First on the meeting’s agenda was the election of a new student to the Student Senate. Riley Worth, a Sophomore and Political-Science and Economics double major, was unanimously elected. Referred to the position by the Representative to the Board of Trustees, Andrew Seile, Worth plans to bring his knowledge of economics and finance to help his fellow senators with allocating funds, general school betterment, and school outreach. “It’s surprising the extent of what the Student Senate does” said Worth. “The biggest shock for me was how much of campus life, student life, student funds and that type of stuff is managed by the Student Government. That was kind of surprising as well as empowering. It’s a sense of responsibility knowing how much you have to do for the community and what they rely on.”
One of the biggest things Worth wants to bring to the table is the expansion of USM tutors and how they are used on campus. Being an economics tutor himself, he’s noticed how a good portion of the tutors are being unused and are essentially being paid $18 an hour just to sit around and do their own homework. “I’ve been tutoring for about a year and a half,” Worth said “I can see mine and everyone’s schedules, and you can see the number of hours that are open for tutoring versus how much is being utilized and it’s probably 15-20% [of tutors being used]. I’m paying myself on some level. I’m paying the university to come here and they use those funds to pay me and the other tutors and we’re not being fully utilized. I want to find a way within the Senate or student outreach to get people to maybe just book one tutoring appointment to see that it isn’t as scary as they think.” He also sees an “untapped potential” in students whose grades hover around the 70’s and 80’s. He noticed how a majority of the students seeing a tutor are students who are either just below a passing grade and need that extra support, or it’s the students who have an A- or an A and they’re striving to get that A+.
Along with being a tutor, Worth is also a Learning Assistant (LA) in an introductory macroeconomics class. He recognizes the potential an LA brings to bridging the gap for students to see a tutor and the gray area that comes with an LA not being in the classroom. “I’ve gotten more tutoring appointments through that, but I know that most classes that offer tutoring don’t have an LA in the class. The people in my class get to know me before they book me. In a lot of other classes there is no LA in that class, so if I wanted to book a tutoring appointment, it’s just a name on a page that I’ve never seen before. I didn’t know if they taught in the right way, I didn’t know if they were rude, I didn’t know how friendly they were, I didn’t know if they were right for me.” Worth added, “I think there needs to be a way to get tutors more known on a personal basis in those classrooms without LAs to bridge that gap between, ‘I need help but I don’t know who I’m going to for help’ versus ‘I can put a name, face, and personality to it.’” Worth has experience in school politics as he was the President of his High School for three years and is thinking about the possibility of becoming a politician one day. He sees this Student Senator position as an opportunity to both test the waters out and help other students with the position he now has.
A large portion of the meeting consisted of making changes, edits and updates to the Student Government Association’s (SGA) constitution. Each change or addition that Student Government Chair Chance Gagne made, along with edits and suggestions made by his fellow members, needed to be voted on and passed by the majority of the senators present at the meeting. Almost 30 separate articles, sections, and by-laws were voted on with almost all of them being unanimously approved by the Senate and a few being tabled for future edits and discourse.
The changes made dealt with everything from removing the roles and responsibilities of positions that are no longer a part of the SGA to something as simple as saying that senators who attend the meeting via Zoom are still a part of the quorum. Many of the things voted on were known rules that the individuals in the meeting have knowledge of and abide by, but were not officially within their own constitution. The SGA had a lot of spoken rules, including dressing up for meetings, being aware of what is in the agenda and what is being voted on in the moment, what qualifies as a quorum, the total number of senators that are allowed at one time, and even attending the meetings on time. Various things of this nature are known by everyone who is a part of the SGA, but the next wave of senators who come in after the seniors in the Senate graduate could be left unaware of how the basic procedures of the meetings work, and what their respective responsibilities are.
Although there were some changes and work done with the constitution and by-laws, a majority of the meeting time was spent updating it. According to Gagne, “we did a lot of work last time [at the February 10 meeting] on the by-laws, which was good because that is a lot easier to pass than constitutional changes. The problem with our constitution was a lot of minor grammatical things. The one kind of important aspect was the entities that we recognized. Essentially we all had the stuff and we all knew about it, but we didn’t formally recognize in our constitution Club Sports Council, which is one of our newest entities, and we also recognized a defunct organization, the Leadership Development Board. I mean, that shouldn’t be in the constitution considering that SEAL [Student Engagement and Leadership] does all the heavy lifting for us now. We’re aiming to clean it up and make it look modern.”
Other members of the Student Senate who were interviewed about their constitution showed their appreciation and confidence that updating their constitution was the right thing to do. Considering the fact that the meetings run relatively smoothly with only minor bumps along the way, making that side of their constitution clear cut, while also leaving some breathing room, will only help the current and future senators when they have more important things to discuss and decide on.
Taking over an hour to cover almost 30 pieces of their constitution, although they are a little over halfway through, this process will continue on to at least their next meeting.
