Student Senate Report 2/15/2023

Illustration by: Maddie Bataille | Photo Editor

This week from the Student Senate: members of the University of Rhode Island Student Senate butted heads with Michael Rice, president of the Faculty Senate over the Student Senate’s controversial attendance policy bill at the Wednesday Student Senate meeting. 

The bill, which was drafted by the Student Senate and will be proposed to the Faculty Senate for consideration next week, will stipulate that professors allow a minimum of five unexcused absences without a grade penalty in classes that meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 

  Tempers flared on both sides, with Rice visibly laughing at senators and suggesting that they “read the book,” referring to the University’s manual, which states that “course attendance policies are to be determined by the faculty member(s) responsible for teaching a course.”

“I suggest you read chapter eight because this is the best and brightest on this sort of thing in terms of political science things around the University, and I’m sure you could figure that out, but I point you to where today,” Rice said.

  While members of the Faculty Senate argued that the bill can’t be passed because the autonomy of professors’ attendance policies is protected in the University Manual, many Student Senators were quick to argue that the Faculty Senate’s disposition against the bill is solely based on their refusal to listen to student voices in their decision-making process. 

Originally drafted in October, the Faculty Senate initially denied the motion – arguing that the Student Senate does not have the authority to regulate the actions of faculty or the Faculty Senate, Chair Lauren Peckham said.

 “The Faculty Senate does not like when we tell them what to do,” Peckham said. “They say that we can’t tell them how to run their classroom or how to form their classroom policies, but we’re really just trying to make it more equitable and more reasonable for students. President Rice came here and said to ‘look at the book and go from there’ instead of actually giving us any advice on what to do.”

  Members of the Student Senate will attend the Faculty Senate’s next meeting, where they plan to propose the motion for a vote in the faculty body. The meeting will be held on Feb. 23 at 3 p.m. in the Higgins Welcome Center.

Student Senators also voiced concerns about the timing of Faculty Senate meetings, arguing that students are often unable to attend the meetings due to class schedules. 

“In my experience, and from a consensus of a lot of other students, especially students on the Senate, that’s typically a very popular class time,” Peckham said. “It makes it very difficult for students to be able to attend faculty senate meetings, which makes it difficult for us to communicate students’ needs with the Faculty Senate, and that leads to a kind of confusion that has been perpetually going on for the past two semesters.”

When asked if the meeting could be rescheduled to allow students to attend, President Rice said the measure would have “an ice cube’s chance in hell.”

  External Affairs Chairman Jose Montoya announced that his department will lead a voter registration drive ahead of next year’s Narragansett Town Council elections in response to the council’s decision to re-propose the town’s now-overturned “three-student ordinance” that prohibited landlords from leasing to over three students in off-campus houses. 

The ordinance was struck down by State Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter in October after the court found that the council illegally circumvented the state’s mandate that such laws be approved by the planning board before implementation.

Senator Small voiced his concerns regarding asbestos in the Fine Arts Center, claiming that there are areas of exposed asbestos in places where students and technical teams work near the building’s main stage. The section of the building allegedly containing the asbestos will not be renovated as part of the University’s ongoing $57 million renovation of the building.

The Student Senate will meet again on Wednesday, Feb. 22 with a visit from Director of Dining Services Pierre St-Germain.