Senate Discusses Drug Policy, Black Solidarity And Renovations

Photo by Robin Weinstein.
Photo by Robin Weinstein.
Photo by Robin Weinstein.

The 56th student senate met Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. in Student Union (SU) 418.

Student Association (SA) President Manuel Tejada opened the meeting announcing that the “Let’s Talk About…” Symposium will be held on Nov. 16 in the SU Building Multipurpose Room.

Executive Vice President of SA Zachary Rousseas said that he had previously misinterpreted SUNY’s non-discrimination policy stating that it did in fact protect gender identity, however not all SUNY schools adhere to the policy. Rousseas said that the efforts made by the senate to change the policy when they previously believed it to not protect gender identity will not go to waste, as he plans to rework their legislation to propose mandatory adoption of the SUNY non-discrimination policy by all SUNY schools at the SUNY Student Assembly on Nov. 8.

Rousseas also said that the “Know Your Rights” event will take place on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. in Lecture Center 104. The event will be attended by students from the University Police Commission as well as special guest speaker Andy Kossover of Kossover Law Offices, who will be hosting a workshop during the event.

Vice President of Academic Affairs and Governance Jordan Taylor said the students of color sit-in at the SUNY New Paltz faculty meeting went well, with students voicing their concerns to faculty over racist remarks made on campus and professors assigning work on Black Solidarity Day that, according to Taylor, is not allowed because it is on the campus calendar.

The SUNY New Paltz website states that any student who informs their professor about their participation in Black Solidarity Day is to be allowed exceptions from school work to be made up at a later date. Black Solidarity Day is Monday, Nov. 4.

Sojourner Truth Library Dean Mark Colvson spoke to senate about the library renovation and the substitute space provided in the absence of the library’s late night study area. Colvson said that the College Terrace has for the last two weeks served as the substitute for late night study but student turnout has been dismal.

Colvson said he has considered closing the space but said it will reopen for final’s week. Colvson said he was open to suggestions on how to improve the late night study situation and asked senate to discuss the issue.

Colvson also said that the contract bid to continue the library’s renovation is scheduled to go out early this winter and estimated construction to start again in spring 2014.

Senator Kelly Brennan gave a presentation on changing the campus drug policy regarding marijuana.

Brennan identified some of the problems she believed the current policy had, including the college’s two-strike policy for marijuana offenses and the possession of .01 grams of marijuana being classified as an offense when New York state’s decriminalization of marijuana classifies possession of under 25 grams as a finable offense only. Brennan also drew attention to the fact that the vast majority of arrests and police reports made by University Police Department are marijuana related. Brennan listed possible suggestions on how student senate could approach changing the policy, such as SA President Tejada’s campus drug survey, creating a petition and reaching out to drug policy activists.

Senator Paulina Lustgarten proposed a senate sponsored “green ribbon” campaign in favor of better drug policy, an idea countering “red ribbon” campaigns that promote drug abstinence. SA Vice President Rousseas said that it was too early to draft legislation for this kind of campaign until senate’s drug policy survey was released. Rousseas said that the survey’s numbers would provide for stronger legislation down the line. SA Advisor Mike Patterson agreed, and said that supporting this campaign before the senate sponsored drug survey was complete would send mixed messages to students and administration.

The senate will meet next Wednesday, Nov. 7.