The April 8 virtual University of Rhode Island Student Senate meeting was dominated by game-changing internal elections in the first meeting with last week’s newly-sworn in senators.
The most contentious election of the night turned out to be the Cultural Affairs Chair, which was contested between incumbent Lulu Alryati and candidates Bolu Taiwo and Wahija Alam. In the end, Taiwo won the seat after four rounds of voting, including two rounds where she finished one vote short of winning.
Taiwo’s main plan of action for the position was to have three main events on campus to celebrate diversity. These events include: a Diversity Week, which Taiwo said had been held in the past but she considered it “executed poorly,” a “Spring Weekend” with events and a concert on the Quad before final exams and a student luncheon to “close the divide between many students.”
“When I think of culture at URI, nothing rings a bell for me, and that’s a problem,” Taiwo said.
Although a new Senator, Alam, pointed out she had experience on Student Senate in her home country of Pakistan and helped work on organizing a troupe to help victims of sexual assault and organizing safe spaces for them.
Alryati said that she was planning to connect with different departments and hold new programs to help international students if she were re-elected.
“Even outside of my role as Cultural Chair, I choose to commit myself to this work,” Alryati said.
The position of Campus Affairs Chair was also contested as Michael Bentley beat out incumbent Gage Blanchflower as well as candidates John Bagley and Alam.
“Senator Bentley is the ideal person for this job because he is intelligent, responsible and great to work with,” Adriana Turano, Bentley’s nominator, told the Senate.
Much of the debate between candidates revolved around a question by former Senator Tim Berard about whether any candidates would be willing to “champion the initiative” for free menstrual products on campus, to which all four candidates said yes.
“We all support it,” said Bentley. “I’m going to do what I can to make sure this is in play.”
The only other contested election was for the Academic Affairs Chair, where incumbent Thomas McGrath beat out Senator Mariama Diallo by a two-vote margin.
“This past year I’ve really learned a lot about leadership and what it means to work in a team and work for the students more than ever before,” McGrath said.
Diallo argued that her commitment to Senate made her a strong candidate.
“Though my time on Senate has been short, I’ve made the most of [the] many opportunities I’ve had here since last semester,” Diallo said. “I’ve gone above and beyond to make sure I carry out my duties to the best of my ability.”
Allison Lantange nominated McGrath and believed that he was the best fit for the position.
“There is not a single person I know that works harder than Thomas,” Lantagne said. “No matter what time, day or night, Thomas is always there and he has an answer.”
The election for Moderator was initially contested between Senators Annabel Cimbal and Zack Nardone. However, Nardone retracted his candidacy after announcing that he was named president of URI’s Club Baseball.
“I think one of my strongest attributes as a person is knowing how much I can take on and I cannot take on any more,” Nardone said.
In the night’s uncontested elections, Katie Siegle won Student Organization Committee Chair, Grace Kiernan won External Affairs Chair and Christopher Bove won Instruments Chair.
Additionally, President Austyn Ramsay’s picks for her Cabinet were all approved by the Senate. Her cabinet will consist of Donna Osgood as Director of Information, Leila Cox as Director of Communications, Mitchell Asante as Director of Treasury and Turano as Director of Operations.
This was the final meeting for current External Affairs Chair Allison Lantagne and Moderator Ryan McWeeney.