Student Senate Report 3/22/2023

Illustration by: Maddie Bataille | Photo Editor

This week from the Student Senate: President-elect Ramez Rizk and Vice President-elect Jonah Steinweh-Adler spoke to the University of Rhode Island Student Senate General Assembly, Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator Carol Larsen and Keith Labelle addressed changes in federal Title IX regulations and the Senate began to discuss the 2023-2024 budget at the Wednesday Student Senate meeting.

  Rizk and Steinweh-Adler made their debut on the Student Senate floor, expressing their gratitude to the student body for their election victory and their eagerness to address the issues that they promised to tackle while campaigning. Having won the election against current Vice President Emily Gamache and Director of Treasury Chris Hoover, the Senate body reacted wearily to the change in administration – with Chairs Montoya, Summerson and Johnson urging President-elect Rizk to select students with previous Senate experience for cabinet positions. 

  Title IX Coordinator Carol Larsen spoke to the Senate about the University’s current policies regarding Title IX investigation and enforcement, stressing that the current regulations will soon be overturned. Implemented by former Trump administration’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the current regulations place a strong emphasis on due process in regard to investigations that were not present in former regulation rollouts. Larsen explained that the Biden administration regulations, which will be finalized in May and implemented in August, are far less rigid and allow each university to tailor policies to their individual needs. 

  Deputy Title IX Coordinator Keith Labelle detailed the success of the University’s URI-Stander program, a federally funded bystander intervention program that educates students on how to handle and report sexual assaults on campus and at campus-affiliated events. URI-Stander has expanded to reach all varsity and club sports teams, and many Greek life chapters, clubs and classes. Labelle stressed that any individual or organization can access free bystander intervention training through the Title IX office. 

  The Student Senate also began the debate to approve the 2023-2024 academic year budget. Over 50 clubs did not submit budgets and thus are ineligible to receive funding in the new budget. Contentions arose surrounding changes in stipends for Student Senate leadership positions. Current Senate President Grace Kiernan voiced concerns surrounding gender-based inconsistencies in wage increases and decreases in the new proposed budget. 

“From my perspective, it looks like all the male-held positions have stipends that either stayed the same or increased while all the female-held positions decreased,” Kiernan said. “I think that is a really big issue that needs to be internally addressed.”

  Director Hoover retorted, claiming that gender played no role in the determination of wages.

“I will come out and say that it is not a matter of me and Nick looking at women and going ‘oh, you don’t get a raise,’” Hoover said. “That’s not at all how this is done and if you would like to debate me on that, I will gladly do that until my grave.”

The Student Senate will next meet Wednesday, March 29. The Student Senate will debate the budget and move toward finalizing funding for organizations and ratifying next year’s budget.