The Student Senate and other USM government members held their first meeting of the semester on Friday, January 27th, with new and familiar faces gathering together in the hopes of continuing the progress made from last semester.
One of the first things brought up during the meeting was a motion raised by the Board of Student Organizations (BSO), who want the responsibility of approving constitutions for their organizations. Speaking on their behalf, the BSO’s Vice President Mary Bergendahl suggested that if the motion passed, it would take away the feeling of disconnect and could possibly bring forth a more efficient procedure for knowing where the constitutions are in the process and how long until those particular clubs are approved. When asked who would be training current and future BSO members, Bergendahl said that the BSO’s current President, Gabe Reed, is well versed in how constitutions should be structured, and that he would be working one-on-one with everyone under the BSO to help them become knowledgeable on the matter. Additionally, there is a plan in place for BSO members who are next in line for leadership positions in the organization to be trained in a variety of subjects so that the progress Bergendahl and other members have made in rebuilding the BSO will not be diminished. Although the Student Senate didn’t make a decision on whether or not to approve the motion, everyone in the meeting came to the conclusion that it would be tabled and workshopped for a future meeting. It is also important to note that if this motion is approved, it would not retire the Constitutional Review Committee. The sole purpose of the motion is to serve the BSO internally.
In his report, Chair of the Student Senate Chance Gagne brought forward two stipends that are no longer necessary. The money within those stipends will be redistributed to their respective entities and clubs. This executive decision was finalized after noticing that the Board of Trustees stipend and the Student Senate Vice Chair stipend were no longer being used. The goal of redistributing the stipends is to help boost the groups’ productivity while also giving them some extra money to work with.
Gagne also mentioned in his report, which was later brought up in the new business portion of the agenda, that he spent many days over his winter break reworking the Student Senate’s own constitution to make it easier for people to access specific sections of the constitution via hyperlinks, which is something that the current constitution does not utilize. He also added things to the constitution that are spoken and understood by everyone at the meeting, but weren’t put officially into writing. Gagne stated during the meeting that “my intention with these edits was to put into writing everything we’ve currently been doing. It’s just been one of the things like, ‘that’s the rules we just talk about, we don’t have it in writing’. My goal was to put this in writing.” For example, people joining the meeting on Zoom count towards the quorum, not just the people who are physically present at the meeting. An overarching reason for these changes is to help those in Student Senate leadership positions carry on without any setbacks due to miscommunication and a lack of knowledge after the current students graduate. A final vote on Gagne’s constitution changes is expected to take place during the next student senate meeting.
“Good Morning USM,” a morning announcement-style show produced by the Student Body President’s Office with collaborations from the SBP Cabinet, students from USM’s School of Music, and USM’s Media Studies program, is set to come out with their first episode on February 14th. Student Body President Bri Demaso says she came up with the idea back in October of 2022. When she brought it to her team, they immediately started brainstorming, with the purpose of creating a sense of community and belonging. Demaso said the segments that will be in the show include “student shoutouts, pets of the week, news on campus, community events, USM events, advice of the week,” and much more.
To watch the episodes, go to the USM Presidential Cabinet page on Instagram. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, feel free to direct message them at that account.
Two separate proposals were brought to the table during the meeting. The first proposal was put forth by the Student Senate Clerk Ryan Mustapha who proposed forming a special committee that will rework the current school dance policy and help provide a foundational outline for future dances. This will also be a resource for future senators to refer to. The proposed committee will help dances meet USM’s policies and guidelines. This will ensure that the focus is on students having fun, but also that the students feel as though they are in a safe environment. The proposal passed unanimously with the exception of one abstained vote coming from Mustapha who sponsored the proposal.
The other proposal came from the President of the American Sign Language Club (ASL), Maia DeRosear, who came to the Student Senate asking for funding for the ASL’s 19th annual Maine Deaf Film Festival, which is one of the longest running deaf film festivals in the world. With the total budget for the event being around $7,000, DeRosear came to the Senate asking for $2,625 to help fund the event. This is the exact amount that was approved last year. The Student Senate mentioned that because of the financial restraints of this academic year, the amount proposed would potentially wipe out the Senate’s event budget. After a brief recess, the Senate came to the conclusion that they can only give the ASL Club $500 based on their own budget, and that the ASL Club has more money in their accounts than all the other clubs at USM.
For more information on this, refer to the article titled Funding Issues Arise ahead of The Maine Deaf Film Festival.