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The General Student Senate discusses COVID-19 updates and Family and Friends Weekend

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, the General Student Senate held their 1,478th meeting as they began to discuss planning for important on-campus events and COVID-19 updates. 

“Good evening everybody, I hope that your fourth week is going well so far,” said GSS President Zachary Wyles. “We’ve got some higher-end details to take care of and that’s all that I’ll say for now.”

These higher-end details Wyles mentions were not disclosed to the public during the meeting, but an important topic of discussion was the message from the Student Government Advisor Laurie Sidelko, concerning the announcement of COVID-19 updates. 

“A message is either going out today or tomorrow for anyone who is not in compliance with vaccines,” said Sidelko. 

According to Sidelko, you have to be one of three things on campus right now: fully vaccinated, with an uploaded vaccine card;exempt, either medically or with a religious exemption, while still continuing to receive testing weekly or you have to be able to provide proof that you are completely remote and will not be coming to campus at all. 

“On Oct. 1, if you are not one of those three things, you’re gonna have a hold put on your account and that hold is going to keep you from registering. On Oct. 15, if you’re not one of those three things, then you will be disenrolled from classes and you will not receive a refund in order to become a student again,” said Sidelko. 

The council also discussed how this would impact the Family and Friends Weekend on campus.

“Right now we have 3,200 people registered to come,” said Sidelko. The Family and Friends Weekend is a yearly tradition that the university has in which they hold events throughout the entire weekend and bring hundreds of families on campus. The event begins Friday, Sept. 24, and lasts until Sunday. 

There were some concerns raised by the Senate over the vaccination requirements for this weekend. 

“This weekend with Friends and Family Weekend, is there any sort of verification or checking on vaccine status of the 3,200 people that are coming to campus,” asked Frank Kelly, the GSS vice president of financial affairs. 

Sidelko confirmed that there is currently no form of vaccine verification in place for the events this weekend, but masks are required for all attendees. 

The council’s standing committees are in the process of kicking off their semester plans. Senator Camryn Hammill gave updates on her progress as chair of the Political Activism Committee. 

“Last week I round-tabled with the president of the New Maine Democrats and we set our agenda for this semester, next semester and the year as a whole. This semester we will be working on a ‘Know your Rights’ student voting rights handout,” said Hammil. 

Voter registration day is next Tuesday, Sept. 28, and students must re-register if they have changed their address since the previous election.
“You can only pre-register to vote 15 days before election day,” said Sidelko. 

There were also updates from special committees. Representative Sam Ransley, the chair of the Student Mental Health Committee, gave updates on their recent tasks. One of those plans includes promoting the app Silver Cloud, which is an anonymous, interactive platform meant to help people manage feelings of depression or stress.

 “It could be really helpful to students on campus,” said Ransley. 

Ransley also noted that the committee plans to promote the “warm line,” which he says is a hotline number available for non-crisis communication. 

There were three clubs seeking funding from the council as well during Tuesday’s meeting. 

The Interfraternity Council requested $1,720 in funds for their annual budget. The Interfraternity Council is the governing body of fraternities on campus and is seeking funding for advertising, supplies and money toward Greek Week. Greek Week is a week-long celebration for the fraternities and sororities existing on campus. Their funding was approved after a period of debate. 

Senator Tessa Shanteler spoke on behalf of The Caribbean and Latinx Student Alliance (CALSA), which received $2,520 in funds. They requested funding for La Fiesta. This event is part of the Hispanic Heritage Month, which lasts from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. “La Fiesta is going to happen this Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the MLK plaza,” said Shanteler. 

A representative from Alpha Phi was also present. Kaley Kyle, president of Alpha Phi, stated that the club is seeking $1,250 for their first philanthropy event. Saturday, Sept. 25, Alpha Phi is hosting the Move Your Phi’t 5k run and they are seeking funds for facilities. 

“We will be using the chapter’s funding to cover the cost of the timing company, snacks and water, but we are requesting funds for facilities including barricades to the roads, signs around campus instructing participants where to go, trash cans and tables and to cover the cost of student tickets,” said Kyle. They are preparing for a maximum number of 150 students running. 

After approving the funding for each club, the General Student Senate dismissed the public members attending the meeting as they moved on to their private executive session. 

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