Student Senate deliberates hall swipe policy and more

By Danielle LeBlanc
On April 15, 2014

Comments were flying and heated debates were carried out during the Student Senate meeting this past Sunday, as the Senate worked to resolve the many topics on their agenda.

According to Student Body President Bryan Merrill, there were four major outcomes by the end of the long meeting. These outcomes were in regards to the bylaws of the student government, the new residence hall swipe policy, the SEAC Tar Sands resolution and brainstormed formation of a Young Alumni Association.

"This year, the housing department implemented a more restrictive swipe policy in which people that lived on campus could only swipe into their dorms and nowhere else," Merrill said.

The previous policy was that students could swipe into any dorm during a certain time frame. According to Merrill, the policy was put into place by housing to make campus safer and reduce vandalism.

There was a lot of debate during the meeting in regards to the new the effect of the current swipe policy. "Based on the conversation during the meeting," Merrill said, "the metrics thus far did seem to indicate a significant reduction in crime following its implementation."

While many seemed to agree that the number of damage reports and alcohol-related incidents in residential halls across campus have shown a significant decline, inefficiencies of the new policy were brought up.

There was also concern that the new policy has affected the quality of life for students, such as taking away from the open and welcoming community feel of UNH and inconveniencing students. Another factor that played a role in the debate was the fact that, in general, the student body did not approve of the change. 

Others felt that the new policy is ineffective for preventing incidents in resident halls; the point being that students open doors for those who enter behind them anyway. The debate and comments continued until finally a resolution was decided.

"We voted to spend the next year researching and reconsidering the swipe change that came into effect, seeking less restrictive but equally safe alternatives," Merrill said.

According to Merrill, the resolution was calling for the Senate to work with Housing and UNH PD to evaluate its effectiveness throughout the next year. The Senate will then request a potential change in the policy after more information has been gathered.

During the meeting, the Student Senate also heatedly discussed the SEAC Tar Sands resolution. According to Merrill, the Tar Sands pipeline is a project slated to pass from Canada to the East Coast through various New England states including New Hampshire.

"This resolution was introduced by members of SEAC, and expresses opposition to the Tar Sands pipeline," Merrill said.

SEAC's argument was that sustainability is a core value of the university. However, others believed the issue was "too politically contentious" to have senate input on.

"Others expressed want for economic information to get a clearer picture of the Tar Sands impacts on New Hampshire," Merrill said. "They felt SEAC's environmental impact focus was one-sided and insufficiently captured the entire debate."

According to Merrill, after an intense debate the outcome was a delayed vote on the SEAC Tar Sands resolution. There will be a two-week delay in the vote so senators can talk to their constituents and research to make a more informed decision.

Student senators also discussed how to get more relative perspectives and strategies for engaging students and young alumni for both philanthropy and providing helpful input on today's job market.

Merrill said they envisioned the group to be individuals under 30.

"This group would have a more relevant generational perspective on everything from modern college student life to the modern job market," Merrill claimed. "This would also include creating better tailored programming for the 'new era' of college students."

The last major topic at the student senate meeting was in regards to the bylaws. According to Merrill "the outcome was that a massive overhaul of the bylaws that ensure that student government structures (Senate, SAFC) run more efficiently, spend money more wisely and are more accountable, fair and transparent to the students."


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