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The General Student Senate hosts guest speaker professor Harlan Onsrud

On Tuesday, March 22, the University of Maine General Student Senate (GSS) resumed their weekly meetings in Neville 100 following the spring break and invited guest speaker professor Harlan Onsrud. 


Onsrud served as the director of the School of Computing and Information Science at UMaine, where he works as a professor of spatial computing. He formerly served as the faculty representative to the board of trustees at UMaine. He now serves as the co-chair of the 

Environment Committee on the Faculty Senate.    


Onsrud came to the senate to address an initiative he is involved in surrounding climate issues and how the university is not making a commitment to prioritize the climate challenge. 


According to Onsrud, a motion came before the board to include a $130 million investment in the energy infrastructure for the campus. 


“I mentioned at the time that the campus has had a publicly reported and annually updated commitment since 2007 to achieve net zero commitment by 2040,” Onsrud said. “I also pointed out that the campus had fallen way behind in progress in meeting that commitment.” 


When he asked if the investment would move the university toward that goal of reducing carbon emissions and not away from it, Onsrud was met with silence from the board. Since that silence, he has become engaged with the Faculty Senate on the urgency of the climate challenge and how the university can get back on track. 


He worked with the administration to draft a white paper and a survey that has already been widely distributed to faculty, but not yet to students. 


The document reads: “This white paper is meant to help members of the campus community better understand the challenges the university faces in addressing issues arising from the global climate crisis.” The current updated version of the white paper is publicly available on the UMaine Faculty Senate website under the Environment Committee documents section. 


“I am very pleased to report that the administration has come around in prioritizing climate issues to a much higher degree,” Onsurd said. 


Onsrud asked the GSS if they want to become partners in this climate change effort as they hope to involve the student body. 


GSS is the first student group that the Environment Committee has reached out to and are hoping that it can be the next initiative in spreading the white paper around to the student body. 


GSS also spoke with multiple student groups during the meeting. Climbing Club and Wildlife Society both returned to receive final recognition of their clubs, and Wilde Stein was present to seek funding for their upcoming drag show. 


Wilde Stein is a Queer-Straight Alliance group on campus that aims to spread awareness and acceptance of sexuality, gender and the LGBTQ community across campus. 


They are asking for $8,615 to cover the cost of the location rental, security, insurance and other necessities to put on their show. 


“This event has not happened in the past two years, so I think it would be really cool to bring it back and it sounds like the club is doing a lot of work to make it successful,” Senator Delorge said. 


President of UMSG Zachary Wyles also spoke about this event. 


“When I first heard about this event my first year on campus I had just missed it … then for the past two years I wasn’t able to go because it wasn’t able to be put on, so I’m super excited about this,” Wyles said. 


The senate approved the funding request. According to Kristina Belaya, who is the recently appointed president of the club, the event is scheduled for April 2 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Hutchins Concert Hall at the Collins Center for the Arts. 


Advisor to the Student Senate Lauri Sidelko also spoke to the senate and highlighted some issues that occurred during spring break. According to Sidelko, there were reports of vandalism, theft and property damage at multiple fraternity houses along College Avenue during spring break. 


“This doesn’t represent who we are as a community,” Sidelko said. “If that is something that you have information about there is Campus Eyes which is a website you can anonymously report on.”


According to Sidelko, there is an active investigation being conducted by the police and they are asking anybody who knows anything about the incidents to report them.


The senate moved into executive session in which all non-members were asked to leave so the senate could discuss private matters. 


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