb also expressed favor toward the increased budget, but also concern toward its going over budget in the past, a problem that could arise from trips outside of the state.
“…at the end of the day, I think if this is spent wisely and effectively, an increase of this size isn’t a huge deal as long as it’s positively impacting the community and benefiting students,” he said. “But I’m a little bit concerned that in the past, they have gone over on their expenditures, which is concerning in the perspective of financial accountability; but on the other hand, I also think this is the New Hampshire Outing Club, not the Acadia Outing Club, not the California Outing Club. I do think most of their outing events should occur within the state, which is why I do not specifically agree with the huge increase in transportation costs.”
The NHOC budget was ultimately approved by the Senate, passing with three nays and five abstentions, taking a five minute recess shortly afterward.
Five other budgets were also discussed and investigated on Sunday: the Mask and Dagger theatre troupe (passed unanimously), the Memorial Union Student Organization (MUSO, passed unanimously), the Campus Activities Board (CAB, passed with one nay), the Diversity Support Coalition (DSC, passed unanimously) and the Organic Gardening Club (OGC, passed unanimously). While most organizations reported little change from last year’s budget, MUSO Business Manager Catarina Marr stated that the organization, among other substantial alterations as outlined in last week’s budget concept, has to contract more expensive outside technicians to operate sound systems for music-related and other MUSO events, as it is no longer permitted to use students to operate the machinery.
Aside from budgets, the Senate welcomed Amy Culp, Director of the Sexual Harassment & Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) as its weekly guest speaker, who spoke of potential budget cuts to key SHARPP and its initiatives.
Culp explained that for the first time, grant money previously saved for the organization was taken off the top of the organization’s budget by UNH, creating concerns within SHARPP that it could potentially run out of federal funding in the “near future,” citing the current “national climate” and force it to cut key services, such as its outreach and education initiatives that advocate against sexual harassment and are designed to generate interest, discussion and student involvement in such topics, a move she called a “desperate” final option. The director said that SHARPP is on the last year of its typical three-year long federal funding cycle, after which its current funding level would be altered.
Despite those concerns, however, the director said she is encouraged by the large number of students wanting to get involved in SHARPP and support it, calling the support “good news.”
In other senatorial business, the body concluded its search for its next permanent Historian, selecting Megan McLean (formerly Alexander-1) from a list of other candidates; McLean takes the place of former historian Tyler Anderson, who departed the Senate following its Sept. 30 meeting.
The Senate also unanimously approved Hana Baker as Handler Hall’s second senator, joining Handler Sen. Georgia Bunnell, while Speaker Nicholas LaCourse used a bill to add Sens. Annah Santarosa (Stoke-1) and Jonathan Goldberg (Williamson-1) as the Election Committee’s newest members, which was passed unanimously. Sens. Santarosa and Nick Crosby (Minis-1) motioned to remove themselves from the Public Relations Committee on Sunday – also approved unanimously – whose spots were filled by Student Body President Ethan McClanahan and Campus Structure Chair Devon Guyer in a bill that passed with one nay.
The body’s Financial Affairs Committee saw a shakeup in membership as well, as Sens. Gabby Corricelli (Christensen-1) and Maria Koch (Sawyer-1, Co-2) motioned to remove themselves while Sens. Ashim Gurung (Scott-1) and David Cerullo (Upper Quad-3) took their places on the committee; both bills passed the Senate unanimously.
The Senate official adjourned following delayed communications – pushed to the end of the meeting due to the budget debates – at 8:58 p.m.