By Cooper-John Trapp, Staff Writer
The Student Senate is composed of students nominated and elected by their peers, entrusted with ensuring the Student Activity Fee, a portion of each students’ tuition, is spent responsibly. The Senate additionally serves as a conduit for student-initiated changes at the university level. From the Student Government Association webpage:
“Student Government exists for you, the students. As an undergraduate student, you pay a “Student Activity Fee” based on the number of credit hours you take here at USM. The SGA is a steward of the fund and is tasked with making sure it is equitably and responsibly distributed to help foster community and to enhance student’s extracurricular activities.
The SGA is led by the Executive Branch and governed by the Student Senate to represent the opinions and viewpoints of all USM students to the administration of USM and the University of Maine system and help formulate positive working relationships between the them.”
They meet every other Friday from 1 to 4 p.m., alternating between the Talbot Lecture Hall in Luther Bonney on the Portland campus and 166 Upton-Hastings in Gorham.
Student Body President: Katelyn Seavey
Katelyn Seavey is a senior psychology major from Sanford, ME.
A personal objective Seavey brings to her role as Student Body President is resolving food insecurity in the local area by partnering with campus dining and community members in need.
When Seavey got involved with student government, she originally wanted to focus solely on food insecurity. However there were other needs within the student government to be addressed first, she says to “get us back on track.”
There are currently a majority of women in the Student Senate at USM, accounting for 60 percent of the high-ranking members. Seavey sees this an asset to have a different outlook than men, or “to bring another angle to the table,” she says.
Senate Executive Board:
Student Senate Chair: Averi Varney
Averi Varney joined the Student Senate in February as clerk and assumed role of Chair at the end of last semester. A sophomore political science major from Turner, Varney is spirited about her role and wants to bring the Senate into a new, productive, helpful and transparent era.
“A lack of such communication between Senators At-Large contributed to voting on items without sufficient understanding,” which consumed a significant majority of the Senate the past semester, Varney says.
One remedy she envisions is to have senators arrive an hour before every Senate meeting so that “anyone can come in to talk [with the senators] and bring any questions they might have,” resembling a professor’s office hours, she adds.
To ensure the student body knows what the Senate is doing, Varney says they are working on having every meeting’s minutes accessible on the USM website.
In addition, the Senate Constitutional Review Board is working to shorten their constitution by the beginning of the semester.
To understand their often legally-worded constitution, Varney wants each Senator to have a one-on-one meeting to go over the document, and a meeting to understand Robert’s Rules of Order to execute efficient meetings.
Ultimately it boils down to transparency, which Varney defines as “everyone understanding what is happening.”
Overall, Varney says, “I believe we have a good team, and that we can have a large impact and do a lot, and change from previous Student Senates that have made a lot of mistakes.”
Varney has been working on a detailed list this past summer in preparation of the new year, outlining how she plans to improve the Student Senate and student life at USM.
How will students know what is going on with the Student Senate?
Updated accessible meeting minutes on the USM webpage
Current and proposed projects on the USM webpage
Pictures of each Senator on the bulletin board outside the Student Government Association (SGA) office in Woodbury Campus Center as well as the ongoing projects
Have sign-up sheets on the SGA bulletin board for students to pick committees and projects to serve on, and to have students be able to join those Senate committees without being part of the Senate
Varney plans to utilize the Senate to improve life at USM for students by:
Providing feminine hygiene products
Creating a closet of business clothes for students to use for interviews and other professional functions
Expanding upon USM’s current networking events
Establishing a bike share program to enable students to travel in the Portland area
Improving food and dining quality
Evaluating the outdoor lighting on the Gorham campus for safety
Standardizing stipends (paid positions for students in the Senate, the Free Press, the Board of Student Organizations and other entities).
Vice Chair: Melissa Shepherd
Melissa Shepard is relatively new to the Student Senate, but she doesn’t let that affect her drive. A second-year psychology major from Turner, Shepard wants to get more students involved in the Senate this coming fall. For Shepard, that means joining or motivating students to get involved in committees within the Senate. Each semester, the Senate forms committees as they see fit, which allows for direct involvement from the student body. Don’t have much time and still want to get involved? Contact Senator Shepherd for info about being a general student on a committee.
