In its efforts to make the most of its shortest meeting of the semester so far, the Student Senate welcomed over half a dozen new members to various committees, on top of pressing the University of New Hampshire (UNH) faculty to address mental health awareness, all before adjourning to catch what would end up being a blockbuster Feb. 3 Super Bowl. 

Sunday’s sole resolution – R.40.15, entitled “Regarding a Mental Health Syllabi” and brought to the floor by Sen. Luke O’Connell (Congreve 1), Health & Wellness Chair Jenny Hargenrader and former Upper Quad Sen. Isabelle Kapoian – urged Dean of Students John Kirkpatrick to “encourage” all professors and faculty to include a statement regarding mental health, academic success and student well-being on all future syllabi; the original statement reads as follows: 

“Your academic success and overall mental health is very important. If, during the semester, you find you are experiencing concerns with your emotional or mental health, please contact the University’s Psychological and Counseling Services (PACS) (3rd floor, Smith Hall; 603 862-2090/TTY: 7-1-1) which provides counseling appointments and other mental health services. If urgent, students may call PACS M-F, 8am-5pm, and schedule a same day urgent appointment.” 

The resolution argued that the new statement embodies recent changes inside and outside of the PACS, such as a new director and “increased efforts” to promote same-day appointments, as it strives to shed its previous negative reputation among the student body, stressing that it is now more “socially acceptable and…encouraged to seek help for mental health.” The motion added that the inclusion of the above statement could help remind faculty and staff about “pertinent” information regarding UNH policies and practices related to mental health. 

In their address to the body concerning the updated avowal, Sen. O’Connell said that while most class syllabi presently contain a similar statement, the new statement, crafted over winter break by both PACS and Student Senate, “miscommunication” between O’Connell and upper administration caused the new statement to be passed without the latter’s approval, adding that the motion itself had seen much “rough and tumble” during its development. 

Prior to reading the motion to the Senate, Sen. O’Connell amended the motion by adding a new sentence to the original statement, which read that students are “highly encouraged to communicate with faculty and staff about needs if there will be an influence on their academic performance.” Amid deliberation over the resolution, Sen. O’Connell answered yes when Sen. Joseph Ramirez (Non-Resident 8) asked whether members of the Faculty Senate had seen the motion prior to passing. 

R.40.15 ultimately passed the body unanimously. 

In addition to the resolution, several senatorial committees welcomed new members to their respective ranks, starting with the Public Relations Committee, which – in an unanimously-passed bill introduced by Director of Public Relations Jonathan Goldberg – gained a new deputy director in Sen. Maria Koch (Sawyer Co-2), a new social media coordinator in Allison Fischer, and two general members in Sen. Michael Brudeau (Non-Resident 2) and Sen. Jonathan Merheb (Stoke 2). 

The Student Activity Fee Committee (SAFC) also gained new members when SAFC Chair Joshua Velez used a bill to approve Elliot Greene and Xingyou Chen as its newest At-Large members, which passed unanimously. Chen’s appointment marks the first time an international student has held a position in the committee. 

Student Trustee Christian Merheb took time on Sunday as well to approve Caroline Bibbo as his newest senior policy advisor, through a bill that passed the body unanimously. 

In spite of the new additions, the Senate also lost a member on Feb. 3, when it unanimously voted to remove Sen. Mary Davis (Stoke 3) from the remainder of Session XL. Speaker Nicholas LaCourse also announced a delay in the body’s search for a new parliamentarian during his communications, specifying that the interview committee had asked to delay the presentation of the corresponding bill for one more week to make room for further deliberation; former Parliamentarian José Calvo resigned from his position last week for undisclosed reasons. 

The Senate, following its own deliberation over R.40.15, adjourned at 4:32 p.m.

Benjamin Strawbridge is a News Editor and the Senate Correspondent for The New Hampshire newspaper at the University of New Hampshire. He joined in September 2017 as a contributor, and was promoted to his current position in April 2018. Strawbridge is part of the UNH Class of 2020 and majors in English/Journalism.

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