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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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    Senate Makes Constitutional Changes

    Dear Editor,

    I have just finished typing the minutes to the most recent USG Senate meeting. The gathering was the longest of the semester, going on from 7 pm until just a few seconds before 9 pm, and a great deal was discussed. After going through the usual routine business, the Senate shifted its attention to eight constitutional amendments proposed by PPT Romano to be included in the upcoming USG Ballot in late October.

    While the majority of the changes were in wording, style, or added clarity, some controversy emerged over the fourth amendment. Senator Shapiro put it correctly (I am tempted to say ‘for once’) when he challenged the removal of language from the Constitution that currently prohibits the USG from influencing state and national legislation. He correctly pointed out that removing this language would jeopardize USG’s status as a tax-exempt entity, but despite his objections all amendments were approved and will now be placed on the ballot.

    I hope that students realize the implications of the fourth proposed amendment and vote it down when it comes on the ballot. Next up was a more controversial proposal presented by PPT Romano, one that narrowly passed the Budget Committee, in which the Student Activity Fee is reduced for the Spring Semester. The kicker though is that this reduction is a whopping $1.75 per student, a sum as pointed out in the meeting was barely enough for a soda at the SAC. If approved by students in the upcoming ballot, the $1.75/student decrease would take $48,000 or so out of the coffers of USG.

    I don’t know about you, but your humble correspondent believes that there is a serious lack of imagination and creativity by a majority of your paid Senators in dealing with this issue. Why not spend the $48,000 for a large event on campus, like a concert? Why not use the money to run several ‘smaller’ events, such as comedy shows and BBQs? Why can’t some of the money be in a fund that USG can use to subsidize the cost of security and other fees for clubs and organizations on campus, to encourage them to put on more events? Why not use the funds to get a down payment on a new SBVAC ambulance?

    The possibilities are virtually limitless and are only bound by the creative spirit of our Senators, and I am sure that they can do better than send us the equivalent of a couple of vending machine snacks! The proposal passed, but still needs a majority of students to support it, so please send your elected representatives the message that you appreciate their token gesture but would rather they spend your money productively.

    Finally, the last half hour or so of the meeting descended into a semi-chaotic state, with the discussion of the ‘Voting Advertisements Act.’ The act would repeal a previous law, providing for voting booths during USG elections, a law written and driven by the current Senate Chair, Executive Vice President Amy Wisnoski, who obviously felt the need to defend her proposal. However, as chair she would be unable to do so, and so decided to hand over the reigns to the PPT, who normally acts in such circumstances.

    Unfortunately, the PPT was strongly in favor of the act being debated and wished to speak on it, and thus an unusual circumstance was created. The deadlock was broken by a suggestion of your humble correspondent, in which he would ‘direct’ that portion of the meeting, a notion that was approved without any objection of the Senators present.

    To the credit of the Senate, most of the members handled this unusual situation well, remaining calm and carrying out the debate in an intelligent manner. The notable exception to this was Senator Shapiro, whose passions overwhelmed him and who felt the need to add unnecessary drama to the proceedings, at one point rising to ‘appeal the decision of the fake chair,’ a notion his colleagues overwhelmingly defeated.

    After much debate, the ‘Voting Advertisements Act’ was narrowly defeated, as it seems a majority of the Senators supported Wisnoski’s voting booths, or at least thought that they should be given a second chance. In the end, the meeting was a mixed bag for students.

    While students should certainly be proud that their Senators are engaging in more debate and that not all proposals are approved as some are defeated after careful discussion, the Senate still seems to be far from achieving its mission of providing tangible gains to students in order to justify its existence and continued funding. The decision to put on the ballot the proposal to ‘refund’ some $48,000 in the form of a $1.75 decrease to the Student Activity Fee is shortsighted, as the amount is negligible when compared with the total tuition and fees students pay each semester.

    The Senate should instead direct its talents to meaningful proposals that will actually make a difference for students. Finally, students can be proud that their Senators are becoming increasingly more professional and calm, even in the midst of serious debate, though some exceptions unfortunately still exist.

    Perhaps with time will come wisdom, I can only hope for the best for my fellow students and continue to report to you my observations so that you and I can hold our government accountable for its actions.

    Respectfully yours,

    Esam Al-Shareffi

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