At the start of this semester there were vacant spots at the top of a few committees under the SGA, including the Public Relations Committee; the Lewiston-Auburn Committee; the Committee on Military, Veterans, and Public Safety Affairs; and the Professional Staff Senate. At the end of the meeting, two of these committees found new leadership. The Public Relations Committee will now be led by Senator AJ Pettengill, who represents the Culinary Council along with many different clubs under the SGA and the Board of Student Organizations (BSO). The Lewiston-Auburn Committee will be led by Senator Marshall Burt, a newly appointed senator who was first elected back in October of 2022. Even though Burt is not from the Lewiston-Auburn area, he understands the importance of having all three campuses in a collective unity. “In the meeting,” Burt said, “Chance [Gagne] explained that if a committee doesn’t have a head for a semester then it gets sacked, and I didn’t believe that the Lewiston-Auburn Committee should be sacked because it is an important part of the USM community.” Still fresh from being newly appointed to the position Burt’s plans are not set in stone for the moment until he gets more information, but indicated that he wants to keep the status quo of what the committee has accomplished and alleviate any issues that need to be fixed.
The Student Body President Office released the first two episodes of their announcement-style show, Good Morning USM, on the USM SGA Student Body President’s Office Instagram page, with a combined total of over 3,000 views. “We know that it’s reaching a lot of our community,” says Student Body President, Bri Demaso, who helped create the project. “It’s reached about 30% of our community and it’s going really well.” With the music done by USM’s very own music students and hosted by fellow USM student Atticus Watson, the episodes have consisted of shout-outs across all parts of campus from arts to athletics, weekly weather updates, campus event schedules, and even a special guests segment that so far has included Career & Employment Hub Director Andy Osheroff and CEO of the USM Foundation Ainsley Wallace. According to Demaso, “the mission of the show is to celebrate our community and showcase awesome things that people are doing and just awesome people at USM. I think post-pandemic it’s hard to bring a holistic community back to campus, but I think this is something that we’re trying to provide a community with a sense of belonging. We’re just hoping to bring joy.”
Another benefit that comes with Good Morning USM are the students who are working to bring the show to light. For students with professional development opportunities, the show is a perfect place for them to develop their craft, add experience to their résumé, and even work towards a credit in their respective classes and projects. Students can work on script writing and starring in front of the camera, video editing, music creation and art for both the physical set and the media side of the show.
Three other important items were brought to the meeting as well. First, a proposal was brought to the table by the Assistant Director of SEAL, Christine O’Brian, concerning the Leadership Gala that SEAL has taken over from the Student Senate in recent years. It was taken over by SEAL because the Leadership Development Board under the SGA went defunct. That was when the Senate approached SEAL asking for their help because the Senate still wanted the event to continue. At the time, the Senate didn’t have the knowledge or capacity to run the event and offered to help fund the gala while SEAL hosted it. The two parties agreed, and that is the way it has been since. This all led to Friday, February the 10th when O’Brian asked for $4,500 on behalf of the SEAL program and the event. For the past few years since the agreement was made, the total amount of money asked for and given to SEAL was $5,000, but she was aware that funds have been low recently and thought $4,500 was an appropriate amount since they spend the money on renting a room, food, decorations, and more. After a discussion between O’Brian, the SGA’s Business Office Manager Latré Sibi Lawson, the Senators, and the Finance Committee, it was discovered that the Senate indeed had the full $5,000 available to give to SEAL and wanted to continue the precedent that was set many years ago. After a roll call vote, the proposal passed.
The second item of business was a report from Chair of the Student Senate Chance Gagne about the SGA’s financial situation with entities, specifically the BSO’s response to the low funds and clubs asking them for money. At a recent Executive Board meeting, the board proposed a possible referendum to make sure online students and graduate students are included in the Student Activity Fee. If it were to pass, those students mentioned previously would be allowed to join the clubs and groups that the BSO offers, and would no longer have to be turned away if they showed interest. This would also apply to entities such as Commuter Student Association (CSA), Gorham Campus Activities Board (GCAB), Outdoor Adventure Board (OAB), Student Communications Board (SCB), and Club Sports Council (CSC). As it stands right now, not only do these clubs and entities have to turn the online and graduate students away, but they also have to turn those students away from any events the SGA and their entities host because they don’t pay the Student Activity Fee. The hope with this potential referendum is that at future events that the entities, clubs, and groups hold, all they’d have to ask is if the individual is a USM student, rather than trying to figure out what year or mode the student is in.
The third item of business was a report from SGA Advisor and Director of SEAL David Lewis on the progress and positive results that are happening with The Husky Hub. According to his report, there were over 300 individuals using the app daily over a two week span. By sometime around March or April, Lewis and his team will start diving into the other pieces of The Husky Hub that are not currently being used by the public. According to Lewis, their plan over the summer is to “build more stuff out to make it bigger and better.”