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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    USG Senate Fall Semester Recap

    Dear Editor,

    The final meeting of the USG Senate has just ended, and I believe this to be a good time to recap on both this meeting and the semester as a whole.

    The meeting itself was rather short and light-hearted. The only eyebrow-raising moment of the meeting occurred in the Open Agenda portion, where Senator Romano and others vowed to put into law a bill that would allow clubs, organizations, and other groups to purchase religious textbooks for the purpose of proselytizing (a fancy word for converting people to their religion) using Student Activity Fee money that almost every student pays.

    I sat there in shocked disbelief at the audacity of this plan, which would completely obliterate the walls separating ‘Church and State,’ at least as concerns the Undergraduate Student Government. For a second I thought I saw our flag burning, with the American theme of ‘democracy’ replaced with ‘theocracy.’ For a brief moment I saw images of the fairly sedate and calm campus turn into ugly scenes of religious confrontation, as rival groups, each funded by the USG, attempted to peddle its unique message on the most fundamental questions of the universe. Luckily, all of these scenes were only playing in my head, but it was shocking to think about the consequences for such legislation.

    I am a great believer in religion and its positive impact on society, but I believe (and would hope that most students agree with me) that the government, be it our student government or any other, has – and should never have – any role in spreading of religion or subsidizing the purchase of religious texts meant to further a specific faith.

    I can only hope that our elected representatives will instead support a bill that fully supports and appreciates the efforts of religious clubs and organizations, but refrains from directly funding proselytizing activities.

    At any rate, the meeting ended with kind words delivered by the Senate’s Chair, Amy Wisnoski, who rightfully commended the Senate on its hard work and commitment to students.

    As for the semester as a whole, the USG Senate has more than a few achievements that deserve recognition and credit. The ‘PASS’ Act, for one, has already helped dozens of students by providing them with free one-on-one tutoring in a variety of subjects, ranging from Chemistry to Business and Writing. The ALIRRT Act, which will take effect in the Spring semester, promises to subsidize LIRR tickets by cutting their costs by more than 50%, a move that will certainly benefit hundreds of students.

    The USG Senate has also worked tirelessly within the Budget Committee to review and approve hundreds of thousands of dollars in allocations to many clubs and organizations on campus, allowing them to better serve students and improve campus life.

    With that said, much work still remains. The Senate needs to continue to think about and address issues that students at Stony Brook face on a daily basis, including everything from food prices, parking space availability, and infrastructure issues. This must be done in creative ways, for the student government has no direct control over these matters, but can instead harness the collective will of students by putting pressure on administrators and presenting a clear and united vision of a more student-friendly campus.

    The signs are mostly good for the future, and I relish the opportunity of reporting to you, fellow student, on both the achievements and shortcomings of our elected representatives, in a bid to inform you and make you aware of what is being done in your name.

    Best of luck to you all on your finals and I hope you enjoy the well-earned break when it finally comes.

    Sincerely yours,

    Esam Al-Shareffi

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