By: Jess Ward, Staff Writer
The Student Senate met this Friday, Oct. 27, to hear from guest speakers and discuss their budget, as well as to continue moving forward with various projects on campus.
This week’s assembly featured guest speakers Andrew King, Director of Admissions for the University of Southern Maine, Justin Swift, Financial Manager for the University of Southern Maine and Pious Ali, Councilor of the City of Portland.
King came before the Senate to discuss the role they play in promoting a positive campus image and to encourage the Senators to become student ambassadors. Student Ambassadors are responsible for guiding tours and helping prospective students learn about USM and its facilities. King believes the ambassador program is a “great first step toward a career in education,” and sought the insight of the Senate into how they foster a healthy dialogue between themselves and the student body.
Ali spoke about his work in the Portland community as a teacher and leader. One of the organizations he works with, Portland Empowered, helps students get the support they deserve from both parents and schools. He has been a member of the school board in Portland since 2013, and offered advice to the students of the Senate as facilitators and leaders.
“Conflict is part of being in an elected position,” says Ali. “It comes every time. I try to be as fair as possible.”
Swift’s presentation came from a different angle, informing the Senate of some upcoming changes to the structure of the Student Government Business Office (SGB). The Senate oversees and allocates the Student Activity Fee, and is responsible for determining which groups and projects on campus receive funding. Swift believes that despite the restructuring, the Activity Fee belongs to the Senate.
“It doesn’t matter to me what you do with it, as long as you follow university policy,” Swift Said.
The truth in Swift’s statement became apparent as over the course of the meeting, the Senate approved over four thousand dollars worth of funding for various requests. These included the Gorham Campus Activities Board’s funding for the National Association for Campus Activities Conference, and the Husky Veterans Thanksgiving Dinner fundraiser.
Senators Chris Wagner and Aaron Pierce argued over the distribution of funds to the Husky Veterans for “Shark Week 2018,” a three-day excursion to build comradery amongst disabled veterans. Wagner himself is a veteran, and was frustrated by the bureaucratic aspects of the Senate impeding the approval for funds.
The Husky Veterans requested $2500 for “Shark Week 2018,” but the Senate took notice of an error in their submission. The request filed for the funding was incorrectly completed, because it did not include that this request was only for 75 percent of the funding while the remaining 25 percent would come from fundraising. The remaining 25 percent must be raised before the Husky Veterans can request the other 75, according to the Student Government constitution.
There were several interjections made by Senators and audience members alike, while Wagner and Pierce continued with their disagreement. After reviewing all the options, an amendment was made to the request, to include the missing 25 percent in the form, at which point it was passed.
The Senate has also decided to begin a new fundraising initiative.After taking a vote, the group moved to fundraise for The Trevor Project,an initiative created to provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ+ youth.
The idea came from Senator Pierce, who spoke about his experience as a gay youth and the importance of support systems and safe spaces. Pierce believes that reaching out to the Center for Sexualities and Gender Diversity would be a great place to start, and hopes to encourage positive dialogue between the two groups.
The second half of the meeting focused on projects; the idea is to check in bi-weekly, and to help the Senators heading projects to follow a plan and be held accountable for their progress.
Senator Chase Hewitt presented his formal plan to fix the parking on campus for students, which has been a concern for many commuter students on the Portland campus. He proposed a seven-part initiative, which included communicating with students about the parking shortage and potential solutions, and implementing a text-based alert service to let students know when the garage is full.
The initiative was met with approval from the other Senators, and Senator Wagner called the text-based system “brilliant.” Hewitt gave credit for the idea to other students on campus, noting that he wants as much input as possible, from students as well as senators.
While overviewing projects, Senator Kirkland felt compelled to stand and address the Senate, in relation to his Political Action Committee’s constitution not being approved yet. He claimed that the Senate was failing in their most important duty: interaction with the student body. Kirkland left the meeting shortly after his proclamation.
Despite the outbursts and arguments throughout the meeting, this year’s Senate seems to be working towards greater communication. “ There is a blurred line between personal interest, political ideology, and what’s best for the common good,” said Ali.
With projects and new ideas being fostered, the Senate might just be able to contribute to the student body’s common good.