In its last meeting, the University of Miami Senate met to discuss end of year projects and responses from the university to bills that it has passed throughout the semester. The two bills that were responded to entailed the Senate’s concerns toward smoking on campus and UM donations to the Red Cross.
Ritika Malkani, senior class senator, authored the bill that recommended to the university to stop donations to the Red Cross after its donation to the organization following the impact of Hurricane Mathew on Haiti and the Caribbean.
On Oct. 8, UM President Julio Frenk and Florida State University President John Thrasher announced that each university donated $50,000 to the Red Cross for relief efforts.
Malkani and other senators proposed the bill after National Public Radio reported that the Red Cross had built only six permanent homes in Haiti after raising $500 million for relief. The bill encouraged the university to instead make donations to more targeted nonprofit organizations with a record of following through on service to ensure the funds actually reached Caribbean people in need.
In response to the passage of the bill, the university said, “A recommendation that University not donate to the Red Cross has been vetoed. While we appreciate the sentiment, it simply is not realistic to say that the University will never donate to the Red Cross in the future.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely did acknowledge the efforts of SG and the Haitian student organization Planet Kreyol by clarifying the details of UM’s donation to Hurricane Mathew relief.
“Half of the funds were designated to provide relief to those impacted in the Caribbean and half was designated to aid those in the Continental United States,” the university said in a statement.
Although the Red Cross bill was vetoed, a bill that recommended the university enforce the smoke-free policy on campus was met with a positive response.
Commuter Senator David Mejia authored the bill which recommended to the university to ask security guards within the Otto G. Richter Library to expand their daily routes to cover the outside front patio and issue referrals to students or staff found smoking to the Dean of Students Office.
The bill was met with modifications by the university.
“The library security guards will monitor smoking beginning in the finals period. Please note that this will only occur when they are on duty,” the letter stated.
Furthermore, Whitely also said in the letter that the “smoke-free policy” is a community responsibility and the burden of enforcement was never intended to rest on University of Miami Police Department.
“We’re very excited to finally have a medium of enforcement for this policy. For the longest time, it was said that the students needed to play a big role in the enforcement of the policy. However, having administration with actual authority is much more helpful and productive. Hopefully this leads to more administrative bodies joining the enforcement of the smoke-free policy,” Mejia said of the response.
Speaker of the Senate Josh Zuchniarz made note to the Senate that these responses prove how bills passed by the Senate are looked at by the university and represent the voices and concerns of the student body.
Another decision made by SG was to eliminate the Senate seats for the Council of International Students and Organizations (COISO). Each seat is up for review every year and it was in the majority’s opinion that COISO’s seat would be better served as two international students seat as there is a larger need to represent them.
Christina Stamatiou, the COISO senator, thought this would be a good idea but lamented that since the decision was effective immediately, there would be no international student representative until the next senator elections on February.
“It does make sense as it means more international students can be represented through two seats,” Stamatiou said. “It can be a good thing in the end, it’s just not ideal to do it right away and not have any international voice until February.”