Wednesday night’s Student Assembly Senate meeting was marked by a flurry of note passing, an occasional “Here, here!” from Senior Senator Rob Forrest and a disproportionate number of bills passed that may benefit students.
Considered first were two bills introduced by Senate Chairman Eric Kronman. The first mandates that the Student Assembly Executive branch negotiate with the College’s Dining Services to refund students for services not provided during the Hurricane Isabel evacuation.
“The common student may have missed 15 or 25 meals during that time off,” said Kronman.
His bill proposes that students with Block meal plans be allowed to have meals left over in December carry over to next semester. Students with Green, Gold or Gold Plus meal plans would be given a ten percent discount on next semester’s plan because approximately ten percent of the first semester was missed. Each plan is contingent on students’ purchase of a meal plan for next semester in order to receive the benefits.
“As a Student Assembly it’s our responsibility to look out for student interests, not the interests of Aramark,” said Mark Bergman, Executive Branch Chief of Staff. Aramark is the outside contractor that operates Dining Services.
Kronman’s second bill mandates the Executive to negotiate with the College administration to refund parents for money spent on fees for Family Weekend. Sophomore Senator Dan Tsin, however, thought the bills may have been irrelevant:
“It’s already happening,” said Tsin, referencing an email that Vice President for Student Affairs Sam Sadler had sent to students earlier in the day. Sadler’s email described extended weekend hours at the Center Court and Commons dining facilities. In addition Tsin mentioned information being sent to parents shortly to give them options for their Family Weekend fee.
Kronman, on the other hand, stressed that details are unimportant to these bills. They simply give the Executive a direction to work in. He cites the extra expenses incurred by students due to the evacuation and subsequent cancellation of Fall Break as a reason for the legislation.
“I had to eat my airplane tickets,” said Kronman.
Though some Senators brought concerns about the Aramark into the debate, Kronman emphasized that was not the issue, adding that he has been a “Gold Plus” customer for four years. Each bill passed the Senate: the meal plan bill with 19 Senators in favor and one abstaining; the Family Weekend refund bill with unanimous consent.
“We’ll look into both those issues – we’ll sign the legislation,” said Bergman. He discussed the idea that these bills set an ideal, and that most likely a different compromise will be reached with the administration.
The next agenda item was a bill by Senior Senator Jeff Deitrich that sought to put lawyer and College alumnus Courtney Malveaux on retainer. This action would make him available to counsel the Student Assembly, especially on the issue of recent evictions of students living off campus.
The bill, however, took on a dramatically different form when it was announced that Malveaux is no longer with his former firm of LeClair Ryan. Law School Senator Mike Broadus revealed that Malveaux had recently accepted a position with the Attorney General.
After amendment, the bill simply instructed the Executive to seek out free legal counsel on the matter. It passed with 14 Senators in favor, one against and five abstaining.
Finally, a previously vetoed bill by Senator Tsin was reintroduced and passed. The bill creates a Senate committee to communicate with students. Student Assembly President Brian Cannon had vetoed the bill due to confusion over who could join the committee. Clarification was made and the bill passed with unanimous consent.
“I think it’s good that we’re actually working for the students more,” said Junior Senator Sean Murphy, though some time in the meeting was spent on internal Student Assembly matters:
“We have not followed the written bylaws since the beginning of the new Senate,” said Sophomore Senator Liz Sykes during debate on a set of proposed changes to the Senate Bylaws introduced by Kronman.
The Senate, however, rejected the changes. A special committee on the Bylaws may take further action on the proposal and reintroduce them later.
The Senate also heard an update on the Executive branch. In the report Bergman announced Cannon’s State of the Student Assembly Address will be held next Wednesday. In addition Kay Floyd, Student Assembly Secretary of College Policy, gave an update on work towards instituting a policy of self-scheduled exams at the College.