By Ben Theriault, Staff Writer
The Student Senate meeting held in Bailey Hall on March 9, provided an overall reflection on the current work of the Student Senators. The meeting, led by Senate Chairman Trevor Hustus, ensured progress and attention were being maintained in current projects, however it also served as a way to commemorate and celebrate the Senators as several awards were dispersed at the end of the meeting. Of all of the proposals and projects reviewed, the only one to create discourse among the group was a proposal to grant $1500 to the Student Senate for individual jackets.
Representative to the Faculty Senate, David Wagner, explained that these jackets—which would cost about $70 per senator—would be essential branding tools for the Student Senate. He stated that the senators would be, “buying something where you are visibly promoting yourselves as senators.”
Senator Hustus followed this statement by saying, “Most USM students couldn’t name five student senators. This isn’t for free swag, its so people know who we are.” He explained that the Senators would be required to wear these jackets at all school events to better their outreach to the students. They hope that with these jackets they will be more approachable and that it will promote participation.
While some Senators viewed this as a great opportunity to create a wider audience for their activities, others were more critical of the suggestion. Senator Dylan Reynolds, Student Representative to the Board of Trustees, questioned if it would be within their right to spend this money on themselves at all. She was visibly dismayed upon hearing the suggestion and viewed the expenditure as unnecessary. She explained that she respected the aim of the jackets and agreed that branding was important, however she stated that, “there are better ways to get recruitment.”
This sentiment was supported by Senator Kirby Kellogg, who suggested that branding could be accomplished by something far simpler, such as monogrammed water bottles. She stated that she believed these would not only be more cost-efficient than jackets, but more practical too. Supporting Reynolds and Kellogg, Senator Anthony Emerson chimed in that he too thought that, “the money could be better spent.”
Reynolds took into account the high turnover rate of the Student Senate in regards to this decision asking, “Do we really want to start a tradition of buying things for every new senator?” She argued that over time, this could quickly become very costly. These observations come at a time where there are currently six vacancies within the Student Senate.
Outside of the meeting, Senator Shaman Kirkland said that he was neutral on the topic, but stated “I think they’re on the expensive side and I don’t like the idea of spending student money on ourselves. However, I see their value. They’re a good advertising tool, which is important, given a lack of interest from the student body. People could spot us out, hopefully leading to increased conversation and collaboration.”
The discussion concluded with the agreement that—despite not needing to—they would raise 20 percent of the funds themselves. This was decided so that the student senate would be held to the same standards as their peers when making non-essential purchases. With this decision reached, the jackets passed after a vote.
Not on the agenda of the meeting was the resignation of Student Body President, Pdg Muhamiriza, which was announced about halfway through. In light of this information, Vice Student Body President, Chase Hewitt was sworn in to take over for Muhamiriza. The polls for this election, as well as for other Student Senators, closed on March 23, and the results will be posted on March 30.
The meeting concluded with awards granted to nominated senators. The Kathleen Pease Award for Distinguished Service was given to Senator Reynolds and the Student Leader of the Year Award resulted in a tie between Senators Shaman Kirkland, Joe Menard and Chase Hewitt.
The next Student Senate meeting will be held April 6 in 1 Payson-Smith on the Portland campus at 1:00 pm. Students are welcome and encouraged to attend.