This week in the Student Senate: new and former committee chairs and senators were sworn into Senate, WRIU Radio Station requested a $500,000 grant and a $300,000 loan to fix their radio tower and two bills were passed. 

The meeting began with President Grace Kiernan swearing in newly elected and re-elected Senators onto the Senate. After the short swearing-in ceremony, representatives from WRIU spoke about the damage to their tower and the plan to fix it, as well as the rest of their budget. 

Will Pipicelli, the president of WRIU, and Maureen McDermott, assistant director of student involvement, stood in front of the senators and spoke about why they need the money they requested. Pipicelli explained the way that the tower works and how it was damaged during Hurricane Enri in 2021.

Pipicelli gave background on WRIU itself and on the tower.

“[The tower is] 400 feet tall, it’s massive,” Pipicelli said. “We operate on 1950-watt stations. We’re a non-commercial radio station that our funding comes from the Student Senate. We also have our reserve account and we’ve been around on FM since 1950.”

WRIU has been a club on the URI campus since 1939, according to Pipicelli. They offer different varieties of music and talk shows hosted by URI students. WRIU has an FM station that is broadcast in Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts and a digital stream that can be found in their website. Pipicelli also mentioned that WRIU wants different types of students to come to the radio station and just have a conversation.

He talked about the urgency to take down and reconstruct the tower due to it being a safety hazard. According to him, WRIU has a Student Senate account and reserve account, which they raise the money for every year through their annual fundraiser, Radio Fund.

Prior to the tower being dropped and damaged, Pipicelli said that WRIU purchased and installed an antenna with funds in their reserve account. They plan on using that antenna to broadcast for the time being.

“That temporary antenna is currently on top of Memorial Union,” Pipicelli said. “The plan is to broadcast from there while the tower is being reconstructed.”

Finance Director Chris Hoover talked about the money requested for WRIU and how the payments would work.

“So, WRIU is requesting a $500,000 dollar grant and a $300,000 loan, which the loan part of that will be repaid over 15 years in the amount of $20,000 dollars per year and the grant would obviously go straight to them,” Hoover said. “That money is just to be used to replace the damaged tower.”

The senators went back and forth with Pipicelli and McDermott about why it took so long to come to the Senate about this and why they asked for this amount of money exactly.

After Pipicelli and McDermott left, Speaker Bove moved to the reports of the standing committees. Hoover expressed his discontent with the senior leadership and student leadership involvement office for just announcing the $800,000 request that same day in the Senate. 

The Senate then moved into special orders. Chair James Scotti nominated David Rudolph for off-campus representative. He received 20 votes and was elected as the off-campus representative. 

The nominations for the Elections Committee were Senator Lauren Peckham, Senator Jose Montoya, Speaker Bove, Vice President Emily Gamache, Chair Angelica Tyson. Chair Scotti, Chair Grace Summerson, President Kiernan and Director Hoover.

A resolution and a bill were brought to the floor and both were passed. The resolution called for improvements to the University’s Shuttle Service. The bill allocated $20,000 for maintenance projects for URI’s Northwoods Challenge Course.

The senators had a brief general discussion and the meeting was adjourned. The next Senate meeting will be held on April 27.