Tuesday, May 17, 2022

SA listens about safety ambassadors on campus

By Olivia Bousquet

The biggest discussion at the Student Association senate meeting March 9 regarded the Student Safe Walk Initiative. 

The Student Safe Walk Initiative was implemented by University Police in 2016, where upperclassmen student interns in the criminal justice department, called safety ambassadors, walk around campus during evening hours to see if students feel unsafe and need someone to accompany them to their dorm. The safety ambassadors can be seen wearing a vest and walking in pairs. Dr. Michelle Bonati, a SUNY Plattsburgh associate professor, asked senators what the Initiative could do to be better for students on-campus. 

According to Bonati, some students mentioned to her that they felt unsafe walking in the evenings on campus. She was there to collect feedback from the senators and members of the meeting to improve this type of service for students. 

Some senators mentioned creating an app by collaborating with the Coding Hub for students to download and request for safety ambassadors to meet them at their location. It could also serve as an accountability module for interns to make sure they are working and not relaxing in their dorms. Bonati said the idea was good, but she mentioned accessing the request for a safety ambassador through the student portal to prevent non-students from requesting. Senator Carter Mosher said that dealing with the Duo login and signing in could take too long if a student truly feels unsafe and wants to access the request option faster. Other senators agreed with Mosher. 

Another idea was to increase hours of operation for safety ambassadors. They currently walk around from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. However, many students study late at Feinberg Library throughout the week, especially during midterms and finals weeks. Bonati wrote down the idea, but said it is challenging to have safety ambassadors for midterms and finals weeks because they are also students. 

Senator Aissatou Lo brought up the concern that students on campus are “fearful of UP,” and she was concerned that students would be more nervous requesting help if they already don’t feel safe with campus police.  

Bonati agreed with Lo that there is “mistrust” of UP, and she hopes to see officers attend campus events as people “without the weapons” to be a part of the campus community more.

The final idea for Bonati surrounded a general safety concern that was mentioned was updating the security cameras around campus to make students feel more safe in general and to show they are actively working. 

In other SA news, the SUNY Plattsburgh Nutrition Association requested $1,950 to help cover costs to attend a conference in Syracuse from April 8 to April 9. The money would be used to cover registration, hotel expenses and gas. There are eight students planning to attend and one advisor. The conference would have registered dietitians, keynote speakers and presentations. The senate voted and unanimously approved of the $1,950 to help cover expenses. 

The Council for Exceptional Children requested $575 to also help cover costs for a conference from April 8 to April 9 for the eBoard to present research. The funds would be used to cover registration, hotel expenses and gas. Senators asked whether any fundraising or promoting occurred for the event, but the public relations chair said no. However, the senate voted to table the request for $575 to the following SA meeting because the treasurer did not attend and the public relations chair could not speak confidently on their budget. 

SA voted on the approval of new positions with the organization. Senators voted on the approval of a Senate Ex-Officio position, and it was unanimously approved. 

Two students, Dhruv Shah and Rebecca Makara, were unanimously approved as voting members of the Academic Affairs Board. Mosher said the AAB “desperately needs members.” AAB works to “ bridge the gap between students and students, as well as between students and faculty,” according to the Student Association page on the SUNY Plattsburgh website. 

Makara, a graduate student, said she can bring a “new perspective as a graduate student” to the board. 

For Executive Council Officers’ reports and announcements, SA Vice President Kathleen Gill announced she was resigning as of that week. She resigned for personal reasons not tied to the SA. 

The SA election is April 15 and the referendum is March 25. 

The end of the meeting, Advisor Jacob Avery said he “strongly urge [the SA] to look at all aspects of safety on campus.” He also said senators should attend club events and talk to the student body. 

“What are you doing for the SA?” Avery asked. “We are here to help.”

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