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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Letter to Student Media Organizations

    Feb. 16th, 2007

    An Open Letter To the media organizations of Stony Brook University:

    I have seen that many campus publications report that the Senate of the Undergraduate Student Government does not focus its time on efforts relating to issues of student life. Rather, we spend time debating internal management of the USG.

    I respectfully disagree, and contend that this perception is inaccurate because it only takes into consideration actions that take place at our weekly Senate meetings, which are a mere two hours, while some senators spend up to ten hours per week or more serving the students.

    When someone’s perspective on the Senate results from watching Senate meetings, I can understand why it may appear that we focus solely on our internal politics. We do spend a lot of time debating bills that, at first glance, do not seem to directly impact students. But consider the fact that the Senate’s powers are strictly limited, and largely reside in the management of the student activity fee and the funding of clubs and activities.

    ‘ Determining the budget and what funds clubs and activities will receive does directly affect the lives of students, but it’s dealt within committee, and not the Senate floor, leading to the misperception that senators do not address the needs of students.

    The Senate Budget Committee dedicates more time to serving the students than many other members of the government, which is often overlooked in the media’s reports on the Senate. While we have only had two Senate meetings this semester, members of the Budget Committee and the Treasurer have organized three budget workshops and have begun the arduous process of holding hearings with every single club applying for funding.

    To demonstrate the amount of time these hearings consume: I myself spent a total of over six hours in the Senate office on Monday, Feb. 12, starting at 9: 00′ AM’ to 8:00 PM, drudged myself through the ice and snow at 9:30′ AM, on Valentine’s Day for another marathon of hearings, and again did the same on Thursday.

    Other Senators on the Committee have likewise spent hours in this process. To put this into perspective, when all is said and done, the budget process for this week alone will require more hours than the total number of hours we will spend at regular Senate meetings this semester. This is not to say that I believe what does take up the time at our weekly Senate meetings is not important, or that it doesn’t affect students.

    In fact, the debates in the Senate are often over what policies we will follow in funding clubs or how the government is to be managed in order to best serve the student body and not waste the student activity fee we are entrusted with.

    For instance, the Senate recently debated and passed new bylaws for the USG Student Activities Board. Although it may look like mere internal management, it is actually extraordinarily important to students. The changes made to the bylaws will make the board’s actions more transparent and less prone to bad decision-making, insuring that it can put on the best activities for the students.

    Furthermore, it changed the rules of the Board so that it is more welcoming to outside students wishing to participate, and automatically gave each club one vote at general meetings to encourage our diverse array of clubs and their members to become more active in event-planning for the student body. These types of policies enacted by the Senate, in addition to the budget process undertaken by its Budget Committee, demonstrate the dedication and effort senators put into serving the student body.

    It’s not fair to judge the Senate only on the portion of hours senators spend per week at our regular meetings when it’s miniscule compared to the time spent on policies directly impacting student life on campus.


    Nathan Shapiro,

    Senator of the Undergraduate Student Government.

    Current members of the budget committee are Senators Joseph Antonelli, Jonathan Hurst, Sheena Joseph, Matthew Maiorella, Robert Romano, Nathan Shapiro and the USG Treasurer Stephen Hui.

    The USG Student Activities Board By-laws Act referred to above was passed 20-2 by the Senate but subsequently vetoed by President Romual Jean-Baptiste.

    The Senate has not yet met to consider overriding the veto. The USG Senate meets every Tuesday in SAC Ballroom B from 8:15-10:15 pm, unless otherwise posted.

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