Sunday’s four-hour assembly – the 20th of Session XL and the longest of the semester thus far – saw the re-election of Senate Speaker Nicholas LaCourse and a $60,000 “pull” from the Student Activity Fee (SAF) Reserve Account, among other business. 

LaCourse, who was originally elected to the position of speaker near the end of Session XXXIX, won over his opponent, Campus Structure Chair and recent Student Body Vice Presidential candidate Devon Guyer, in a nearly four-hour-long “executive session” closed off to the public, per the Senate Bylaws, lasting until just past 10 p.m. Sen. Logan Stevens (Peterson 1 Co-1), External Affairs Chair and recent Student Trustee candidate Liam Sullivan, Parliamentarian David Cerullo, and Health & Wellness Council Chair Jennifer Hargenrader were also offered as potential nominees for the Speaker post in the previous meeting; each one declined the offer to run. 

Following LaCourse’s reelection, the body took on a bill to approve a reduction in the SAF account by $60,000 for Fiscal Year 2020. The bill added that, should the Office of the Vice President of Finance & Administration (VPFA) reject the initial amount, the Senate would approve of a pull of $40,000 from the SAF account instead. 

Student Activity Fee Committee (SAFC) Chair Joshua Velez explained to the body that the committee’s account, which currently totals at $600,000, receives a “good portion” of contributions from “unexpected” funds remaining at the end of a fiscal year, and that the committee “rarely” pulls from the account. The chair added that pulls only occur in cases of “major capital upgrades” or in cases of “severe” or “moderate” emergencies, which are defined by the author of the pull – and approved by the committee – based on the situation(s) at hand. 

“In this case, that emergency is that we built the FY2020 SAF organization accounts in the SAFC budget as a whole on the premise that we would be having an enrollment next year of 12,400…fee-paying undergrads at the amount of $93 per fee-paying undergrad,” Velez said. “Both those numbers ended up being incorrect; the recommendation was $93 by the Senate to the VPFA’s Office, and then the VPFA informed myself in a meeting between me and the Vice President of Finance and Administration Christ Clement that the mandate from [UNH] President Dean that all fees would be holding flat for fiscal year 2020 was going to affect SAFC and that we were going to be unable to raise the fee from its current $89 to the 93 that was recommended.” 

In seeking a solution to the lost revenue – which, per Velez, created a $40,000 “windfall” in next year’s budget – Velez said that both they and Clement would use budget funds to pay for and cover the “windfall,” only presenting it to the Senate for consideration after both Velez and Clements received the latest undergraduate forecast total enrollment (FTE) report. Velez, per Clements, stated that the FTE totaled out at a lower 11,850 undergraduates – 550 fewer students than originally predicted – which created a $100,000 deficit for SAFC. 

“I view that as constituting a major emergency for the SAFC because that is less revenue that we are generating this year, with some increases – really not even increases within the organization’s budgets because those tend to balance out with the decreases – in that we are trying to account for a lot of administrative costs that it takes to run SAFC,” Velez said, “and in accounting those, we were drastically underbudget to begin with…we do not want to impact student organizations’ budgets if can [avoid it]. Our client orgs will not take kindly to it, while some have expressed that they’re willing to help us out in this. We’re trying to take every measure we can to avoid impacting client organizations’ budgets…hopefully very little of the services that our office provides to those organizations [will be cut], but it will reduce some of them.” 

The bill urging for the reduction, which also requires a 2/3 majority vote from SAFC to pass there, ultimately passed the Senate unanimously. 

In other senatorial business, the body unanimously welcomed Student Trustee-elect Cailee Griffin (Non-Resident 9) and Nate Richards (Minis) as its newest senators and Student Body President-elect Allison MacPhee as the Student Activity Fee Committee’s newest member.  

Following MacPhee’s appointment as a new SAFC senator, the Senate adjourned at 10:03 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.

"I've always shied away from conventional wisdom, though I know the power of it." - Peter Jennings