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SA Senate Debates University Director of Health Promotion on STD Test Kits

By Shawn Ness | March 11, 2024

Kelly Gorman taking questions from various Senators.

Photo Credit: Shawn Ness / The ASP

Kelly Gorman, the Director of Health Promotion, spoke at the last University at Albany Student Association (SA) meeting after rumors were circulated that UAlbany blamed SA for an increase in STD and STI cases among the student population. Five new Senators got committee assignments with two more on the way, and one of the newcomers is advocating for mail reform. 

Since last semester, SA has been offering free at-home and self-administered STD and STI test kits for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. Gorman claimed that there have been a number of student complaints made to various student health services on campus that students had been harmed by the tests in various ways, mainly through students using the tests incorrectly.

Gorman’s office asked the SA Office of Disability and Health, led by Erica Strand, to stop offering the tests to the student body. 

“We learned that there were a handful of students that were experiencing harm, a handful of students that were not sure what they were signing up for, and really displeased after things happened that they couldn't control,” Gorman said on the senate floor. “And so we saw a clinical increase and a clinical need for intervention.”

Gorman claimed that students had been using the tests in a manner that made them attempt to draw their own blood, which was not required – nor instructed – on any of the tests, and that the tests were yielding false negatives. Gorman said that the predominant reason for asking SA to stop offering the tests was because there was no way to enforce “best practice” uses, which simply means that services are being administered in the safest and intended way, by licensed medical professionals. 

Rules and Administration Chair Dylan Klein pressed Gorman on this and repeatedly asked why the misuse of test kits was being blamed on SA. Gorman said that she is not blaming SA, and that she, in fact, never said the SA program caused harm.

“You gave out something and that something caused harm. I'm so grateful for my partnership with Erica [Strand]. We've had a lot of great conversations and we're working hand in hand on solutions together,” Gorman replied to Klein. “So, again, the Student Association is not harmful. Y’all have something available and it began to cause harm. As an institution when we began to learn that harm was being caused, we asked for a little bit of a pause.”  

Senator Nic Feldman asked Gorman what is being done about the increase of violence on campus, and what her office will do to address that violence and its effect on the mental health of students. Gorman explained what needs to be done is to change the factors that cause students to struggle with their mental health. 

Many of the Senators expressed frustration with Gorman’s answers, believing her answers to be evasive. Nayeka Edmond, the Director of Gender and Sexuality Concerns called her hypocritical.

“I just kind of find it weird that students said that this wasn’t helpful to them, but you haven’t been doing the work. You’ve just started for two years. And you’re asking for us to give you slack. But we’re doing your job and you’re not giving us slack,” Edmond said. “You’re kind of saying ‘well, students don’t like it.’ And you know, if you came up to us and said that you didn’t like something, wouldn’t you want us to stop it? Which is true, but you’re not really giving us examples.”

Gorman thanked her for her frankness and said she was troubled by the palpable tension in the room. “It’s sounding like I may have caused harm. And maybe my office caused harm. And I can be the first one to say I apologize for the harm and cost. I want to understand the impact of that harm. I would be so grateful for folks to reach out to me and continue giving me feedback like you just did. I don’t have a response to that. Just saying thank you.”

Elections Commission

Nearly a month after the elections were held, the final results are in of the spring special election, with the only new revelation being two new Senators for Freedom Apartments: Megan Mathelier and Enid Walker (the president of SA prior to President Jalen Rose) won their bids with four votes each out of 11. 

The margins for the other seats, which were announced during last week’s meeting, Humanities Senator Jason Aguayza-Palaguachi won his seat with 183 out of 201 votes, Feldman swept in the Liberty Terrace race with all 31 votes, and Senator At-Large Marcos Perez won his seat with 37 out of 341 votes. The seat for International Senator is still vacant after the departure of Senator Andrew Ong Garcia.

There are 18 people who have submitted the necessary paperwork to run in the spring general election. A date has also been set for a presidential forum – which will function essentially as a presidential debate – for March 27 in the Campus Center Ballroom. 

Legislative Agenda

Gabrielle Holness will be the next Deputy Comptroller after her appointment was passed with 23 “yes” votes and zero “no” votes, Senator Shania Blair will be the next Comptroller after the current appointment has passed with only one less “yes” vote and zero “no” votes. Newly-elected Senator Zainab Gondal will be appointed to the Board of Finance for the remainder of the academic year, the appointment was unanimously confirmed. 

The new Senators have also received their committee assignments: Feldman will join the Rules and Administration Committee, Aguayza-Palaguachi will join the Subcommittee on the Oversight of Governmental Operations, Audrey Asiedu-Wiafe will join the Appropriations Committee, Feldman and Perez will join the Ethics Committee, and Gondal will join the committee on Community Engagement and Outreach. 

With a vote of 23 “yes” votes, zero “no” votes, and two abstentions, SA passed a resolution proposed by Feldman and Senator Emma Rennard, that formally supported the Mail Services’ idea to open parcel lockers for students to ensure a more accessible timeline for students to pick up their mail. Previously, mail pickups were between the hours of 7:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m., making it difficult for students that have full-time jobs or internships to pick up their mail.

The lockers will be open by March 18 at the latest. 


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