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65th Session of Student Senate begins Wednesday

New business includes mandatory meal plans, student fees, MSC hours

Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 16:09

The 65th Session of the Student Senate will meet Wednesday night for the first meeting of the semester to deliberate various issues regarding the student body.

Student senate will cover several issues, beginning with a bill targeting the operating hours of the Memorial Student Center, and ending with an amendment to the student senate constitution regarding the protection of religious expression.

The first order of business on the senate’s agenda is the MSC 24-Hour Bill. Currently, the MSC is open to students until midnight on weekdays, and 1 a.m. on weekends. The bill requests that the MSC be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“The MSC is the living room of campus,” said Maci Hurley, executive director of operations for student senate. “ If [the MSC] stays open 24 hours, people can go … and be more productive.”

Omar Ghannoum, student services chair for student senate, was one of the authors of the MSC 24-Hour Bill.

“College students don’t just stick to a daytime schedule, they also like to work at night,” Ghannoum said. “Opening at night would give student another place to study … when the library might not be an ideal place.”

Fernando Sosa, finance chair for student senate, said the last time he checked the University Center accounts, there was more than $500,000 in reserve funds.

“After looking at their accounts, I’m pretty confident that we can use some of those excess funds, as in whatever is in reserve, to operate the MSC for 24 hours,” Sosa said.

The senate is also discussing a bill to repeal mandatory meal plans because University dining is now being outsourced.

“Because University dining is privatized now, it’s not fair of the University to force student[s] who live on campus to buy from a private company,” said Scott Bowen, speaker of the student senate. “It interferes with fair competition and puts an undue burden on the students who live there.”

Hurley said she thought students shouldn’t be required to purchase a meal plan, especially those who live off-campus.

“If they’re off-campus freshman, that’s a lot less convenient for them because that means thy have to spend more time on campus,” Hurley said. “It’s a cheaper option and that’s definitely what we want to go for.”

Bowen said if the mandatory meal plan bill is passed, the senate will begin setting up meetings with the University to try to change the current policy.

“These bills are kind of the beginning of an issue, where we decide what our position is,” Bowen said. “But then actually executing that position is a lot longer of a process.”

During the 2011-2012 academic year, the student senate and then-student body president, Jeff Pickering, came to a stalemate regarding the stance that would be taken on the increase in student fees. Bowen said the senate opposed all increases in student fees, while the SBP disagreed with the senate. Because the branches couldn’t come to an agreement, a stance was never taken.

The issue will be discussed again in the senate meeting Wednesday.

“This [act] sets a default position that unless we pass a bill specifically supporting the increase in a fee, the SBP will not support increases in any fees,” Bowen said. “It is his responsibility to carry out the position and policies of student government.”

The student senate also traditionally begins with an invocation. Bowen said there were occasionally complaints that the prayer was being said before the meetings. The proposed religious expression protection amendment will address those complaints.

“I am personally the author of that [amendment],” Bowen said. “We wanted to make it clear that [the invocation] is allowed. Not that it must be done, not that we necessarily approve or disapprove of it. We just want to make it clear in the constitution that that is something that can be done.”

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