A tug-of-war between “exploration” and “implementation” marked the boiling point of Sunday’s fifth Student Senate meeting of Session 41 as the body debated the implications and progress behind its efforts to establish an e-scooter program at the University of New Hampshire, a debate that left some members doubting the motion’s finality.
The resolution in question – R.41.02, entitled “Exploring Micro-Mobility at UNH Through E-Scooters,” and introduced by Student Body President Allison MacPhee; Campus Structure Chair Logan Stevens; and Sens. Jade Haynes, Yuri Makar, Max Sawers and Allyson Curran – expressed support toward the Transportation Policy Committee in its efforts to curate a variety of e-scooter supplies for an upcoming exposition to showcase their products and services before semester’s end, as well as urged UNH administration to, in its original form, continue its efforts towards “implementing” an e-scooter sharing program for the next semester.
The motion argued that, per “TPC 15” – a report analyzing the impact of a “transportation demand management (TDM)-based approach to transportation and mobility issues on campus” between 2003 and 2018, according to the report – previously urged the university to “expand” bike and shared-vehicle “culture” for students, accommodations that include bike share programs, departmental bikes and “shared personal vehicles/technologies.” It maintained that TPC 15 also advised UNH to increase enforcement of its “walking [and biking] Campus and Town” policy to better handle daily pedestrian traffic.
The motion added that a work group of stakeholders from the Office of Business Affairs, Transportation Services, UNH Police, and student leadership met in July 2019 and resolved to proceed with the planning process of new vehicle-sharing initiatives, a move indirectly backed by ongoing investigations by both the Town of Durham and the TPC into the implications and campus impact of a shared-scooter program. R.41.02 also referenced a previous resolution, R.40.09, that passed last session and urged UNH to implement a bike-share program, a move that, per Sunday’s motion, “demonstrates student’s desire for micro-mobility options on campus” and promotes the university’s commitment to maintaining its Climate and Sustainability commitment outlined in TPC 15.
In her argument for its passing, MacPhee recalled her experiences witnessing similar e-scooter initiatives during a recent visit to Los Angeles this past spring, as well as working with Student Body Vice President Kelsey Crowley and others this summer to gather community feedback on a potential e-scooter program on campus, especially from students from a variety of studies and transportation situations.
“Me and Allie were at the TPC meeting in September, and they…were talking about the scooter program, they had studied a resolution from Senate [R.40.09] kind of acknowledging students’ desire for this program and…what would be really helpful in there,” Stevens said of how Sunday’s resolution came to be and the authors’ efforts to garner town support for the motion. “…So, this is that resolution that they asked for.”
MacPhee added that further talks with various members of UNH staff – such as Director of Transportation Dirk Timmons – administrators and town councilors led toward the idea of a “pilot” program to test the idea and different suppliers of e-scooters on a small group of students before potentially implementing it to the whole student body.
“Just so you know, I know it says it in the resolution, but this is just to support looking into it,” she stressed; “it’s not mandating that we have this available, it’s not like forcing [it] down anyone. It just says we support the initiative and looking into it as a possibility.”
When asked by Sen. Sawers about when the Town of Durham would allow an e-scooter program on campus, MacPhee said she could not give a “definite answer,” but emphasized that they are “working on it.”
Despite MacPhee’s insistence that the resolution only urged further investigation into the matter, some members, such as Student Trustee Cailee Griffin, criticized the motion on several grounds, primarily on concerns that its text argued for the opposite of “exploration:” an actual “implementation” of a program instead of additional testing.
“It’s not asking us only to look into the program further; it’s expressing that we want this to actually happen,” she told the body. “So, I would think it’d be great if we could change this to say something more like…to looking into a pilot program, because it doesn’t specify ‘pilot program’ in here, so it gives the opinion that Student Senate just wants this happen.”
Griffin’s trepidations led to a revision of one of the motion’s “therefore” objectives, which, in its final form, urged UNH administration to “continue their exploration of possible implementation of a scooter program” for next semester.
The trustee also expressed concerns over potential “liability” issues that could arise from risks associated with an e-scooter program – such as accidents resulting from students using e-scooters while intoxicated – and cause headaches for both the Durham campus and the entire University System of New Hampshire (USNH). Her concerns led her to call for additional insight from the campus’ Legal Services team on the implications of the e-scooter program prior to its potential implementation.
Furthermore, Griffin questioned the new resolution’s emphasis on an e-scooter program, stating that the cited motion from last session, R.40.09, called only for the implementation of a bike-sharing program and not an e-scooter program. MacPhee countered that the “ideology” of the program’s nature – an apparent emphasis on micro-mobility – was the centerpiece of the previous motion, not the specific program itself.
