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Last Week in Senate: Shopping, sharing and shenanigans

By: Jon Dusza and Ava C. Green, Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief


The Undergraduate Student Association (USA) senate meeting met on Friday, Feb. 9 to run through the usual reports and participate in a “professional development” activity set up by Nikki Middleton, graduate assistant and advisor of the Student Engagement and Leadership Development (SELD) Office. 


Senators sped through reports to make time for the programming, with President Jahare Hudson reminding senators — and all students — to fill out the survey that Cecilia Gotham, chief of staff to President Stoute, emailed to students on Feb. 7. The survey is regarding an initiative to supply free laptops to students. 


Vice President of Business and Finance Anthony Tripi presented two appeals that were swiftly passed. Excitement buzzed through the room as the senate approved the Commuter Student Association's (CSA) appeal for their Pizza Taste-Off event. CSA plans to order more pizza than they have in previous years due to the popularity of the event, hoping it keeps them from running out of food as quickly as they did last year. 


Dining Services Liaison Leyla Akil apologized on behalf of Chartwells for the long wait times and inconsistencies in experiences at TruBurger since moving locations to the Dining Hall, but there are still no plans to change the location or the menu. Akil urges students and senators to send feedback via the Text2Chat service by texting (716) 221-6329 or by reaching out to Food Services Director Janet Elis (janet.elis@compass-usa.com). 


After the reports were in, the senate moved into Middleton’s professional development event. Senators (and these lucky reporters) were each given $3 and were split into four groups that each had to attend different “stores” set up across campus, where each person had to use their money to buy themselves food. The cost of food varied at each store. For example, at one store, students walked away with chips, boxes of macaroni and cheese and juice with money to spare; at others, a package of Pop-Tarts cost the students all three of their dollars. 


Once senators regrouped, Middleton let the students discuss how disappointed they were at not being able to afford the things they wanted and needed, finding it unfair that they had to shop for things they couldn’t afford. Middleton explained that low-income students may be facing that unfairness and disappointment daily, calling on senators to examine their privilege and try to think more about how to address problems that they don’t necessarily face themselves. 


But the demonstration wasn’t over yet. As students returned to Regis from their respective stores, Middleton had people pick a card at random that would assign them to one of three tables. The first table, which consisted of about three people, and the second table, which was about 10 students, had to immediately give up all of their groceries to the third and final table of students. Table three, consisting of about 20 students, rejoiced as tables one and two “hangrily” dropped their food off at the third table.


Middleton explained that table three was free to feast on their piles of snack foods and pre-cooked meals, but that would be all of the food they would get, as they represented low-income groups. Other SELD employees entered the room with food for tables one and two. 

The first table, which senators would come to find out represented the top 1% of earners in the U.S., was brought a silver platter of a bruschetta-like dish with big pieces of steak on top. Despite being given more than enough servings and plates, the first table neglected to share their food with tables two and three. The second table, which was to represent the middle class, received a party-sized pizza from Franco’s to split between the 10 of them, and they ended up giving the leftovers to table three. 


Middleton wanted the demonstration to show the often unseen disparities caused by differences in resources and access, especially for college students. She ended the presentation by reminding the student leaders present that their job is to look for those unseen struggles and to try their best to solve those problems as if they were their own. It was a great initiative to exercise empathy, awareness and involvement for the senate and these two reporters, too, who got to get schooled by Nikki Middleton. 


After a few more announcements and updates that President Hudson had for senators, the meeting adjourned at 3:38 p.m. 


The senate will meet next on Friday, Feb. 2 at 2:30 p.m. in Regis — meetings are open for all students to attend and give concerns!


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