The Student Assembly held its first meeting of the 2011-2012 session on Tuesday April 19. Matt Paganussi (’14) was selected as Senate Secretary. Paganussi was the only nominee for this position after Ben Huber (’12) and Grace Colby (’13) declined nominations.
The Senate next considered the selection of a Senate Chair. Noah Kim (’13) and Doug Haynes (JD ’12) accepted nominations. In a speech to the Senate, Kim claimed that “the senate chair according to the code is a mainly administrative role” and that his prior experience as Chair of the Finance Committee had prepared him for this role, additionally noting that “I think I’ve shown this past year that I would do very well.” Haynes cited his prior experience as chair of an undergraduate student council and said that he hoped to make the Senate Chair “More than a mere administrative role” and to “facilitate the senate doing as much as it possibly can.” After a closed-session debate, Kim was elected.
The first item of new business was the 2011 Closing of Session Act, sponsored by Mike Young (’11) and Michael Douglas (’11). This bill would officially end the 2011 session and roll over bills that have found new sponsors into the new session, while canceling those bills that now lack sponsors. The bill passed by unanimous consent.
Next, the Senate debated the Final Exams Programs Act, sponsored by Noah Kim (’13). This act would allocate money to finance programs including the purchase of exam blue-books and keeping Swem open for 24 hours during exams. In response to a question from Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Constantine regarding the SA’s ability to pay for the programs, Kim said that “we technically have enough money….but we’ve promised money that we don’t have to STI testing and we don’t know how much money we do have.” With the Final Exams Program Act, the SA’s ability to pay out $15,000 previously allocated for STD testing will depend on the amount of unspent money received back from student organizations. According to Kim “if we passed this bill we would not be in the red,” because the STD money will not actually be spent until August 1, and the SA will have the option to repeal the allocation if it does not receive enough unspent allocations.
Kim’s plan was sharply criticized by Grace Colby (’13), who said that it was “completely irresponsible” for the SA to allocate more money than it actually has and that she “cannot support spending money when we have no idea how much money we’ll get.” Ben Huber (’12) raised the objection that the College should be responsible for financing these programs, in response to which Kim said “neither this nor many other programs that we do should be funded by the students,” but that “to not go through with things students have come to rely on would be a blunder.” These comments were echoed by Michael Douglas (’11) who said that “we should lobby harder…but that doesn’t mean that we should screw over current students.” Kim accepted a friendly amendment put forth by Shep Walker (’11), which would charge Kim as the sponsor of the bill with lobbying the administration to fund such projects in the future. The bill eventually passed by a roll call vote.
On a somewhat lighter note, Shep Walker (’11) sponsored a bill that would ‘declare war’ on The University of Virginia, which Walker termed “a scourge and a festering sore.” However, the bill failed, with seven votes in favor, seven opposed, and four abstentions.