Student Senate GBM recap: April 28

On April 28, the AY21-22 Undergraduate Student Senate held their last meeting and the first meeting of the AY22-23 Senate. The meeting opened with a vote to extend student access to The New York Times. In March 2021, the Senate voted to allocate funds from the Media Fee to give campus-wide access to The New York Times. The Media Fee is currently $10/year paid only by undergraduates. The Senate was offered a three-year extension by The New York Times since the original one-year contract is up for renewal.

Senate expects the total cost of $32,250.40 for 2022-23 to be split evenly between University Libraries, the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), and the undergraduate Media Fee. Former Business Affairs chair Prithu Pareek noted that after the Business Affairs committee put up posters advertising students’ access to The New York Times, the percentage of students utilizing the service increased. Former Finance Chair Diana Crookston said that the Media Fee account currently has greater than $100,000, and this subscription will put those funds to use. The motion to extend the contract passed 16-0-1.

Student Body President Alexis Ozimok and Vice President Catherine Taipe followed with their end of semester reports. They gave thanks for the Senate's partnership during their term, including funding for students who work on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives on campus. They pointed out that they are finalizing the contract to get a headshot booth on campus. Ozimok also discussed the integration of student life back into campus following the pandemic and being able to “rebuild our relationship with the university after COVID-19 and after a period of distrust with the university.”

Each Senate committee presented on the initiatives they conducted in the past semester. Former Academic Affairs chair Emily DuBois discussed the funding that was distributed through the Online Learning Resource (OLR)/Art Supply Fund. She said that the future goals of the fund include more university contribution and institutionalized change so that the fund won’t need to be utilized by students. The fund serves students who have additional course costs they would otherwise not be able to cover.

Advocacy committee chair Jeanie Xu presented results from the mental health survey conducted from Feb. 14 to April 10. The survey received 155 responses, which was lower than expected, but still gave the committee good insight. The survey gave students a place to discuss their mental health and the resources they utilized on campus, and those who filled out the survey were entered into a raffle for various prizes. Many respondents expressed a lack of support from faculty and staff. The Advocacy committee shared the results with CaPS and will continue meeting with them next year.

Pareek followed with insights from the Business Affairs committee. The committee collected over 1,800 responses in a dining initiatives survey, which were shared with the campus dining director. The committee also worked to add and publicize Carnegie Mellon shuttle stops at grocery stores and increase media access on campus. They are currently conducting a survey regarding outlet access on campus and also held a student worker forum this past week. Their future work includes working with dining to increase sustainability and potentially add Spin scooter charging stations around campus.

Campus Life Chair Victoria Liu presented on the initiatives from her committee. They hosted the first Strip Crawl since 2018, which included eight business partners and had over 100 people attend. The Senate also competed in the “Doghouse” category of Booth and organized two sessions of First Lectures with eight total speakers. Between the two sessions, over 120 people attended.

Crookston followed with her report from the Finance committee. Their fall initiatives were to reimburse poll workers for transportation and food costs. Additionally, as Ozimok said earlier in the meeting, the committee played a role in getting compensation for students who serve on DEI committees across campus. They also held a Finance town hall the previous week, and funded a variety of organizations who requested special allocations.

Crookston followed with Senate's end of year spending report. As of Crookston’s presentation, Senate has $70,646.96 of their FY22 budget remaining. Highlights of Senate spending included the OLR/Arts Supply Fund, special allocations funding, various survey prizes, Senate merchandise, and office renovations.

Former Internal Development Chair Saloni Gandhi spoke regarding initiatives from the committee. This included Senate merchandise like crewnecks, tote bags, and water bottles, the Senate social, and general body meeting activities.

The last committee recap was given by former Senate Chair Liam O’Connell, who presented for the Executive committee. He noted civic engagement initiatives like the town hall series presented in part with GSA. Combining the Internal Development and Communications committees into the Operations Committee highlighted some of the committee’s work to streamline Senate processes. A variety of meetings with university leadership were meant to connect students and administration; an advising group will begin meeting with key members of the university’s leadership this summer and fall. Next year, Senate will start a newsletter to the general undergraduate body to keep them updated on Senate initiatives.

After this, the last meeting of this year's Senate concluded and the first meeting of next year’s Senate began. The meeting was presided over by Ozimok, and the elections for next year’s Senate Chair and committee chairs took place. Crookston and Pareek were both nominated for Senate Chair, and Pareek was chosen. Next year’s committee chairs include Mason Xiao as Academic Affairs, Xu as Advocacy, Claire Jin as Business Affairs, Liu as Campus Life, Kyle Hynes as Finance, and Gandhi as Operations. Sergeant-At-Arms will be voted on at Senate’s next meeting in the fall.