Student Senate Discusses Parking, Meal Plans

At speech night last Wednesday, only one person announced his candidacy for the position. “The question that arose is what is going to happen to those unfilled spots,” said Ruckman.

The Senate unanimously passed a resolution that gives the executive board the power to fill empty at-large positions by appointment.

Following the vote, SGO Treasurer Ben Armour ’01 announced an immediate activities fee increase of $10 and an increase proportional to next year’s tuition hike, effective next fall. Armour qualified the assessment and general increase. “The Student Finance Committee does not have the resources that it once did,” he said. “[Demand] has grown 20 percent in terms of the clubs it funds. It is a necessary increase.”

Ruckman then introduced the next resolution, a proposal to amend the by-laws to permit electronic voting. “With the changing times it makes sense to be able to vote online,” said Ruckman.

Leif Bohman ’01 wondered whether the untested system might cause more problems than it alleviates. “If it is a disaster, then it is a disaster on a real vote,” said Bohman. “I don’t really see what is gained other than our not having to swipe cards for a day.”

The resolution passed 18-6 in favor of electronic voting. The decision is effective immediately for this fall’s upcoming elections.

Ruckman added that electronic voting will only go into practice this fall if the voting program proves to be secure.

The Senate next discussed the Valentine meal plan. The current meal plan requires each on-campus student to pay an annual lump sum for meals, and it cannot be broken down into per-meal prices. The individual fee, which is somewhat subsidized by the school, is only 60 percent of operating cost. “The issue of having a choice of meal plans is a tricky one,” added Ruckman.

Steve Vladeck ’01 challenged the dining hall’s seeming inflexibility. “It still bothers me that [the meal plan] is set up that way,” said Vladeck. “I still feel that Valentine is dodging the issue of alternative meal plans.”

Nearing the close of the discussion, several senators called for resolution. Ruckman appointed Dan Cooper ’01 as the dining services liaison.

“Valentine might look into [changing] dining hall hours and Schwemm’s credit,” said SGO Vice President Michelle Oliveros-Larsen ’02.

An open dining hall forum will take place today in the mezzanine for students to raise questions and comments on the issue.

Next on the agenda was the ongoing debate over parking.

“By the end of the week, there will be a published report on parking changes,” said Ruckman.

A number of questions followed about the logistics of the new parking plan but the follow-up discussion turned towards debate when Mayo-Smith and Newport House residents, visitors to the meeting, cast doubt on the fairness of the reallocation of spaces.

“We would like to see the [Mayo-Smith/Newport] spaces allocated 50/50,” said one of the residents.

Vladeck responded to the residents’ complaints. “Parking on campus is a privilege, it is not a right,” he said.

Confusion ensued about the exact process of space reallocation. Ashley Ebersole ’01 challenged the information given to the SGO by Director of Facilities Planning and Management James Brassord.

“He seemed kind of slippery when he was here; are we sure that they’re giving more spaces to the students and not just reallocating?” asked Ebersole.

The last major discussion for the evening concerned pre registration.

“Right now pre-registration is kind of a race,” said Ruckman. “It is something we need to take action on.”

“I still think that there should be a general rule, seniors have seniority, then juniors, then sophomores, then freshmen,” said Kristin Johnson ’01.

Armour challenged Johnson.

“I don’t like this seniority system,” he said. “I think it really screws over sophomores.”

Other members of the Senate endorsed his opinion.

Ruckman tabled the discussion of pre-registration until the following meeting.

At the close of the meeting, Ruckman announced that he signed a letter promising the SGO’s support of Amherst’s upcoming voter registration drive.