A torrent of new faces, rule changes and words of advice from the Dean of Students flowed through Hamilton Smith 205 as the UNH Student Senate inaugurated its much-anticipated 41st Session, one promised by its own speaker to be the governing body’s “revitalization.”
In part thanks to a new class of students and U-Day turnout, the Senate on Sunday unanimously approved nearly two dozen new senators representing the majority of on-campus residence halls. The newest campus-based members include Sens. Abby LaRochelle (Alexander), Sam Marcoulier (Christensen 1), Hannah Falcone (Gibbs), Max Sawers (Engelhardt), Jade Haynes (Fairchild), Madeline Strange (Handler 1), Grace McNally (Handler 2, Co-1), Jana Bushway (Handler 2, Co-2), Academic Affairs Chair Jennifer Hargenrader (Haaland), Natalie Haddon (Hetzel), Tyler Brown (Hunter), Paulette Niwewase (Hubbard), Zhiwei He (Lord), Brian Clement (McLaughlin), Georgia Brunnell (Mills), Lucas Blood (Scott), Interim Historian Jack Bradley (Stoke 1), Vincent Palloto (Stoke 2), Devin Foley (Stoke 3), Catherine Yorke (Williamson), and Daniel Differ (Woodsides).
The same bill also welcomed 10 non-residential senators to the body; these included Michael Brideau (Non-Res. 1), Matt Quirk (Non-Res. 2), Cameron Horack (Non-Res. 3), Meagan McLean (Non-Res. 4), Alyssa Jameson (Non-Res. 5), Allyson Curran (Non-Res. 6), Matthew Seelig (Non-Res. 7), Darcy Drago (Non-Res. 8), Alex Stern (Non-Res. 9), and Emily Hannigan (Non-Res. 10).
When it was not bolstering its roster, the Senate found itself unanimously passing a handful of amendments altering and adapting its bylaws. One of the bills offered revisions to the Student Senate Executive Board – which rebranded itself to Student Senate Leadership – such as prohibiting Senate “leaders” and the Student Activity Fee (SAF) outreach coordinator from holding more than one position within Leadership except when “acting as an interim officeholder,” and altering its removal policies to allow the Senate to request the removal of its student trustee or university system representative through a resolution. Another, meanwhile, amended its legislative bylaws to add new definitions for the body’s weekly agenda and how resolutions are created, deliberated and passed by the body.
Among all its bylaws, however, it was Article III that saw the most significant change Sunday night when Deputy Speaker/Parliamentarian David Cerullo, Speaker Nicholas LaCourse, Student Body President Allison MacPhee and Student Body Vice President Kelsey Crowley introduced a bill proposing the creation of “commissions,” a brand-new subdivision of the body’s existing councils. According to the bill, commissions would be established by the student body president with majority approval of the Senate and “within the jurisdiction of an existing Council,” where they would serve as “a forum for members of the Student Senate, and other undergraduate students, to collaborate and liaise directly with a university office or official.”
In order to formally confirm a commission, the student body president, per the bill, would be required to bring to the floor its creation and purpose in the form of a bill that would include is name, the council it works under, its chairperson and the “university office or official the Commission is being formed to liaise with;” a commission would be prohibited from collaborating with more than one university official or office at a time.
The Senate would have the authority to manually dissolve commissions by majority vote, or to automatically dissolve them if they fail to meet at least once over the course of six months or have “no Chairperson or interim Chairperson appointed to serve for a period of three (3) months,” according to the document.
Cerullo, in his explanation of commissions to the body, said that committees are created under the Speakership and do not deal with policy, while councils are created under the student body presidency and directly deal with policy. Commissions, he said, would be like councils but would focus on a more specific set of issues than councils. He said that three commissions are in the works as of now – the dining, police and transportation commissions – and described the Dining Commission in detail as a group of students and faculty created out of the former Dining Committee to address concerns with UNH dining halls.
“We decided to [create] these three commissions [because] one of them has already been existing throughout the past and we just noticed that it was a really effective way to bring about change to the students,” MacPhee said in support of the bill, which passed unanimously. “…it [the former Dining Committee] was really nice because it was just a bunch of students directly meeting with a bunch of administrators, so we didn’t have to worry about carrying out specific initiatives all the time; we just had conversations and automatically see things being implemented…”
On the topic of committees, the Senate also unanimously approved bylaw amendments concerning appointments to university committees, which now allow the Student Body President to appoint student representatives to “university standing committees, temporary committees, search committees, councils, the Durham Town Council, governance institutions, and commissions of the University President, and any sub-entities thereof (collectively, “university committees”),” with two-thirds approval from the body, according to the amendment bill. Following this, it named several members of the President’s cabinet to several university, Town and Faculty Senate committees.
Despite the amount of passed legislation, Sunday’s meeting saw four bills postponed until next week’s meeting; two dealt with the summer logs of both the student body president and vice president, while another two concerning the approval of the Senate’s Senior Policy and senior financial advisors were pulled by Student Trustee Cailee Griffin “in the interest of time” and for more time to finalize the candidates, Griffin said.
In addition, Sens. Marcoulier, LaRochelle, Strange, McLean, Sawers, Falcone, Bushway, Bradley, Horack, Niwewase, Blood, Yorke and McNally, and Academic Affairs Chair Hargenrader were named the Senate’s newest SAFC senators, while Sens. Marcoulier, Strange, McLean, Yorke and Stern – along with Allyson Curran, Kiara Austin and Interim Historian Bradley – joined the Judiciary Committee following Senate approval.
Dean of Students John T. Kirkpatrick served as the Session’s inaugural speaker as he addressed the body on matters such as mental health services on campus, concerns over student alcohol consumption, efforts to improve diversity and inclusion amongst students and community members, Title IX and adjudicating cases concerning related policies, and describing his roles to newer members of the body.
In addition, Kirkpatrick announced changes occurring at the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA), such as its active search for a new director and intentions to upgrade it to a “university center” as it seeks a larger space, as well as a new name built from student input and suggestions. He also hinted at potential plans for a “new student union” to either supplement or replace the current Memorial Union Building, stressing that the current MUB is “not a functional building in 2019 and beyond;” no further details about plans for a new student union were disclosed Sunday.
Following the approval of its new Judiciary Committee members, the Senate ultimately adjourned at 7:33 p.m.