Additionally, during her time as Vice Chair, she plans on making more detailed agendas available to the student body before Senate meetings and to improve training for Senators, so they are 100 percent equipped to step into executive roles.
Treasurer: Jamie T. Phillips
As Treasurer, Jamie Phillips is ultimately responsible for accounting and making sure the Student Activity Fee gets to the correct students groups for their use. The political science sophomore has held the role of Treasurer since March after joining the Senate in the beginning of February. Overall he plans to support the Senate as a whole and provide a smooth transition of power, ensure financial responsibility, and provide everything the students need.
“Our goal is any student that needs money for their group can have it and do what they need to make their academic career successful at USM,” Phillips says. This semester he wants to work more directly with the students and the student body as well as host more events.
Phillips recognizes that “in the past, the Senate has not followed our Constitution and bylaws, and that has hurt our legitimacy.” He says, “We are an organization that has to follow the rules,” and that he and the rest of the forty-seventh Student Senate place a high priority on knowing and following proper procedure to get that legitimacy back.
Parliamentarian: Tyler Soucy
Tyler Soucy, from Windsor, will be a junior this year majoring in pre-law. He has served on the Senate since the spring of his freshman year. The role of Parliamentarian is to maintain proper procedure and follow Robert’s Rules of Order, to make sure the Senators stick to the constitution and to guide student groups to meet criteria for their proposed constitutions. Other than that, his biggest concern is to get more people inspired to create student groups. “People don’t understand they can utilize the student activity fee,” or what they can do with it, Soucy says.
Soucy is also chair of the Constitutional Review Committee, who are in the process of updating the Senate Constitution and getting rid of unnecessary fluff and clauses, he says.
Going into this semester, Soucy wants the Senate’s image to be portrayed by the current Senate and not the past and for students to feel, “that we are approachable and accountable to others’ viewpoints and for people to feel comfortable going and talking to them,” he says.
Clerk: Katelyn Rice
Katelyn Rice is a senior marketing major from Bangor, double-minoring in public relations and communications and media studies. She is the clerk for the Student Senate this year and joined after getting more involved in campus life. Rice says, “it really opened my eyes as to what the student body is really capable of accomplishing to better our community and school atmosphere.”
This year, “fellow senate members and I hope to increase the number of books that students can rent for classes from the library – including 300 and 400 level classes.” Additionally, she envisions creating a more extensive recycling process including composting on both campuses to motivate students to stay green.
Kirby Kellogg is a junior communications major from Jonesport, Maine working to double-minor in theatre and writing. She is one of nine Commuter Senators and joined out of a desire to help others.
Kellogg says that, “on a Senate level, I’m hoping to work with the administration to make sure that future campus plans keep disabled people in mind.”
On a personal level, she adds, she hopes to publish her first short story.
Anthony Emerson is a Commuter Senator and English major from Portland. The fifth year senior chaired the previous Student Affairs Committee before it was abolished and joined the Senate because “I thought I could make a difference in my university community,” he says. Emerson personally hopes to increase parking at USM, and to see the university host a gubernatorial and senatorial debate sometime this fall.
Nate Medrano is a junior political science major from North Yarmouth. Nate says that he, “joined the Student Senate to get more involved with campus life and gain useful experience” and that he specifically wishes to, “increase the visibility of Student Government on campus and bring about positive change wherever possible.”
Alex Holderith a junior political science major from Wyckoff, NJ. Currently the only At-Large Senator (not classified as either a ‘resident’ or ‘commuter’ specifically), Holderith joined the Senate to be the changed that he wishes to see on campus.
This year, he says, “I look to grow the Senate, expand its activities, access to students and make campus a more politically engaged place.”
Commuter Senators unavailable for comment:
David Reed and Dylan Reynolds.
Student Body Vice President