In its 23rd and final blockbuster gathering of Session XL, the Student Senate aimed to urge UNH to – among other a host of other objectives – add a second required language, add American Sign Language as a second language, encourage more professors to use the Canvas software, urge increased sustainability education and improve conservation campus-wide through dual-flushing toilets.
In the night’s first of many resolutions – R.40.30, entitled “On Adding a University-Wide Second Language Requirement” and introduced by Academic Affairs Council Chair Audrey Getman and Sens. Annah Santarosa (Stoke 1), Yuri Makar (Peterson 1, Co-2), Chris Garcia (Woodsides), Logan Stevens (Peterson 1, Co-1, who later requested to remove himself as an author) and Luke O’Connell (Congreve 1) – the Senate urged the both Faculty Senate and UNH administration to look into adding a “second language proficiency requirement” to all bachelor’s degrees, as well as the Discovery Review Committee to contemplate adding a second language as a “general education requirement” when they conduct their review of the Discovery Program for the 2019-2020 academic year.
The motion stated that UNH currently requires “most” students seeking Bachelor of Arts degrees and “some” Bachelor of Science degrees to complete a second language requirement – in the form of a full year of elementary-level classes of a new language, a semester of an intermediate or higher level of a previously-studied language by the end of a student’s second year, or advanced placement credits from high school – and that students with English as a second language are not mandated to complete the second language requirement and can skip it through a waiver request. It argued that requiring students to take a second language would help “expand” students’ skillsets, promote “positive and respectful attitudes towards cultural diversity, analytical skills,” improve “listening skills and memory,” make it easier for students to “market themselves” and gain long-term employment in their desired fields, and grant students “a lifetime of effective communication and…insight of the world.” The resolution also specified potential benefits of a second language toward fields of study like business and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
While Getman stated that the resolution would not add another required class to students’ workloads, several members of the body, including out-going Student Trustee Christian Merheb, argued that its demands, which claimed they were “common” at other universities, would still place a “burden” on students trying to graduate “on time” – usually in the typical four-year timeframe – especially for students and majors – Merheb noted engineering as an example – that may not emphasize a second language or that already feature requirements that decrease student flexibility regarding timely graduations.
R.40.30 ultimately failed with five in favor, 30 against and one abstention.
The following resolution – R.40.31, entitled “on Accepting American Sign Language to Fulfill Second Language Requirements” and brought to the floor by Chair Getman; Sens. Santarosa, Makar, Elza Brechbühl (Gibbs 1, Co-2) and Marinda Weaver (Adams Tower 1, Co-2); and First Year Representative Juliana Phillips – urged the Faculty Senate and UNH administration to allow American Sign Language (ASL) to fulfill the foreign language requirement, as well as encourage increased support of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community by “enabling more students to be exposed to their culture and language.” The motion argued that only select majors within the College of Liberal Arts (COLA) – such as linguistics, psychology, theatre and women’s studies – allow students to fulfill the language requirement with ASL, and that, while not a “universal language,” increased student awareness of ASL, comparing it to the introduction of another new language to the curriculum, would have a “positive impact regarding the acceptance of different cultures,” especially for the deaf community and its “extensive culture that is distinct within the mainstream culture of the United States.”
R.40.31 ultimately passed the Senate unanimously.
R.40.32 – entitled “On Encouraging the Use of Canvas” and introduced by Chair Getman; out-going Student Body Vice President Jake Adams; and Sens. Makar, Santarosa and Garcia – sought to encourage more instructors to use the Canvas software, while also urging administration to update information on the software to make Canvas, also known as MyCourses, making it easier for instructors to use in their courses. It argued that students benefit from having a “centralized location” for course materials and information on grades, and that professors could use Canvas to deliver altered information or documents such as course syllabi whose physical versions do not reflect changes in the syllabi or could be lost for various reasons. The motion also pointed to R.38.15 (entitled “Concerning the Further Implementation of MyCourses” and passed during Session XXXVIII during the 2016-2017 year) as a previous attempt to address the Canvas issue. R.40.32 also passed the Senate unanimously.
Two resolutions sought to urge improvements to campus sustainability in broad and specific ways. In the former case, R.40.33 – entitled “Implementing the Sustainable Education Goals Campus Wide” and introduced by Campus Structure Council Chair Devon Guyer and Sens. Stevens, Makar, Joseph Bradley (Hetzel 1) and Thomas McDonough (Gibbs 1, Co-1) – urged UNH administration to incorporate the “Sustainable Education Goals” into every student’s education by “connecting current course curriculum that students are already required to take with issues in sustainability” while not creating new courses to take, claiming that “sustainability is easily integrated into most focuses, professions and concentrations.” It also suggested that the Faculty Senate take the “Sustainability Education Goals” into account in their review and amending of the Discovery Program for the next academic year. The “Sustainability Education Goals” encourage students to “comprehend grand challenges,” “think in systems,” “advocate for values” and “apply knowledge for a lifetime of action,” according to its Feb. 2019 version showcased to the body.
