Extensive debate on improvements to university student parking and calls for action on climate change were just some of the topics covered in the latest two-hour-long meeting of the Student Senate as it convened for its 18th meeting of Session XL.
Taking up the largest portion of Sunday’s gathering, Resolution 40.20 – entitled “On Parking Reform” and introduced by Senior Financial Advisor Allison MacPhee, Sen. Kelsey Crowley (Non-Res. 6), Student Trustee Christian Merheb, Judicial Affairs Chair Alexandra Work, and “community member” José Calvo – urged UNH administration and Transportation Services to act on improving transparency and accessibility when it comes to student parking, suggesting solutions including potential reductions in paid parking hours at both the Campus Crossing and Edgewood Road visitor lots, creating a “comprehensive list” detailing all UNH parking areas and their associated rules, increasing the maximum hours allowed at “Pay and Display” parking areas to four hours, and adding a representative from Student Senate to the parking appeals process; it also called for Transportation Services to submit parking appeal records from the past two academic years to the Senate to be “reviewed and audited” by its Campus Structure Council.
The motion argued that students have “consistently expressed concern” over UNH’s parking policies in recent years, especially since the rise of multiple online petitions addressing student complaints. One Change.org petition cited by the motion, which has garnered over 1,400 signatures from students, alumni and community members so far, asserts that students are “improperly receiving parking tickets,” with some students reportedly receiving them when their parking meter time expires while in class and unable to reset the timer. The motion states that expired meters are the most common parking penalty facing students.
Although commending efforts by Transportation Services to improve training for ticketing staff, the motion also pushed UNH administration to do more, citing another Change.org petition from 2017 that garnered over 5,400 signatures and asked administration to reverse changes made to its parking policies that summer for major visitor lots to prevent long term negative impacts on the university and commuter students engaging in extracurricular activities; at the time, UNH administration did not act on the petition’s demands, per the motion.
“I think we can all agree that parking is one of the biggest problems on campus,” Sen. Crowley told the body in her defense of the motion, “it’s a big problem with the community; it’s something that brings everyone together by far. And it’s something that we’ve been urging administration to do something on for a long time now, and we’ve been trying to get everyone’s input on this to make it the best we can.”
Trustee Merheb added that parking had been “on the back burner” and called the motion a “call to action” at a time when students are calling for an end to inaction by UNH administration on the issue; he furthermore stated that administrators he and motion author MacPhee had visited in recent days expressed “understanding” and “willingness to work with students.”
“This resolution is trying to start a process,” Trustee Merheb said, “and start discussions without saying ‘we demand all these changes, we demand all these things to be reversed.’ But it’s pretty much saying that…we want to look into and try to find out what are appropriate means to address issues and what are not.”
Defenders of the motion pointed to potential improvements and added flexibility, such as the current maximum time limit for campus parking meters, benefitting students with classes lasting longer than three hours. The body also made several revisions to the resolution, such as additional sections addressing student concerns over insufficient communication of campus parking regulations and the lack of student representation in the appeals process, among other concerns.
Some senators, however, questioned the motion’s legitimacy, with Sen. Joseph Ramirez (Non-Res. 8) expressing concerns when discovering that the motion had not gone through the Campus Structure Council as most resolutions typically do. Trustee Merheb replied that the issue’s timeliness, as well as a lack of action from UNH administration, was motivation for not running it through the council before presenting it to the Senate, stressing that, if not passed at Sunday’s meeting, it would lose traction due to the Senate’s three-week hiatus during the week of and after spring break.
Following nearly half-an-hour of continued debate, Sen. Ramirez called for a vote to remand the motion to the Campus Structure Council, saying that it should be pored over by the council and finalized by its members before presented to the Senate floor to avoid passing what he called “the bare minimum.” Student Body Vice President Jake Adams, in the wake of Sen. Ramirez’s motion to remand, said that the move would only work if the Senate could “justify” waiting three weeks to pass the resolution and continue progress on the issue of campus parking after that much time and no bill to show for it.
