Student Forum Report 2-15-2017

Last Wednesday’s student senate meeting began with a presentation from David Schiller, Graduate Assistant for the Maverick Adventures program. Schiller gave an update on progress that has been made since August. Schiller noted that Maverick Adventures is seeking funding through a grant from the Association for Outdoor Recreation and Education. Schiller noted that the original budget, conceived last spring, has been gradually “fine-tuned.” Maverick Adventures’ “Learn to Ski” pilot program began a couple of weeks ago. Schiller says that its six participants “are really enjoying the program.” Schiller has attended several conferences, such as the Association of Outdoor Recreation Conference and the American Canoe Association Conference, in order to gain useful information which could be applied to Maverick Adventures.

Schiller has also been speaking in classes.

Maverick Adventures has been looking into the possibility of a snowshoeing program and a campus bike share program. The latter has been a hot topic. Maverick Adventures has reached out to Greater Mankato Growth and Visit Mankato, suggesting the possibility of establishing a partnership program. Both groups responded saying that they lack the funds to run such a program. Sen. Naeemul Hassan asked Schiller whether it would be more feasible for Maverick Adventures to purchase their own bikes and start a program rather than introducing a pre-established program. Schiller laid out the pros and cons of both options. A benefit of a pre-established program would be that students would be able to rent bikes via an app on their phone. Such a program, however, would cost $36,000 annually. Schiller said that while a Maverick Adventures-devised program looks cheaper on the surface, maintenance costs for bike repair would be costly.

The consent agenda was approved without dispute. President Faical Rayani added several minor additions. David Ausen was appointed to the search for a part-time director of Veterans Affairs, Ibelizet Dominguez was appointed to the Ethics and Standards Committee, and Ben Thao and Pakou Lee were appointed to the search for a director of Asian American Affairs. $570 of recommendations from Student Allocations Committee were passed. $500 were allocated to the Sigma Nu fraternity for a trip to the Sigma Nu Annual Leadership Conference in Fort Collins, Colorado this coming weekend. $70 were allocated to the Muslim Student Association for travel to a planning meeting for Islamic Awareness Day in Brooklyn Park last Saturday.

In his report, President Rayani congratulated the delegates from MNSU who participated in the Feb. 10 Students United conference. MNSU passed more motions than any other school represented. Among these were a motion that requires professors to use 15 percent of any textbook they assign for a class, a motion that requires accommodations for those with hearing impairments for videos displayed on campus, and a motion that requires special assistance for veteran students in the job application process. Students United is the overarching student government for all schools in the Minnesota State system. Rayani also noted that he met with MNSU president Richard Davenport to discuss the long-term campus plan. He also mentioned an open forum designed to give an opportunity to both Republicans and Democrats to express their positions and answer questions in a civil atmosphere. MSSA has invited the College Republicans, College Democrats, faculty, students, and state legislators to participate.

Vice President Maria Ruiz mentioned a variety of issues in her report. She announced an upcoming retreat at Winona State University entitled the “Social Justice Retreat.” She brought up Student Advocacy Day, which took place last Thursday.

“The Mankato delegation along with Students United advocated for affordable higher education. We spent the day meeting with our state representatives and senators discussing appropriating money to the Minnesota State Universities to make college more affordable for all,” says Ruiz.

She noted that university vice president Rick Straka will be present at this Wednesday’s student senate meeting to give an update on what’s happening in the state legislature and to discuss tuition projections for the next two years. She also mentioned the Hubbard building, a building downtown purchased by MNSU. Ruiz noted that the interior design of the building has been altered in order to integrate its style with the rest of the MNSU buildings. She also noted that David Cowan will be present at this Wednesday’s student senate meeting to present on the Parking Committee’s seven-year parking budget forecast.

“It is imperative that senate has a clear understanding of the projected outlook for the next seven year’s budget planning forecast,” says Ruiz. “We want to make sure that everyone has an educated understanding of it, in order to vote accordingly on April 5 at the Budget deliberation.”

Senator Connor Martin announced that he and Senator Qendresa Isniqi have been working with Ashley Strom (Assistant Director for Non-Traditional Students, Registered Student Organizations, and Leadership) on organizing an “inclusivity event.” The event would be held in response to President Trump’s recent executive order suspending travel from seven countries that was the focus on much discussion at the Feb. 1 student senate meeting.

Much of last Wednesday’s meeting was dedicated to electing a new senator to represent off-campus housing students. Four candidates vied for the vacancy: D.J. Gries, Samuel Oluwadoromi, Wallace Pope, and Jeremy Loger.

The election began in controversy due to the fact that Jeremy Loger was not able to attend the meeting and requested to Skype into the meeting. Speaker de Ruiter called for a vote on whether or not to permit it and reluctantly allowed a five-minute discussion. Speaker Connor Martin took a strong stance against the idea, arguing that the senate should not make a rash decision. The senate voted 15-4 to permit Loger to Skype in. After the election, an even longer discussion was held on this issue.

After interrogation of the candidates, a discussion was held. It became clear that the senators were drawn to D.J. Gries and Wallace Pope. The senators were impressed by Gries’ leadership with his fraternity, his speaking confidence, and his experience working with budgets. Senator Lucier went so far as to say that he “shone as a star.” Senator Martin and Proxy Al-Shammari argued that Pope seemed very approachable. That sentiment appeared to have resonated with the senate, which elected Pope in the first round of voting.

Pope is a Social Studies Education major and is involved with the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. During interrogation, he emphasized the importance of raising awareness for campus events in order to keep off-campus students connected to campus. He also highlighted his experience streamlining his fraternity’s budget process.

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