Student Senate Report- Oct. 3, 2019

The vast majority of the University of Rhode Island Student Senate meeting this Wednesday was spent debating tiebreaker elections for three positions: the College of Business Representative, College of Environmental and Life Sciences (CELS) Representative and Off-Campus Representatives.

External Chair Allison Lantagne stated that she reached out to people who won their seat and they didn’t respond at all. 

“A couple of them told me that they were honored to be elected,” said Lantagne. “[However] they didn’t have the time to commit to the organization.”

This led to a debate on whether to strike the elections from the meeting’s agenda. The initial motion failed. However, following the failed motion, Cultural Chair Lulu Alryati stated “We’re voting on people we don’t know, and if they don’t want to represent the college and if we have no idea if they will do their jobs, what’s the point of doing this?”

This swayed the opinion of much of the Senate, and led to a new motion to strike the tiebreaker election, which succeeded with only Instruments Chair John Bagley voting against it.

Additionally, President Nick Marotta obtained and presented statements from the University and professor Kyle Kusz, who had received academic complaints following his publishing of a book in which he claims that Tom Brady’s image aligns with “white nationalist post-racialism.”

“[My research was] grossly misrepresented by multiple media sites, [and that his work nowhere argued] that Tom Brady is a white supremacist or that his popularity is due to white supremacy,” said Kusz. “This chapter, like some of my other recent works, has analyzed Donald Trump’s use of white sportsmen as key symbols in his 2016 presidential campaign… and how an alt-right figure like Richard Spencer has co-opted Brady’s image as ‘the ideal, powerful American man’ to spread his white nationalist ideas. In both these cases, of course, Mr. Brady is not responsible for how others, like Trump and Spencer, take on his image.”

The University defended Kusz in their statement. 

“As a public University, we are bound to the First Amendment,” according to the statement. “Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are indispensable to a democracy and the future of our country. In addition, the University of Rhode Island is guided by its cornerstone values to promote independent choice, intellectual curiosity, openness, and free expression.”

Marotta also stated that it was important that different members of the Senate respected each other regardless of political views, “[no matter] how ridiculous or rational.”

The Senate also discussed issues on campus that have impacted students. 

“We were aware of the Wi-Fi issue, and are working as hard as we can to keep that from happening again,” Bagley said. “Parking sucks. We’re working on it.”

Additionally, according to Dining Liaison Ryan Menard, URI could be looking at new options to replace the hand-swipe method of getting into dining halls on campus. 

Additionally, Marotta stated that he and President David Dooley had a conversation about possibly banning Juuls and other vaping products following the recent deaths related to them; however, talks are still exploratory and student feedback will likely be required beforehand.

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