The Senate passed one bill and deliberated on several plans and ideas in their first meeting of the semester.
The Senate unanimously passed a new bill to allocate $5,000 of Senate Reserve Funding to a pilot program that would give every URI student free transit on RIPTA. The bill wasn’t expected to be voted on until next week, but Senator Christopher Bove, who introduced the bill, motioned to vote on the issue immediately.
The allotment of reserve funds will only cover half of the expected cost for the program. The remaining cost will be covered by the Division of Student Affairs.
While the free RIPTA transit is considered a pilot program, the bill is designed to supplement the arrangement that the University had with the State of Rhode Island. This arrangement covered the cost of public transportation for students before the state removed the budgeting during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate and Student Affairs hope to restore the previous arrangement in the near future, but a formal budget request cannot be made until October.
“This is essentially a band-aid until that request can be made,” Bove said. “As it stands, it’s currently a one-time investment.”
Concerns were raised about compensating the students who bought bus passes before the bill was passed. These are being addressed by RIPTA’s plan to migrate their platform to be completely digital, and they will credit any returned physical bus passes to the owner’s account.
During the meeting’s public forum, the Senate discussed how this bill could contribute to lessening the University’s ongoing shortage of parking and increased travel times during class hours. Multiple senators complained that their commutes could take upwards of 45 minutes.
“I think that this [bill] will be very beneficial and won’t have a huge financial impact on us,” said Director of Treasury Chris Hoover.
Campus Affairs Committee Chair Emily Gamache reported that she would be working on two prominent issues the Senate began to address last year. First, a Blue Light Walk is being organized to ensure that all of the emergency blue light phones on campus are functioning properly. Gamache also announced that the Campus Affairs Committee will be requesting funding from the Faculty Senate to provide feminine hygiene products for free in the women’s bathrooms of the Memorial Union.
Bove, who was previously chair of the Instruments Committee, was named interim moderator of the Senate after being nominated by Senator Anabelle Gibson. An official vote is expected to be conducted next week to name the new moderator.
Gibson and External Affairs Chair Grace Kiernan were both nominated to sit on the Student Election Committee, which must have at least five members before elections can take place.
Kiernan is currently working with several organizations to challenge the Narragansett town ordinance limiting housing options to three students per property.
President Bolu Taiwo announced that she is currently working towards creating more transparency in the University’s budget.
“I know that this is a hot topic as to where your money as students goes,” Taiwo said.
She assured the Senate that she was taking the issue of transparency seriously.
The Senate is meeting in person again in Memorial Union Senate Chambers after meeting virtually during the pandemic on Wednesday, Sept. 22.