“The other thing with bikes versus scooters they talked about at TPC that bikes are a lot harder to manage because there are so many rules and regulations on bikes, on where you can take bikes, who can ride bikes, on how bikes are supposed to operate,” Stevens added. “Whereas [with] scooters, it’s just much easier because there’s not a lot of…legislation pertaining to them and how they can be used.”
After over 30 minutes of debate on the motion, R.41.02 ultimately passed the body unanimously.
By contrast, Resolution 41.03 – entitled “SRRR Did You Know Reminders” and brought to the floor by Vice President Crowley and Judicial Affairs Chair Maria Koch – endured a much shorter fate when it was bumped by Crowley until next week; the vice president did not give a reason for the postponement.
Sunday night also saw a host of newly introduced resolutions hitting the floor as well; in following the body’s newest motion guidelines, the motions’ first exposure to the body received a simple yes-or-no vote. One such motion – R.41.06, entitled “Regarding Sustainable Practices for Parking Officials” and introduced by Chair Stevens and President MacPhee – called on UNH to “applaud” UNH Transportation for their “demonstrated commitment” to local sustainability through their past and future efforts, as well as urge UNH Transportation Services to commit to using recycled papers for future parking tickets when their current inventory runs out. The motion was remanded to the Campus Structure Council.
Meanwhile, R.41.08 – entitled “On Student Access to an Academic Building After Hours” and presented by Academic Affairs Chair Jennifer Hargenrader and Campus Structure Chair Stevens – called upon UNH administration to elect one academic building as a “24/7 access building” for students to access and study in without closure. The motion pressed administration to nominate Hamilton Smith Hall as the 24/7 facility, arguing that its location in the center of the Durham campus, as well as its recent renovations and the currently diminishing hours of the nearby Dimond Library – which presently closes at midnight Monday through Thursdays, at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 10 p.m. on Sundays – make Hamilton Smith Hall an “ideal studying location.” It was ultimately remanded to the Academic Affairs Council.
Beyond policy, the Senate welcomed Dr. Tom Kelly, the chief sustainability officer and executive director of the UNH Sustainability Institute, as this week’s guest speaker. With the help of a PowerPoint presentation, Kelly educated the body about UNH’s sustainability efforts and how it promotes them; how it obtained its current “Platinum” rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) in Sept. 2017; and how “sustainability” is divided into 17 separate “Sustainable Development Goals,” including “No Poverty,” “Quality Education,” “Affordable and Clean Energy,” and – the unifying of the group – “Partnerships for the Goals.”
“…If you look at the 16 [goals] that lead up to partnership, you’ll see that sustainability is about a lot more than just environmental issues,” Kelly said. “It’s really about how do we define what a good life is, and how do we organize society to sustain a good life; and not just for ourselves, but for generations to come.”
In other business, Student Activity Fee Committee (SAFC) Chair Gareth Jones reintroduced his bill seeking the approval of a SAFO Non-Capital Expenses Fund, a proposal that received a remanding back to SAFC during the Senate’s third meeting of the session following concerns from several members back in September that the movement of money from the larger SAFC Plant Fund to the smaller and less rigid “SAF Internally Designated Fund” for “non-capital gains” was, in the word of Parliamentarian and Deputy Speaker David Cerullo, “a little too fast.” The bill was ultimately approved unanimously by the body.
Another bill, introduced by Vice President Crowley, aimed to rename the Police Commission to the Police Advisory Committee due to a request from UNH Police Chief Paul Dean; debate shortly ensued, however, due to confusion over whether the name change reflected a mere title change or a complete redefinition of the panel. While the name change did not ultimately reflect anything more than a rebranding, it passed with 20 in favor and five against the bill.
The body also unanimously passed a revision to its Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which primarily dealt with how the Executive Board and the Senate body work off one another to “approve” and “confirm” pieces of legislation, according to Speaker Nicholas LaCourse. The bill passed the body unanimously.
In addition, the Senate welcomed Hannah Flaherty (Minis) as its only addition to the roster this week, while Executive Officer Annah Santarosa and Community Development Council Chair Elza Brechbuhl were unanimously approved as the newest members of the Election Committee. Net membership for the Judiciary Committee, on the other hand, declined by two members this past Sunday, as five members exited the group and three others – Executive Officer Santarosa & Sens. Georgia Bunnell and Jonathan Merheb – joined with unanimous approval.
Following changes to the Judiciary Committee, the Senate ultimately adjourned at 8:11 p.m.