USG Senate passes UNITED Act, budget amendments, & Middle Eastern Cultural Center

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Last night the University of Connecticut Student Government Senate discussed the implementation of the Undergraduates in Tandem Elevating Diversity (UNITED) Act, amendments to the USG budget and the establishment of a Middle Eastern Cultural Center at the Storrs campus. 

The UNITED Act seeks to provide numerous campus organizations with representation in the student government. The legislation was authored by Joshua Crow and Neha Kataria, and groups including UConn Hillel, the Muslim Student Association, Creating Caring Communities and the newly created Middle Eastern Student Association. The legislation also proposes a 25-seat limit for ex officio Senate seats. Ex officio seats refer to seats held in the Senate that represent student organizations such as the Women’s Center, the Panhellenic Council and the student Cultural Centers. 

“We wanted to add these seats because we believe these groups need representation, and we have not received many ex officio senators from these groups,” Kataria said. “We are amplifying voices from groups we haven’t given a platform to.”  

Questions were raised regarding the creation of new seats for student groups; the current constitution of the student government caps the number of seats at fifteen. The additional groups would raise the number to nineteen, and the legislation also increases the future qualifications needed for additional organizations to earn a Senate seat. The bill passed unanimously. 

“We are amplifying voices from groups we haven’t given a platform to.”

Comptroller Fabio Saccomanno proposed a budget amendment providing $16,600 to Student Services for programs such as providing food for those with food insecurity, and a maximum of $35,000 to the UConn Senior Program for a T-shirt line which would cover the mailing cost for seniors who are not currently on campus. Budget increases for students with disabilities was also approved in cases of discrimination by Registered Student Organizations. 

Next, a bylaw was proposed that would prevent a sitting president, vice president, comptroller or chief diversity officer from endorsing a current candidate running for office. This bylaw passed unanimously. 

The proposed creation of a Middle Eastern Cultural Center, supported by many leaders of the Middle Eastern Student Association and Middle Eastern Studies Program, was passed in the Senate.  

Mateen Karimi, who co-authored the proposal, is a senior undergraduate student who has pushed for a Middle Eastern Cultural Center since he was a freshman.  

“I decided to rally some support for it in my sophomore year, and since then I’ve worked with a lot of directors and professors to sponsor this.” said Karimi. 

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