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GSS seeks to increase political involvement on campus

Last Tuesday, the University of Maine’s General Student Senate (GSS)  met for their weekly meeting in the Bangor Room in the Memorial Union. At this meeting, several speakers underlined unique ways that UMaine undergrad and graduate students could get involved with campus politics in a fundamental way.

Katherine Ashley and Benjamin Doherty, representatives from the Graduate Student Government (GSG), spoke about state legislature LD 1656. Passed in June, LD 1656 SP 661 is “An act to allow student representation within the governance of the University of Maine system.”  

In summary, the act allows one undergraduate student and one graduate student from the University of Maine System to hold a voting seat on the Board of Trustees, an organization responsible for managing and governing our university system’s assets. 

Historically, the seat of trustee was always appointed by the governor themselves; however, with this new act, the student body will elect those who fill the two seats.

“Two out of sixteen is never going to be the majority. It’s important to note that non-student trustees who vote against student trustees are going to get bad press,” said Ashley. 

This highlights one of the crucial criticisms of 1656: that such a small amount of representation will surely be outvoted, and students’ opinions will continue to be unheard.

The positions begin on July 1, 2024. Those elected will serve a two-year term, and only first and second-year students are recommended to run for the position if they wish to serve the entire term. Additionally, as it currently stands, the undergraduate and graduate trustees cannot be from the same campus in the University of Maine System, giving branch schools more of an advantage to students from smaller campuses who will apply for the position not through elections but through applications. 

Regardless, this gives UMaine students an exclusive opportunity to sit in a major governing position and make important executive decisions. For more questions about LD 1656, there will be a town hall meeting on Sept. 27 at 5 p.m. in Stodder Hall.

In other news, the liaison to President Joan Ferrini-Mundi acknowledged a new plan to invest several million dollars to restore older buildings on the Orono campus. 

While enrollment rates fall, the creation of new centers for student activity could be a change that creates a more attractive campus experience in Orono.

There has also been a creation of a Student Entertainment Committee spearheaded by student senator Myles Moore. Moore is looking for any students to join and give feedback on upcoming events (concerts, volunteer opportunities and other community events). For more information, Sen. Moore can be contacted at myles.moore@maine.edu

Finally, the mind spa is getting a makeover. It is located in the basement of the Memorial Union and is growing to accommodate more areas for relaxation. They plan to retain everything they currently offer, with the addition of massage chairs.

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