ORONO – On Tuesday, Sept. 15, the University of Maine’s General Student Senate met for the start of the 2021 fall semester after a year of being fully remote.
GSS is one of the many clubs that was forced to resort to zoom meetings throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are excited to be back in the Memorial Union this semester.
“Remote learning took so much away from what makes Student Government important, and that’s interacting with the student body,” said GSS President Zachary Wyles.
The 1477th meeting of the General Student Senate opened with the appointment of six new senators: Matthew Fishbein, Paige Allen, Sydney Lorom, Patrick Neusch, Meredith Mitchell and Tessa Solomon.
Many of these Senators received chair positions as well. Fourth-year student Senator Matt Fishbein was elected as representative to the University of Maine ROTC.
“Serving as the representative for the ROTC would be a major honor, I have considered the army and the ROTC program as a great step for Americans serving our country,” said Fishbein.
Senator Tessa Solomon was elected as the Student Legal Services Liaison. Solomon is a third-year political science student and was among the list of newly appointed senators Tuesday night.
President Wyles clarified that exhibition members are also allowed to receive nominations for chair positions, which was important for Representative Samuel Ransley as he seemed very passionate about his nomination for chair of the Student Mental Health Committee.
“Mental health activism is extremely important to me,” said Ransley, a fourth-year political science student at UMaine. Ransley briefly discussed in his speech that he has been involved in several research projects tied to mental health.
“It would be an honor if you elected me to this position, perhaps the most important thing that I could do,” said Representative Ransley. He was voted as the chair of the Student Mental Health Committee over Senator Hogg.
It was also a big night for many campus clubs that came to the meeting in hopes of receiving funding for the semester.
Representatives from the Mountain Bike Club asked for $2,100. “Mountain biking is often a solitary activity, so our aim is to break that mold and bring everybody together to not only learn the trails, but learn from each other,” said Peter Rheil, their club speaker.
Frank Kelly, GSS Vice President of Financial Affairs, also spoke on this matter. “Mountain Biking Club is a really cool organization. The students who are in it spend a lot of their own money, especially on the equipment. Mountain bikes, if you’re not aware, cost thousands of dollars and are pretty specific in terms of their size and function, so these are really passionate students who are looking for support,” said Kelly.
Their goal was to receive funding for group rides and their attendance in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference. After a brief period of debate, their funding was approved.
The women’s ice hockey team was also looking to receive funding. Their speaker, Kyla Gallup highlighted that hockey is a very expensive sport and they asked for $4000, which is the maximum amount of funding that the senate can provide recreational sports clubs.
Their speaker highlighted that the goal of the women’s ice hockey team is to get lots of girls interested in playing since female ice hockey players from the central Maine area often don’t get a lot of opportunities to play. Their funding was approved.
Clubs including the equestrian team, Fly Fishing Club, and the International Student Association (ISA) were also present during Tuesday night’s meeting.
President Wyles seemed very happy with how the meeting went. He touched upon some of the goals of the senate this year.
“My Vice President, Elizabeth Davis, and I are working on quite a few things this year. On top of ensuring a smooth transition to in-person learning, our initiatives include the advancement of mental health services on campus and making the academic experience as convenient as it can be for the students,” said Wyles.
President Wyles also noted that it is not too late for people to join GSS. “We still haven’t hit our senator cap, and for gathering just a few signatures from their peers any student can represent UMaine undergrad students and vote on our resolutions,” said Wyles.
The General Student Senate holds their public meetings on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. and are located in the Bangor room of the Memorial Union.