The Student Senate’s yearly budget approval process for the 2020-21 academic year grounded to a halt – and ultimately a one-week delay – on Sunday after technical difficulties prevented Student Activity Fee Committee (SAFC) Chair Gareth Jones and other members of the body from showcasing the correct, SAFC-approved versions of multiple student organizations’ budgets.
The glitch came about during the presentation of the SAFC-approved 2020 Mask and Dagger budget proposal when Campus Structure Chair Logan Stevens questioned the organization’s claim that they had decreased overall stipends by $250 when the projected Excel sheet at the front of Hamilton Smith 205 showed no change in stipends between the current and upcoming fiscal year, with Stevens suggesting to the organization’s representatives – Executive Director Jill Goodman and Business Manager Haley Demers – that it might have been an “error in the form.”
Demers quickly confirmed Stevens’ concern that the displayed budget was not the correct version, adding that the “pit” value of $600 was also inaccurate, both errors the result of reportedly not saving the file after making changes to it to reflect 2020. SAFC Chair Jones followed Demers in admitting that the wrong version was on display, telling Senate Speaker Nicholas LaCourse that he was aware of further amendments made to the budget following its approval by SAFC; Jones himself suggested that the error could have arisen from selecting the wrong file from the Senate’s account on Box, a cloud-storage service that offers unlimited storage to University of New Hampshire (UNH) students.
LaCourse thereafter tasked Jones with finding the correct version of the budget, stressing that the Senate cannot make amendments to it on the floor while in session; however, Jones failed to find the amended version of the Mask and Dagger budget on Box. Despite Goodman suggesting to LaCourse that Demers, who allegedly possessed the correct version of the file on her laptop, could send over the proper version of the budget, the speaker responded that the Senate could only deliberate over what SAFC itself approved of and sent to the body for review.
LaCourse, in lieu of direct amendments, alternatively recommended that the Senate remand the budget back to SAFC should Mask and Dagger want to make additional changes and correct inaccurate values, a motion ultimately made by Student Body President Allison MacPhee and supported by Goodman and Demers. The remanding of the budget passed unanimously.
Any presumptions of a one-time fluke, however, were put to rest when another identical error occurred with the following Memorial Union Student Organization (MUSO) budget proposal, this time concerning an incorrect programming value of $3,000 when the correct version listed programming at $1,000, as stated by MUSO Business Manager Olivia Ucci. When LaCourse asked Jones about the new set of “discrepancies” found in the MUSO proposal, Jones echoed the suggestion that a mix-up between saving the amended budgets in Excel and uploading the older versions to Box.
As with Mask and Dagger’s case, Jones and other members, including Deputy Speaker and Parliamentarian David Cerullo, failed to unearth the updated version of the file, with Cerullo, in the midst of the search, proposing to table all budget discussions until the right version was found, potentially following discussion of the night’s resolutions. Meanwhile, Stevens commented that he found the correct versions on his phone, suggesting that the fault was on Cerullo for presenting the wrong files to the body, eliciting brief hollers from multiple members.
Following a brief recess – during which the body further attempted to display the correct files – LaCourse eventually called for all remaining budget discussions, including MUSO’s, to be postponed until next week while the Senate resolved Box-related issues. The speaker additionally apologized to MUSO and the other organizations the situation affected – including the Meeple Tabletop Gaming Syndicate and the Organic Gardening Club – for the mix-up. The postponements were issued as three separate motions issued by Jones, one for each of the remaining organizations.
Despite the technical gaffs, the Senate succeeded in approving two of the five budgets on Sunday. In the case of the Campus Activity Board (CAB), Business Manager Emma Barresi told the body that CAB’s changes included an increase to the director’s stipend, the dropping of its advertising director position, the removal of stipends from its Movies and Live Entertainment divisions, the discontinuation of the Homegrown and Grind events, as well as the Winter Carnival, from its budget due to low popularity among students, an increase to its “May Day” event budget to account for increases in parking costs, a reduction in overall spending by $12,900. The proposed budget passed the Senate unanimously.
In the second budget, the Diversity Support Coalition (DSC) made general cuts of $4,100, lowered each executive stipend by $100 and decreased programming costs by $1,250 overall. The budget passed the body unanimously.
Outside the realm of finance, two resolutions anchored Sunday’s meeting, with the first – R.41.08, entitled “Urging the Creation of an After-Hours Academic Building” and introduced by Academic Affairs Chair Jennifer Hargenrader and Campus Structure Chair Stevens – urged UNH administration to elect a prominent academic facility to be open for student use 24 hours per day, seven days per week for “academic-related activities,” accompanied by a push for that building to be the recently-renovated Hamilton Smith Hall.
The motion argued that students used to reside in Dimond Library for academic purposes until 2:00 a.m. on most nights, prior to Dimond restricting student use of the library after midnight following a revision to their operating hours in Spring 2019. The current hours stand as 7:30 a.m. to midnight on Mondays to Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Fridays, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Sundays, a reduction in total weekly hours from 116.5 to 100.5 hours, or 14 percent, according to the document.
Hargenrader later added that money also contributed to the limited hours at Dimond, as the library has refused to change its hours back due to its argument that it would have to issue increased and multiple salaries for more employees to maintain the library, a prospect the library, per Hargenrader, said it cannot currently afford.
The motion adds that, on top of Dimond’s limited operations, only students part of the College of Engineering and Physical Science (CEPS), about 17 percent of the total student body, are authorized to use an academic building “24/7” without restrictions, meaning that the remaining student body, roughly 83 percent, only has access to any one academic building for, at the most, 59.8 percent of the week.
