By Naomi Grant and Carly Taylor
At its final general body meeting of the fall semester, the University of Maryland SGA debated seven bills on topics ranging from health care to safe travel on the campus.
The Student Government Association passed four of the following bills, while one bill was tabled until the spring semester.
Department of Resident Life Drug Policy
After tabling debate for a week, the SGA passed a bill 25-1-1 recommending the Department of Resident Life update its drug policy with a lesser punishment for students over 21 years old or those possessing up to 10 grams of marijuana in a dorm.
In 2014, the state of Maryland decriminalized the possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana for those aged 21 and older and the maximum punishment for a first offense is a $100 fine. However, it is still criminalized under federal law.
First-time offenders in dorms who possess less than 10 grams of marijuana and cooperate face housing probation and an education sanction, such as a substance abuse intervention that may entail classes, said Keira Martone, assistant director of Resident Life for Student Conduct.
The action plan recommends programming to inform students about their rights and responsibilities regarding drugs, which may include sessions at freshmen and transfer orientations, UNIV100: The Student in the University classes and an SGA town hall.
Health Center sign
The SGA voted to ask the University Health Center to post a sign informing students of the closest urgent care, pharmacy and other health care services when it's closed.
The vote passed 28-0 with one abstention.
"Even though we do have great services at the health center … just adding that and working with them to provide that is what SGA wants to collaborate on and keep working toward," said Julianne Heberlein, a sophomore journalism and government and politics major and the SGA's journalism representative and coordinator of recruitment and retention.
The health center operates from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. The center is closed on Sundays.
The Department of Facilities and Management estimates a 2 feet by 3 feet sign would cost between $85 and $100, according to the bill. The sign is expected to be installed about three business days after being sent to the Facilities Maintenance Signs and Graphics Shop.
Health center Director David McBride wrote in an email that he wants to ensure students know about NurseLine — a 24/7 hotline available to all students that connects them to a registered nurse — so they can get advice over the phone when the health center is closed.
"With our new web site design, targeted for release in the spring, we will also make options for getting care when we are closed easier to find," he wrote.
The SGA motioned to table a bill that would amend part of its bylaws in an effort to increase voter turnout and competitiveness in student government elections, as well as to make the election commission more goal-oriented, the legislation read.
The legislature tabled the bill due to a lack of a committee report. The Constitution and Bylaws Committee couldn't meet in time to create a report because of "personal obstacles," parliamentarian and freshman government and politics major Reid Buskirk said.
The SGA Election Task Force recommended that the election board should have five members who will each be charged with a specific task, such as managing election rules violations. The previous election boards did not mandate individual responsibilities.
The head commissioner, which oversees the group's tasks, would be selected through legislative vote, rather than a presidential appointment, as per the recommendations. This change would allow for greater diversity in the selection process, according to the bill.
The task force also recommended that the SGA hold an open forum after elections to allow students to voice concerns to newly elected leaders.
The body's Election Task Force recommended the amendments after conducting interviews and reviewing the election rules throughout this semester.
Last month, the SGA voted to amend its election rules by establishing a uniform spending cap for independent candidates and extending the time period for campaigning and voting, among other changes.
Safer sidewalk policy
The SGA voted 28-0-1 to urge this university's administration to offer alternative, accessible routes for safe travel around construction projects on the campus.
Students risk serious injury when they are forced to walk through parking lots and streets to avoid construction, such as near Cole Field House, the bill states.
"This is an issue that really does need to be solved … soon," said Alex Kahn, the SGA deputy director of governmental affairs. "The [administration] doesn't have to walk those routes every week."
Bill sponsor Jonathan Allen, SGA's speaker of the legislature, will follow up with the Department of Transportation Services, Facilities Management, this university's administration and finance division and the Accessibility and Disability Service to move forward with the plan.
SGA and Dining Services
The SGA voted in favor of a resolution that establishes a formal relationship between the student government and Dining Services.
SGA legislator Halle Lerner, who sponsored the bill, will work with the SGA Director of Health and Wellness to meet with Dining Services at least three times each semester to discuss updates within the two organizations.