“…I truly believe that if we spend a little bit more time talking about this, if we spend a little bit more time actually discussing on how we can find solutions, the resolution that comes out of that will be bulletproof,” Sen. Ramirez told the body, “and we can take to administration and say, ‘this is something that we worked on for however-many weeks; we understand how important this is.’ This isn’t something that we should be rushing just because we want to get it before spring break, this is something we have to get right.”
When it came time to vote on the motion to remand, the Senate voted five in favor and 23 against; the final vote passed the resolution with 26 in favor and seven abstentions after over an hour’s worth of debate.
The night’s other resolution – R.40.19, entitled “Urging Action in Accordance with Projected Climate Warning” and brought to the floor by Campus Structure Chair Devon Guyer, First–Year Representative Julianna Phillips, Sens. Nick Crosby (Stoke 3), Joseph Bradley (Hetzel 1) and Tom McDonough (Gibbs 1, Co-1) – urged the university to meet a 45 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, create a plan utilizing current and previous university research to address climate change and seek solutions, create a plan concerning how UNH would meet the needs of its student body and local community while simultaneously addressing climate change on campus, call on UNH President James W. Dean, Jr., to “reaffirm” UNH’s role in the “climate leadership network,” and regularly share progress of its actions and efforts to the Student Senate on a consistent basis, all the while completing any projected plan by May 2020.
The motion cited a recent report issued on global warming by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stating that the planet’s global temperature will rise by 1.5 degrees in 2020 while predicting “further long-term changes in the climate system” in the near future. The resolution argued that sustained global warming is a “threat to the continuation of human civilization” and that UNH possesses the technical and economic capabilities to combat the problem and serve as a call-to-action for UNH stakeholders and other universities to take similar action on a “global” scale.
R.40.19 added that UNH has already adopted a goal of “carbon neutrality” by the year 2100 – as set by the American College and University President Climate Commitment – and stated that the university is on track to meet a goal of 50 percent reductions in carbon emissions by 2020. The motion furthermore stated that UNH is a signee of the “We Are Still In” declaration, which aims to promise world powers “that Americans would not retreat from the global pact to reduce emissions” and combat climate change.
“There isn’t really, like, ‘this is your bill to reduce emissions;’ but it actually is more fiscally responsible for us to work in this direction as this is the direction that the market is going in for energy, and it’s becoming cheaper to not rely on fossil fuels and to rely on renewable energy sources,” Chair Guyer, who worked on the bill since last semester, told the Senate when asked about the economic impact of the motion. “So, we’re actually kind-of ahead of the curve on this…it’s actually been advantageous for us to take this route and we’ve actually avoided costs by going in this direction.”
R.40.19 ultimately passed the Senate unanimously.
Dr. Nicoletta Gullace, the faculty director of UNH’s Discovery Program, served as the meeting’s guest speaker as she discussed with the body an ongoing faculty five-year review of the program, with a final report on the findings due to be released in 2020. The report, per Gullace, seeks to address student concerns over balancing the needs of their majors with completing the required Discovery courses, which aim to cover core, but not necessarily related, subjects such as math and science. Gullace also answered general questions from members of the body about the program itself and potential changes pending the outcome of the review.
In other senatorial business, the body unanimously passed revisions to its bylaws concerning the election of student senators within residence halls in both September and February. Executive Officer Brittany Dunkle, meanwhile, brought forward an unanimously-passed bill adding Student Activity Fee Committee (SAFC) Chair Joshua Velez as a senator from the Upper Quad, while Parliamentarian and acting Chair David Cerullo – filling in for Speaker Nicholas LaCourse due to personal injury – introduced a bill adding Sen. Matthew Dipallina (Mills) to the Judiciary Committee with no objections. Sen. Luke O’Connell (Congreve 1) was unanimously approved as the newest member of the Senate’s Election Committee as well.
Following debate over R.40.20, the Senate adjourned at 8:21 p.m.