By Henry Fisher | March 13, 2023
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
The University at Albany’s Student Association’s (SA) Senate moved to debate on several bills, with notable debates concerning required community service hours for senators and an appropriations bill for Phi Alpha Delta during their session Wednesday, March 8.
The community service bill, sponsored by Senator Michael Regateiro and co-sponsored by Senator Sean Millington, would require senators to “serve at least ten hours of community service per semester.” It also increased the number of executive sponsored or hosted events that senators must attend from three to four. Not following these guidelines would result in an impeachment hearing for the senator.
While the message of the bill was supported, the execution of it was criticized.
“I think it would be better if this bill was scoped less as a requirement and more as something for RSSW,” Senator Dylan Klein said, referencing the available volunteer course credit for SA through the Registered Social Service Worker (RSSW) program – one that can turn community service hours into academic credit.
“Anything that makes us more accountable to our community is a good thing,” Senator James Cooper said.
Senator Erin McGrath referenced the previously mandated attendance of senators to three executive events. The requirements had not been strictly mandated and were hard to regulate, according to Senator McGrath.
“[Mandates] don’t work unless there are consequences other than impeachment,” Senator McGrath said. “...if the goal is to get us to get more involved in community service, a blanket community service requirement is not enough.”
After Senator Selwa Khan, one of the bill’s primary supporters, left the room in frustration, the bill was tabled for future discussion.
Earlier, a sponsorship request from Phi Alpha Delta received criticism from senators concerned with the openness of the event. Their request was for $1,950 total – $350 for the venue, and $1,600 for catering for 40. The event is for current members and UAlbany students to meet Phi Alpha Delta alumni.
Senator McGrath brought up the issues that would arise from using student activity fee funds for those that don’t pay the student activity fee – the alumni at Phi Alpha Delta’s event.
“This bill, this request, could probably be a lot cheaper,” Senator McGrath said.
She moved to lower the quantity for catering from 40 to 30, removing the 8-10 alumni that would be attending. The move did not pass a vote.
Senator Khan suggested ticketing the event, as other Greek Life Organizations have done for past events. She also recommended that Phi Alpha Delta work with the Appropriations Committee and refine the bill – especially as the event is scheduled for May 6.
“I want to see you guys get your money and get your event, but we have to do it in a way that's beneficial to students,” Khan said.
Senator Archer was in support of giving Phi Alpha Delta their funding, saying “We always say the point is to give money to student orgs…we’re not here because of our beliefs and ideals, we are just here to support the student body.”
The bill was tabled, to be addressed at another session.
“We’re looking forward to having this event and having students from Albany. We’re looking forward to coming back,” a representative of Phi Alpha Delta said.
There was a public comment from the Muslim Student Association’s chaplain, Mansoor Umar, regarding low funding for interfaith groups on campus.
“MSA’s budget was reduced to levels before 2019,” Umar said.
MSA’s budget is especially important, according to Umar, due to how they help UAlbany’s nearly 300 muslim students during Ramadan – which begins March 22. Without much support, MSA supplies students with meals during this time of daytime fasting.
Senator Khan offered her support to MSA, saying, “There is a month where you feed me, and no one else does.”
Concerning the lowered budget of MSA, Senator Jalen Rose, a member of the Board of Finance that approves budgets, said “It’s not arbitrary. We look at what they have requested and look at what has been allocated before… we try to remain neutral and stick to the numbers.”
Later, regarding the potential of university funding for Ramadan, President Enid Walker said, “Last semester this conversation came up, and I met with the Vice President of Student Affairs, Michael Christakis, and he had given the opinion… that the university cannot fund religious members because they’re a public university with public money. There’s that separation between church and state, obviously.”
“In terms of funding for dining… I met with UAS [University Auxiliary Services] over the summer, and they pretty much just thought that any additional dining during Ramadan would be provided through MSA or through collaboration with MSA,” President Walker said, “I personally think that was lazy of them.”
Other events this session included the nomination of Ethan Madappatt as Senate Secretary, the approval of the Director of Student Association’s Student Legal Services Joseph Zumbo’s attendance of the 2023 Student Lawyers Conference, committee reassignments, and changes to the position of parliamentarian.
Clubs that received funding this week were Generation Vote ($258.43), the Stilettos Dance Team ($351), the Puerto Rican Student Association ($400), the Albany Student Press ($200), the Student Anime Organization ($400), and the Pre-PT Club ($400). Most passed due to a suspension of bylaws requiring student representatives of the clubs to be present. This motion was necessary, as many of the stated clubs did not have representatives present.