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Student senate votes to oppose N.H. HB 1264

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, March 5, 2012

Updated: Monday, March 5, 2012 23:03

Social justice came to the forefront in McConnell 314 this past Sunday evening, as the resolution that was tabled at the Feb. 26 meeting in regard to N.H. House Bill 1264 was passed with one nay.

The resolution, put forth by first-year student senator Bryan Merrill, called for the N.H. House of Representatives to vote against the bill that would provide a religious exemption to businesses that provide marriage-related services. This exemption would allow them to refuse services to people due to a number of different factors, with many seeing this as a plot to discriminate against the LGTBQ community.

The debate was heated, and took nearly an hour and a half before senate ultimately voted on the matter. One of the main opponents to the resolution was A.J. Coukos, UNH student body president. Coukos felt that this was an issue that was more pertinent for special interest groups on campus and that student senate should not be discussing such a divisive issue.

"In terms of our student body, it is not strictly pertinent nor is it necessary for us to address this issue," Coukos said.

With a large presence from the LGTBQ community on campus in attendance, there was plenty of support for this resolution to go through. Many attendees addressed various reasons why this resolution affected all of the UNH campus, a chief concern of the resolution's opponents. The author of the resolution, Merrill, stated he felt it was a bit of a disappointment to have the resolution tabled like it was last week, and explained that he felt that this issue was a rather simple one to vote on.

"To be honest, this is a matter of depriving people their basic civil rights," Merrill said to senate.

It looked for a moment as if the resolution would be stifled again, as student trustee Kurt Eddins motioned for the resolution to be suspended indefinitely. The motion, which needed a second in order to be put up to vote, was supported by Coukos but ultimately failed due to a minimal amount of support from the rest of senate. Eddins' chief reason for calling to suspend the resolution was due to his belief that this was not an issue that student senate should be getting involved with.

"I believe student senate should be working on issues that affect how the University of New Hampshire operates," Eddins said.

Commuter senator Rob Wilson pointed out that it was common practice back in the 1960s and 1970s for student senate to address the State Legislature. The mission statement of student senate was even brought in as a reference point, and it was pointed out that it is the mission of senate to address matters of concern to state officials.

Other outcomes from Sunday's meeting were a vote to digitize all student senate records in an effort to go green; a vote to fund UNH-themed street banners that would also be funded by the UNH Alumni Association; and finally some errors were corrected in a resolution that was voted on last week. All of these resolutions were passed unanimously with little to no debate.

For those interested in attending a student senate meeting, all meetings take place in McConnell 314 at 6 p.m. on Sundays. Due to spring break, there will be not be another meeting until March 25.

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Evan Girard
Tue Mar 6 2012 10:00
There are instances where Eddins has utilized his legitimized position on the Board of Trustees to work in the best interest of our campus community on a number of the decisions in Concord that have direct implications on UNH. I absolutely applaud him for doing so. This goes to show that we do have the capability of participating and having our voices heard. If we are to isolate ourselves to making decisions that merely have implications for our campus, we are absolutely without a doubt shortchanging ourselves.

This the exact reason why student senate should put forth resolutions that are aimed toward Concord, letting them know of the UNH students' point-of-view on a major issue. Let's not for a second downplay this issue and our opportunity to influence decisions that are made in our state government that have DIRECT implications for our university community.

Understandably, we are at a point in time when the student senate cannot be voting on issues and decisions of lesser significance, which is just the reason that they should be SWIFTLY voting on this issue. This is not to downplay or lose focus on the other imperative decisions that senate makes and the required time and energy necessary to make the best decision possible.

What drives somebody to be compelled to suspend the resolution indefinitely? Maybe because of the significant time and energy spent on this issue on Feb. 26. There must have been frustration expressed by those in opposition to merely voting on this resolution over the lack of focus on UNH that tabling of the resolution created in the senate meeting.

We have a core group of dedicated students driving our senate ship that will not self-destruct over what some may call divisive issues. These students understand the implications of their decisions and the extent to which their decisions made effect both the community at-large and the UNH community.

Despite the character and efforts of many of the exceptional individuals that have participated in senate, what is certainly evident is that there is a culture that has been created within student senate that lacks proactivity and progression in BOTH smooth times and rough times.

Let's get real. Student senate just voted to digitize all student senate records in an effort to go green.

Shouldn't this have happened over a decade ago?!

To all who represent the UNH community on student senate:

If you do not act in the best interest of those you represent, knowing their is a majority held position that went against your own special interests, then you are failing in your duty to represent your student body over yourself.

How do you know if there is a widely held point-of-view within the student body? You don't. Why? Because you all have not established a system of understanding and interpreting the interests and positions of the students that is most effective and efficient with the given time and resources that you have.

I'm challenging you to come up with a system that enables swift action by UNH student senate on issues being confronted in Concord and across the state of NH and intends to express UNH student body support/opposition for an issue such as that in HB1264 because, as we know, there decisions most certainly have implications for this university community.

Be a leader. "Model the Way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart," as Kouzes and Posner wrote in Leadership Challenge. It is never too late to find it in you.

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