Undergraduate Student Government holds first meeting of the semester

Towers Residence Hall Senator Stephanie Sponzo (center) speaks during the Undergraduate Student Government's first Senate meeting of the year in the UConn Student Union on Sept. 2, 2015. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

The first Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Senate meeting took place last night in the Student Union Ballroom.

The beginning of the meeting was dedicated to reports from USG members of the Executive Board.

President Rachel Conboy talked about logistics and the new USG office, which she said is more welcoming. Conboy then praised the students filling the newly created ex-officio senator seats, including two who were officially voted in during Conboy’s speech.

“I did a lot over the summer, but it was really boring without you guys,” Conboy said.

Then came Bennet Cognato, the Elections Oversight Committee (EOC) chairperson. Cognato’s main point of business was nominating three members of USG to the committee. The nominations were unanimously approved. EOC members have to be seniors, “because the election rules must be made by those who won’t be affected by them,” Cognato said.

Vice president Adam Kuegler then talked about the upcoming USG orientation. 

The first Senate meeting resembled a syllabus week class, concerning more information on the body itself rather than its broader purpose.

Colin Ng then gave the report of the speaker, where he stressed the importance of USG orientation. He then asked new senators to be sure to fill out the “Doodle” scheduling one-on-one meetings.

Comptroller Parth Rana was not present.

Academic Affairs Chair Ven Gopal touched on internal, administrative issues.

Chairperson Dan Byrd of External Affairs turned to just that – explaining how the Committee affected students. He also mentioned that Governor Dannel Malloy vetoed a unanimous bill from the state assembly that would have given USG a seat on UConn’s Board of Trustees, “Which is…too bad,” Byrd said.

Funding Board Chair Stephen Porcello nominated nine new members to Funding Board, more than half of whom are not in USG. The nominations were unanimously approved. 

Student Services Chairperson Eliza Conrad said some words about the different aspects of campus the committee works on, including sustainability and health services.  

Another act concerning emergency funding for the Brazillian Jiu Jitsu Club, which allocated $4,000 to the club for coaches, was passed.

An act concerning emergency funding for the Mixed Martial Arts Club requested $2,000 for coaches, which also passed.

An act concerning emergency funding for the Muslim Student Association requested an additional $300 for its previously approved total in order to pay an employee of the Alumni Center to work at its “Welcome Back Dinner.” The act was passed.

Congnato then introduced an act concerning the University of Connecticut Student Government Election Polices and Materials for fall 2015 semester. The act changed the amount of constituents for any given senator and moved towards zoning practices. This was done in order to better represent commuter students.

After only one question during the preceding acts, in-depth discussion ensued regarding the act, which concerned the senators, who they serve, and their electability.

Cognato proposed making on-campus and off-campus senator councils to better address specific issues.

A standing vote was called by Cognato after a motion to recess. The motion to recess was passed.

After the ten minute break, where senators introduced each other or fraternized with old friends, the senators took their seats and debate on the act resumed.

Chief Justice Tyler Ryff said that voting yes or no on the bill was constitutional, despite its time-sensitive nature. If senators voted not to pass the act, elections would not take place at the time they were already planned, making the situation do or die.

Yet another motion to recess was announced, for some senators had concerns about the number of people assigned to each zone, but the motion failed. Ng tried to move the Senate towards a vote, but further debate ensued.

Senator Byrd motioned to amend the combinations of different areas on campus, saying that three specific zones of constituents should be different than what Cognato had originally authored. Byrd’s new combinations would combine voters from Storrs Center and East, Connecticut Commons and West, make McMahon its own bloc of voters, and add a Senate chair to North.

A discussion about how to combine constituencies – by numbers or by location and unity – took place. The topic in question was should North Campus, which has 1,435 students, have two senators instead of its allotted one due to size, or, because of its singular presence in a condensed area, should there only be one senator from North.

Stephanie Sponzo and Dustin Lavoie recused themselves from voting on part of the amendment, as they may have plans to run for the seats in question.

Ultimately, only part of the amendment was passed. The amendment combined West and Connecticut Commons with the Greater Hillside Senator’s constituents, and made McMahon Residence Hall its own voting zone.

The act in its entirety, including the single amendment, was clearly passed.

The USG Senate spent an hour and forty minutes talking about themselves and internal issues. About twenty-five minutes were spent talking about UConn students at large.


Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering Undergraduate Student Government. He can be reached via email at sten.spinella@uconn.edu.