General Student Senate faces backlash due to funding policies

The University of Maine’s General Student Senate was brought to task by Ronald Eastman, treasurer of the Students for Liberty, during General Good and Welfare speeches. The General Good and Welfare speeches allow for any non-member to address the Senate for less than five minutes. Eastman argued that the Senate has violated the First Amendment by their refusal to provide funding for College Democrats and College Republicans.

While the Senate claims that they are unable to provide funding to said organizations due to their status as an unbiased nonprofit,, Eastman argued that providing funding to organizations like the Wilde-Stein Alliance for Sexual Diversity, Student Women’s Association and the Student Heritage Alliance Council constituted funding of political organizations.

President Harold Stewart responded that it wasn’t about political efficacy, but about an organization’s potential to provide funding or endorsement to individuals or candidates. Organizations like Wilde-Stein and the Student Women’s Association are less likely to attempt endorsement on a political scale. Eastman maintained that the University of Maine Student Government (UMSG) is picking and choosing which organizations to fund and emphasized that unless the Senate adopted a resolution altering their funding policies, the Students for Liberty would pursue a lawsuit in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Club Maintenance

The Boulder Club changed its name to the Bouldering and Climbing Club in an effort to expand their participation in the growing sport of climbing.

Wilson Center Students changed their name to Spiritual Coexistence Student Group in order to better reflect the current focus of the organization.

The African Student Union received $1,500 for food to serve at their annual Hunger Banquet.

Club Presentations

The Equestrian Team thanked the General Student Senate for their continued support and financial backing. The team is ranked fifth in the region, the best they’ve ever done despite being unable to find a new coach quickly. They have an upcoming competition at The University of New Hampshire.

The National Student Speech, Language, Hearing Association (NSSHLA) returned from their national conference where undergraduate members of the organization presented research for the first time in the university’s history.

Periodic Reports

The UMSG Representative to the board of trustees, Senator Connor Scott, has returned from the annual Board meeting in Augusta. The Board discussed the decreasing student enrollment in the university system, the implementation of a unified online system for online classes across the university system, and the elimination of the two-week spring break. Both Senator Scott and President Harold Stewart spoke against the spring break schedule change at the Board meeting.

Director of Communications, Mallory Nightingale, encourages undergraduate students to run for General Student Senate for the upcoming 2016 term.

New Business

The Senate passed an act to include a new division of Student Leadership in the University of Maine Student Government Inc. This resolution amended the constitution of UMSG to include a new division of student government devoted to leadership development among first-year students.

The Senate changed the way their elections would operate in the future by passing an act that would alter their election practices from an “at large” system to a college-based system. In the new system, three to seven senators will be elected from each academic college rather than 35  senators elected at large. The new electoral system is intended to increase participation from students less likely to run for office.

The Senate failed to pass a resolution that would allow caucusing and internal leadership within the new electoral system mentioned above. Senators arguing against the act feared that caucusing would further divide groups within UMSG and over politicize the organization. Proponents of the resolution argued that it gave the newly elected delegation from each academic college a chance to interact with one another and foster better dissemination of information.

The Senate voted to uphold a cabinet veto of a motion for UMSG to call upon the UMaine System board of trustees to fully divest from fossil fuel companies. Senators debated the economics costs and moral benefits of fossil fuel divestment, but ultimately were unsure whether they were ethically able to make a political statement against fossil fuel investment as an unbiased nonprofit. They cited conflict over their political stances brought up earlier in the i meeting.

 

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