The motion argued that increased awareness and knowledge of sustainability is necessary for current and future generations to take on future problems, and that the goals, if implemented according to the resolution, would “let students comprehend these sustainability challenges, allow them to think in systems, advocate for values, and apply knowledge to a lifetime of action,” as well as aid students in careers dealing with sustainability. The motion listed several inspirations, such as the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals, which listed “poverty, inequity, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace, and justice” as “global sustainability issues,” as well as a previous Student Senate resolution, R.40.19, that urged UNH to develop a plan that would allow the university to “fulfill their public engagement mission [regarding sustainability] by supporting both the student body and the communities across New Hampshire to become more informed on the subject.” R.40.33 ultimately passed the body with one against and two abstentions.
In the latter case, R.40.34 – entitled “Improving Water Conservation with Dual Flushing Toilets” and brought to the floor by Sens. Stevens & Bradley and Chair Guyer – urged UNH Facilities to conduct a “test run” replacing a residence hall’s current toilets with “dual flush” toilets, track and compare water usage before and after the switchover, and, if enough savings in water usage are found in the test run, to slowly phase out and replace all UNH toilets with the “dual flush” system. The motion argued that the newer toilets use less water to dispose of solid and liquid excrement than current single-flush toilets, are “relatively easy to install,” and are less prone to clogging and needed maintenance due to “larger diameter trapways.” The motion stressed that the change, in the long run, would aid UNH’s efforts to become a more sustainable campus, a quality the motion stated that contributes to President Dean’s desire to make UNH one of the “top 25 public universities” in the country. The resolution ultimately passed with one nay.
The night’s final resolution, R.40.35, sought to approve and ratify changes to the Student Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities (SRRR). Introduced by Judicial Affairs Council Chair Alexandra Work, the motion stated that the SRRR had been “extensively” reviewed and revised by representatives from UNH’s University Counsel, the Office of Community Standards (OCS), the Office of Student Life, the Student Senate, and other university “stakeholders.” It added that the changes will have “a positive effect on students by clarifying the Office of Community Standards appeals process, changing definitions to be clearer and more easily understood, and expanding the medical amnesty policy.” Changes to the SRRR included revised definitions of terms like “consent,” “harassment” and “incapacitated” in cases of sexual conduct, as well as clarifying different types of nonconsensual sexual conduct; amended rules regarding students hosting “gathering[s}” and managing their guests on campus grounds; and revisions attempting to provide clarity to how students (both complainants and receivers) deal with “Report[s] of Violations” in terms of both determining the validity of the claim, potential corresponding sanctions and how to potentially appeal the complaint if applicable, among other alterations. It passed the Senate unanimously.
On top of the meeting’s resolutions, two bills aimed to approve of a Student Activity Fee (SAF) for fiscal year 2020 and approve FY20 SAF Budget Amendments, both introduced by Interim Student Activity Fee Committee (SAFC) Chair Gareth Jones. In the former bill, the Senate deliberated over of a fee of $89 per student, dogged by concerns about the fee itself and message it sends, as well as talks from Adams and others of “protesting” the fee because it was lower than the initially suggested fee of $93 from earlier in the year. The resolution passed to keep the fee at $89. In spite of these and related financial concerns voiced by multiple members, it passed the body with 25 in favor, 11 against, and two abstentions. Meanwhile, the latter SAF bill concerned next year’s SAF Budget Amendments, where Chair Jones announced cuts to miscellaneous expenses such as extraneous equipment and committees that would have the least impact on programming from student organizations; the bill passed the Senate unanimously.
In other senatorial business, the Senate approved Sens. O’Connell, Makar, Bradley and Santarosa, Chair Guyer and Historian Megan McLean as the body’s summer roster for occasional meetings over summer break to prepare for Session XLI; Sens. Makar, Santarosa and Bradley, alongside McLean, were also named members of the Senate’s Summer Oversight Committee. The Senate also approved of constitutional amendments officially upgrading the Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Committee to a Council. While no new senators were added at the final meeting, Sen. Joseph Ramirez was removed from the body due to having missed more than four meetings prior to Sunday’s.
Following communications and final farewells from departing seniors, the Senate concluded Session XL at 9:35 p.m.