Student Senate Report 3/2/2023

Illustration by: Maddie Bataille | Photo Editor

This week from the Student Senate: External Affairs Chairman Jose Montoya announced a slew of programs aimed at improving the condition of the off-campus renting in the areas surrounding the University of Rhode Island at a Wednesday Student Senate meeting. 

Senator Montoya plans to begin his campaign by holding voter registration drives on campus, the first of which will be held in two weeks time and announced shortly. All off-campus students are eligible to register to vote in the town they rent in, and Montoya believes that if enough students vote, they can form significant voting blocs in Narragansett, South Kingstown and North Kingstown. 

“We’re going to organize voter registration and voter information tables to vote because, within Narragansett’s population, the student population represents a swing vote in the elections,” Montoya said at a previous meeting. “If people start registering and we find out who on the Council are and aren’t pro-student, we can actually threaten the Town Council with them losing their seats.”

The voter drive comes in the wake of a decision by the Narragansett Pier Residents’ Association, a conglomerate of year-round homeowners and renters in Narragansett concerned by the influx of off-campus renters into the town, to re-introduce the now-overturned “three-student ordinance.” The ordinance, which was repealed by a Superior Court judge in 2022 after finding that the Narragansett Town Council violated multiple state and federal procedure regulations to expedite the law’s implementation, prohibited landlords from renting to more than three tenants. 

Montoya also announced that the External Affairs Committee seeks to create a legal defense fund with a lawyer on retainer for students who find themselves in housing-related issues. The committee also plans on disseminating information to off-campus students about renters’ rights and parking permit information for students who plan to move off-campus next year. 

The Student Senate stressed that club budgets are due by Monday night. If a club fails to propose a new budget, the current year’s budget will carry over to the next year. 

The Student Senate’s yearly “Pie a Senator” event will take place on March 29 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside the Memorial Union. For a small fee that funds activities on campus, students will have the opportunity to throw a pie at a student senator’s face. 

Elections for president and vice president of the Student Senate are live. Voting ends Thursday at midnight. The election is using the rank-choice voting system, an alternative to “winner takes all” voting that is gaining traction on both local and national levels. Rank choice voting allows voters to rank candidates by preference, rather than selecting one candidate. Election officials count the first-choice votes in a series of rounds, eliminating the last-place finisher of each round. When a voter’s first choice is eliminated, their second choice then becomes their first. Proponents of rank-choice voting argue that it provides the opportunity for voters to select candidates that they believe will best be suited for the job without risking voting for a candidate with no chance of winning. 

The Student Senate will next meet Wednesday, March 8.