The 61st Student Senate met on Wednesday to discuss plans for the upcoming semester.
According to Mike Patterson, director of Student Activities and Union Services (SAUS) and advisor to the Student Association (SA), only eight of the 25 senators have had prior experience serving on the body. In an effort to offer perspective to the newest members of the body, Senate Chair Paul Brown asked veteran senators to discuss issues that the Senate had addressed in the past.
Senator Maria Iskaros discussed her involvement with the Ban the Box initiative, which seeks to eliminate the requirement for prospective students to disclose certain aspects of their criminal history on their college applications. Iskaros, who is currently serving her fourth term as a senator, also has experience serving on the Campus Auxiliary Services (CAS) board and as co-chair of the Social Justice Coalition (SJC).
Adriana Dulmage, a veteran senator with five semesters of experience, outlined the importance of building and maintaining the institutional memory of the body, arguing that remembering the progress that has been made in the past is imperative to moving forward in the future. She illustrated her point using a string of racial incidents on campus, including the anonymous note “Emmett Till deserved to die” that was scrawled on a whiteboard in a residence hall in 2013 and the labelling of a water fountain in the Humanities building as “coloreds only” in 2011. “This didn’t happen all that long ago, but most of you weren’t here to remember it,” she pointed out.
Senator Iskaros proposed that members of the Senate attend a retreat. She emphasized the importance of bonding and establishing solid working relationships early on in the semester so as to better facilitate any future discussions or actions.
Senator Dulmage also came forward in favor of holding a retreat. “It really gives new senators a chance to get to know the people who have similar interests or support similar causes,” she said.
Iskaros pointed out that the 60th Student Senate did not hold a retreat last semester, and that most of its members did not continue on in the spring semester.
Senator Oren Koralashvili proposed that the Senate reinvest its funds back into the campus, holding events that reach out to the broader student community. “What this body needs is to bolster its political presence,” Koralashvili argued. “Only then can we start making substantial change.”
According to Senate Chair Paul Brown, the Senate typically has $5,000 available in its discretionary fund every semester. Brown quoted that a retreat may cost an upwards of $3,000. Koralashvili argued that this leaves very little funding for delegates to attend SUNY Assembly, the semi-annual statewide conference of student government associations in which legislation is passed for implementation throughout the entire SUNY system.
Mike Patterson suggested that the body hold off on making a decision until firm numbers were available for both a retreat and a campus-wide program. Iskaros asked that Senate Chair Paul Brown compile a proposal for a retreat. The discussion was scheduled to be continued at the next meeting.