The push for Hamilton Smith’s designation comes in part due to recent renovations made to the long-time structure over the course of 2017 and completed that August, with the motion stating that the renovations, as well as its “central” location in the heart of campus, “have created an ideal studying location with access to multiple different study areas.” The 2017 renovations, according to Seacoast Online in Aug. 2017, included a 35,000 square-foot addition behind the original structure, additional technical upgrades such as new multimedia classrooms, and a bridge connecting Hamilton Smith to locations like Dimond Library and Thompson Hall, among others; the renovations ultimately cost the university $37 million.
In her discussion of the motion to the body, Hargenrader said the restrictions in Dimond’s operating hours helped inspire the push for a “24/7” academic building and after hearing students’ disappointment in a lack of progress in this regard in past Academic Affairs Councils, including those who have been “kicked out” of the library on days when it closes earlier than midnight.
“And so, when I was given the position, I knew this one thing I really wanted to work on and really wanted to get pushed through,” she said. “I am a CEPS student, and I do get comments all the time that students think it’s unfair that only a small percentage of campus has such access to a building; so, I really want to create something for students from all across campus – especially off-campus, because I know that’s an issue – [so they can] have a place to come [and] study…”
When asked about how the new “24/7” building would keep track of students to ensure that only “academic-related activities” were done there, Hargenrader stressed that costs to adapt a building for all-day use would involve the installation of UNH ID card readers at the entrances and additional cameras for surveillance purposes.
The resolution ultimately passed the body unanimously.
The second major resolution, meanwhile – R.41.11, entitled “Remembering Julie Williams” and brought to the floor by Hargenrader, MacPhee and Student Body Vice President Kelsey Crowley – urged the UNH community to commemorate the legacy of the late Dr. Julie Williams, who served as senior vice provost for engagement and faculty development prior to her death, which was announced by Provost Wayne Jones on Oct. 2. The resolution also urged the “continuation” of her multiple initiatives and “incorporate the values of her legacy for many years to come.”
“…we [MacPhee and Crowley] just basically went through our platform, the same way we do with every single administrator, and she had such an interest in every aspect of what students wanted and how she could help with that, even within the side of faculty development,” MacPhee said of her encounters with Williams over this past summer.
Per the motion, Williams served UNH for nearly two decades as a senior vice provost, on top of other roles such as UNH’s associate vice president for research and public service; her accomplishments include the creation of the college’s Writing Academy; the Pathway to Professorship, a program that aims to help faculty members who seek to become a full-time professor as their long-term career; and her progress to craft UNH’s first “long-term partnership” with Howard University, a private university based in Washington.
The motion passed the body unanimously.
In addition, a total of eight considered resolutions were introduced for remanding on Sunday. These included proposed alternatives to English 401 as a “University Writing Requirement” (41.16, submitted by Hargenrader and remanded to the Academic Affairs Council), a push for professors to record classroom lectures for students to consume digitally when necessary (41.17, submitted by Sen. Darcy Drago (Non-Res. 8) and submitted to Academic Affairs), an urging for UNH’s online evaluations to present additional gender choices (41.18, submitted by Sen. Hope Anderson (Adams Tower West) and remanded to the Community Development Council), a desire for the establishment of a “standard centralized advising system” to prevent student confusion seeking faculty advice (41.19, submitted by Sen. William He (Lord) and remanded to Academic Affairs), an urging for the inclusion of statements concerning aspects of student health in all classroom syllabi (41.20, submitted by Sen. Jordan Aylesworth (Non-Res. 3) and remanded to Academic Affairs), a push for increased university-support of future art-related projects and initiatives on campus (41.21, submitted by Community Development Chair Elza Brechbuhl and remanded to Community Development), a desire for new trash and recycling receptacles on campus to decrease littering (41.22, submitted by Sen. Yuri Makar (Peterson) and remanded to the Campus Structure Council), and a push for UNH’s Title IX and the Affirmative Action and Equity Office to create a mandated reporting handbook (41.23, submitted by Health and Wellness Chair Alyssa Dean and remanded to the Health and Wellness Council).
As the week’s guest speaker, Amy Culp, the director of UNH’s Sexual Harassment And Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP), kicked off the meeting with a rundown of what SHARPP does for UNH, as well as a status update on current initiatives such as its push to increase the percentage of its Student Activity Fee intake percentage from $8 to $10, among other projects.
In other business, the Senate welcomed one new member this week in the form of RaeAnna Hunter (Mills 1) but lost three senators – Vince Palloto (Stoke 2), Devin Foley (Stoke 3), and Emily Hannigan (Non-Res. 10) – for various reasons. In addition, the body approved Michael Brideau as its new External Affairs Chair and Scott McDermott to the “EGaming Task Force” – a part of the Office of the Student Body President – on top of the approval of the Senate’s Organization Resource Fund (ORF) for fiscal year 2020.
SAFC also received a minor spotlight on Sunday, as the body approved subtle revisions to its Appeals Process Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and nominated Sen. He as one of its newest senators.
Finally, the Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) welcomed two new members, Sens. Drago and Allyson Curran (Non-Res. 6), but only after 10 minutes of FAQs and persuasion from members including Student Trustee Cailee Griffin, MacPhee, Dean and others.
Following the FAC appointments, the Senate ultimately adjourned at 8:06 p.m.