Senate Notes: Controversial Resolution Put on Hold

Gin Dumcius

A battle between the student government and a student interest group was put on hold after a controversial resolution was pulled from the agenda of the student government’s first meeting of the school year.Student Senate President Tuan Pham at the last minute yanked a resolution in support of House Bill No. 2400 off the agenda when it became unclear whether it had the votes to pass.The resolution, to be forwarded to the House of Representatives if passed, expresses support for House 2400, which proposes a reconfiguration of the current university waivable fee system, changing the way they appears on bills from opt-out to opt-in. Currently, UMB students must make a note on the back of their bills if they want to remove a charge of six dollars which supports the student organization MassPIRG (Massachusetts Student Public Interest Research Group) and ten dollars for The Mass Media, the student newspaper. Many students fotget to waive the fees. If the bill passes, students will have to add the charges in order to contribute.The switch could have potentially disastrous consequences for MassPIRG, which depends on the fees to operate.The Joint Committee on Education, where the bill currently resides, held hearings over the summer, which set the stage for the face-off between UMass Boston student government officials and MassPIRG.Pham testified at the behest of MassPIRG at a June hearing against House Bill 2400, but quickly changed his mind, declaring that MassPIRG had withheld certain facts from him, such as the state’s intent to replace the current system with an opt-in one, something which Pham says is more fair.MassPIRG is framing the issue as one concerning student rights, and accusing the State Legislature of trying to override the will of the student body, which votes to allow the fees to appear on the bill every two years during student government elections.”In the past, the Student Senate has supported MassPIRG and our events,” says Rebecca Small, chairman of the UMass Boston MassPIRG chapter. “In fact, many of our events would not have been possible without the senate funding. This fact makes it surprising to me that the senate is now considering supporting HB 2400, which would change the way students’ PIRGs are funded and would drastically affect the amount of work that we are able to do. We are asking students to urge your student senators not to approve this resolution. MassPIRG is on your campus because students voted to have us here.”Student government officials have given no indication of when the resolution in support of HB 2400 will be put on the agenda to be voted on by the entire Student Senate.Tensions are already building after the failed bid before the senate’s first meeting. Both sides are entrenching themselves for the long run, and the rhetoric is rising.”I’m sick and tired of MassPIRG propagandizing HB 2400 to unfairly support themselves. It’s not fair to students because 2400 gives students the opportunity to give permission before being charged a fee,” said Pham. “As long as I’m president, I will fight to support this bill, and to make sure the House hears our students’ stance on this.”

Student Senators See Kerry Off To War

When Senator John F. Kerry came to Boston to officially kick off, and unofficially restart, his campaign for the presidency, nearly everyone in Massachusetts politics seemed to be packed into Faneuil Hall, including a few student senators.Three large cranes held up a sign reading “The Courage to Do What’s Right for America” and a gigantic American flag, under which an American Legion band played “God Bless America.”Mini-pom-poms leapt like flying fish through the crowd up near the stage, where Congressman Edward Markey (D- 7th Congressional District) emceed.Senator Jesse Solomon, wearing an “Absolute Democrat” t-shirt, whooped and cheered as one prominent Democrat after the other took to the stage, among them Mayor Thomas Menino (an alumnus of UMass Boston) and Senator Ted Kennedy.Student Trustee Omar Bukhari, while currently thinking of leaning towards Howard Dean, the former governor and doctor from Vermont who’s leading in many polls, clapped as Senator Kerry came onto the stage to strains of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name.”Tuan Pham, Student Senate president, quietly listened to Senator Kerry make his speech. Later, away from the ticker tape and sitting in the subway waiting for the train to come, Pham said it was the first time he had seen either Massachusetts senator.”I felt it was exciting and inspirational,” he said. “I support John Kerry and hope he wins the presidential race. I also feel he represents the working people of America, not just an elite class, and that’s what attracts me to him.”

Funding the Arts

Staffers of UMass Boston’s literary magazine will be getting paid this semester, despite the fact there is no money in its account right now, the Student Senate decided. In a unanimous vote, the senate gave The Watermark $1772 to pay for staff positions for the fall semester. There had been some confusion as to whether the magazine, made entirely by and for students, had any of the money allocated by the senate last semester, nearly $4,000 in total, left in its account.