Following a botched first half of its yearly budget discussions due to technical fouls, the Student Senate scored a successful second half on Sunday, Nov. 24 as it passed the remaining Student Activity Fee (SAF) organization proposals without fail, on top of the passing of new legislation urging renewed action on the inclusion of American Sign Language (ASL) as a language capable for fulfilling student foreign language requirements, among other business.
The previous meeting saw the body only able to pass the FY21 budget proposals for the Campus Activity Board (CAB) and Diversity Support Coalition (DSC) before finding themselves with the incorrect versions of budgets for organizations including Mask and Dagger and the Memorial Union Student Organization (MUSO) due to errors with their Box cloud-storage account. After multiple delays and a brief recess during the MUSO discussion, the Senate postponed all budget legislation until this week as they set out to find the correct files.
Due to last week’s technical difficulties, the Senate deliberated the remaining budgets all in a row that Sunday, starting with Mask and Dagger. As the organization’s business manager Haley Demers attempted to explain the week before, this year presented major changes to their finances and structure, such as general stipend decreases by $250 and a complete reformatting of its show schedule from one large and two medium shows a year to two large shows a year. Demers said the changes come in anticipation of a nearly all-new executive board for the following academic year, as well as due to a current director shortage. It also, per Demers, increased its side-project budget to potentially allow for more smaller, cabaret-type events over the course of the year.
The Mask and Dagger budget ultimately passed the Senate unanimously.
In its own redo of last week’s presentation, a proxy for MUSO Business Manager Olivia Ucci said that its FY21 budget included significant modifications to its music series; these included a decrease in the price of its Open Mic series due to reduced costs and a financial influx towards the music series and away from its Arts and Lectures series due to the former category’s popularity. The proxy added that the proposal also included stipend cuts across the board. The MUSO budget ultimately passed the body unanimously.
As the first new budget – and the newest potential SAFO – of the night, the Meeple Tabletop Gaming Syndicate, represented by a proxy for its president Elizabeth Orput, showcased a budget that highlighted its two major events of the year: the Fall and Spring Syndicons, the organization’s semesterly all-day gaming events open to all UNH students and local community members. When asked by Sen. Lucas Blood (Scott) why the Spring Syndicon, valued at $350, cost more than the Fall Syndicon, valued at $250, the proxy replied that the Spring Syndicon is typically held on both a Saturday and a Sunday that semester, compared to just one Saturday for the fall event. They also cited increased attendance for the Spring Syndicon as a reason for the higher price.
The Meeple budget ultimately passed the Senate unanimously.
Following Meeple was the New Hampshire Outing Club, whose budget proposal, according to Business Manager Matt Clarke, featured the biggest changes concerning officer stipends and programming costs. The former category saw stipends decrease overall from $2,200 in FY20 to $1,700, while the latter witnessed a programming cut from $61,700 to $60,080 and an equipment cut from $16,100 to $15,900. When asked by former Sen. Yuri Makar (Peterson) about the seemingly large $25,500 value of the organization’s “Vans/Air/Train Transportation” line and why all transportation items were combined despite “varying costs” for each, Clarke replied that they made the move to make the budget “easier to understand” and due to the varying nature of each mode of transportation for different trips taken throughout the year. Clarke added that most of the club’s transportation centers around vans compared to air and train travel.
The Outing Club’s budget proposal ultimately passed the body unanimously.
The next SAFO proposal, the Organic Gardening Club (OGC), saw its biggest changes in officer stipends, which decreased from $1,450 in FY20 to $850 for FY21. Programming costs also saw a slight dip by $200 to $4,600 for FY21, while student hourly costs, which concerned hourly and weekly pay for two farm managers and two farm hands, remained stagnant at $15,200 total between both years. The OGC budget proposal ultimately passed the Senate unanimously.
Serving as a slight detour from the organizational budget talk, the body also deliberated on the FY21 budget for the Organization Resource Fund (ORF), which saw its “Programs” line rise from $100,000 last year to $115,000 this year, counteracted by a $1,000 dip in its “Publications” line for a total of $4,000 and a $5,000 decrease in “Student Travel” costs, which now cost $10,000 for FY21. When asked by Makar whether the ORF’s new, larger SAF subsidy of $128,000 would result in it being more “liberal” in giving out higher funds to student organizations, Student Activity Fee Committee (SAFC) Chair Gareth Jones downplayed the increase, stressing that with the larger budget also comes an increased “overall use of those funds” and that the responsibility for allocating funds rests in the hands of next year’s SAFC membership.
The ORF proposal ultimately passed the body unanimously.
Following the Senate’s passing of an FY21 SAFO budget proposal, student organizations returned to the budget spotlight starting with the Student Committee On Popular Entertainment (SCOPE). In its budget, SCOPE Business Manager Eric Kalton showcased a $10,000 increase in its “General Revenues” line; a minor $200 decrease in its stipends line; and, perhaps most significantly, a $2,500 drop in its “Programming” line, thanks to a decrease in its Promotions/Advertising budget. The SCOPE budget proposal ultimately passed the Senate unanimously.
The body itself also managed to pass its own FY21 budget on Sunday, which most notably featured stipend decreases across the board, as well as the removal of the senior policy advisor’s stipend due to a lack of “work given to the position,” which Jonathan Merheb said is currently not “fully utilized.” The current senior policy advisor is Evan MacHenry. The budget also merged the “Merchandise” and “Public Relations” lines and discontinued its active shooter training, spring orientation and legal training programming due to low popularity.
Slow Food UNH’s budget followed the Senate’s, which featured drastic changes to the organization’s programming, including the end of its Maplefest, “Fall Events” and “Spring Events;” a portion of the money from those events was redirected into a new line dedicated to Jukebox, U-Day, Solarfest and other collaborative events. The proposal also included a stipend decrease of $200 from the Outreach/Event Coordinator position following a merger of the two positions. The budget ultimately passed the body unanimously.
The New Hampshire and WUNH-FM served as the last budgets of the night. The budget for The New Hampshire showcased a $10,000 drop in advertising revenue, a nearly $3,000 decrease in officer stipends and a $4,800 dip in production costs for FY21. WUNH, meanwhile, witnessed a $3,000 rise in general revenues, a $4,000 upturn in total revenue, and a $100 increase for the station’s music director, among other alterations for FY21. Both budgets ultimately passed the Senate unanimously.
Underlining the budget discussion that Sunday was a bill, introduced by SAFC Chair Jones, that recommended increasing the student activity fee to $93 per eligible undergraduate student for the next academic year. When Speaker Nicholas LaCourse asked Sen. Blood whether he was confident that UNH would increase the fee to $93, Blood called the 4.5 percent uptick “steep” and expressed concern that UNH would not raise the fee more than 2.5 percent, a value based on past talks between him and other members of UNH administration and Senate.
Jones added that the $93 fee was inspired by projected downturns in student enrollment at UNH, resulting in $66,000 already being cut from the SAFC budget at this point. Jones said he has previously stressed to members of UNH administration SAFC’s desire to raise the fee to $93, complicated by UNH President James W. Dean, Jr.’s aim to hold fees flat for next year to keep tuition costs at bay. Despite this, however, Jones expressed confidence that SAFC would be able to negotiate a higher SAF, even if not the recommended $93.
The SAF bill ultimately passed the body unanimously.
On the subject of resolutions, one previously introduced resolution was present on Sunday. The motion in question – R.41.12, entitled “Urging American Sign Language to Fulfill Foreign Language Requirements” and introduced by former Sen. Makar – urged the Faculty Senate and UNH administration to implement previous resolution 40.31 and permit American Sign Language (ASL) to fulfill foreign language requirements for all Bachelor of Arts (BA) programs, as well as encourage UNH to express increased support for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community through additional “collaborative programs and events.”
The motion echoed the previous session’s resolution and its recommendations to approve ASL as capable of fulfilling foreign language requirements, arguing that, as of Fall 2019, a total of four BA programs allow ASL to fulfill such prerequisites. Sunday’s motion also quoted R.40.31 directly, citing a passage that stressed the “positive impact” of learning a new language on the “acceptance of different cultures,” such as the deaf community.
Sen. Meagan McLean (Non-Res. 4) voiced her support for the motion after sharing her own experiences of using ASL to pass foreign language requirements in high school and being unable to do so at UNH due to the current policy.
“Sign language is its own language; it is not an extension of English,” she said. “It has its own grammar, sentence structure, [and] you need to actually translate a sentence in sign language into English for it to make any proper sense. So, the fact that it isn’t recognized as a different language from English is pretty troubling…”
R.41.12 ultimately passed the Senate unanimously.
The body also introduced a new resolution at its Nov. 24 meeting: R.41.24 – entitled “Mandating Compensation For UNH Tour Guides” and introduced by Student Body President Allison MacPhee – urged UNH’s Office Admissions to financially compensate tour guides in order to “optimize” the Tour Guide Program and student involvement in it, as well as to reimagine the program, currently headed by Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Dr. Pelema Morrice, in order to better display UNH’s “success in innovation.”
The motion argued that the tour guide positions have yet to be paid as of Nov. 18, and said that paying the tour guides would sate the university’s need to optimize “any opportunity to strengthen the University Brand” through students’ experiences with the tour guides, as well as students’ hope that paid positions would improve the guides’ performances. The motion, which was ultimately remanded to the academic affairs chair for further review, also referenced R.39.08, which also asked for tour guides to be financially compensated two years prior.
A third proposed resolution – R.41.25, entitled “Tobacco Purchasing within the Town of Durham” and set to be introduced by Student Body Vice President Kelsey Crowley, was pulled from the agenda due to the author’s absence from campus while on a trip to Germany.
In other business, the Senate removed former Sens. Grace McNally (Handler 2, Co-1) and Hannah Flaherty (Minis) for not “fulfilling their duties,” while Executive Officer Annah Santarosa announced that former Sen. Makar had resigned the previous Tuesday, Nov. 19, from the body due to undisclosed circumstances. Additional losses included the voluntary removal of Sen. McLean from the Financial Affairs Committee (FAC), with no other member volunteering to take her place.
In addition, the Senate passed its 2020 General Election Standard Operating Procedures, but also saw the departure of Sen. Madeline Strange (Handler 1) and Community Development Council Chair Elza Brechbuhl from the Election Committee; First Year Representative Hannah Falcone later joined the committee.
Finally, UNH Police Chief Paul Dean served as the night’s guest speaker, who touched upon the campus’ ongoing efforts concerning mental health and recent upticks in local mental health crisis calls to the station over the last year. The chief was joined by the station’s newest “comfort dog” Charlie, a popular guest who permitted members and meeting attendees to briefly interact with him following Dean’s talk.
Following the remanding of R.41.24, the Senate ultimately adjourned at 8:21 p.m. The next Senate meeting takes place this Sunday, Dec. 8, in Hamilton Smith 205.