O'Neil_ASUM Free Counseling Fee

The Associated Students of the University of Montana passed four resolutions March 30, including one ballot referendum for the upcoming ASUM election, in its first meeting with Melissa Glueckert presiding as vice president.

ASUM reconvened after a three-week recess to approve ballot referenda before the publicly voted policies are due to the elections committee on April 3. 

Glueckert entertained a motion to suspend section 2(15) of the house rules, which requires referenda to remain in “unfinished business” for two weeks, unlike one week for regular resolutions. The senate saw three proposed referenda resolutions, one of which passed for the April 28 election.

Senate Bill 96, the single senate-approved referenda resolution authored by sophomore senator Jorgia Hawthorne, set up a referendum vote in the election that would introduce a $15-30 student registration fee to make counseling at Curry Health Center free and to hire a new counselor.

The fee would not hit registration bills in the fall. Instead, Hawthorne will present the referendum vote count to the Board of Regents for its approval of the fee. If the BOR approves the fee, it will go to a final student vote in the next election for implementation in fall 2023.

“I’ve seen firsthand how college students are reacting to and dealing with mental health issues. And right now, the Curry model isn’t equitable. I don’t think it’s fair to ask students to choose if $25 is going to therapy or groceries next week,” Hawthorne said. “The director of Curry expressed to me that making Curry more accessible to students is on track with his goals for the health center, and I’m happy that the senate felt the same when we passed it unanimously.”

In other business, the senate voted down a resolution proposing a preamble to the ASUM constitution authored by Student-at-Large Danielle Pease. The body also failed a resolution authored by freshman senator Emma Wickum to incentivize voter outreach, which would more clearly establish the language regarding its 12% student vote threshold for ballot referenda viability. 

Senators said on the floor both resolutions needed further consideration with wider campus input before implementation because of large implications for senate governing documents. Some debated lowering the student vote threshold to 7% in bill discussion, which some senators said undermined efforts to increase student turnout.

“I’m always for supporting further student engagement, but reducing it to 7% is doing the exact opposite, so the incentivization argument is a fallacy,” ASUM president Noah Durnell said on the senate floor. “I don’t want the body to make a rash decision on a big election rule like this.”

The senate unanimously passed three other resolutions. One authored by sophomore senator Max Shaver sets a campuswide standard for first-aid kit contents and requires an online map of their locations, and another bill authored by Durnell supports the Missoula city and county recognition of April 2022 as sexual assault awareness month.

The third resolution passed, written by freshman senator and chair of the DEI committee O’Shay Birdinground, revised the government’s committee assignments to 10 voting members instead of 12. It also clarified the committee’s commitment to improving the University’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan. 

Birdinground said he proposed the changes because the committee is “dysfunctional” and has only been able to meet twice during his time as committee chair.

“The committee was dysfunctional in the sense that very few student group leaders who were allotted seats as voting members would attend, making it extremely hard for me to convene the committee,” Birdinground said. “My goal is to inspire greater cooperation between the administration and this committee on the DEI plan that will be implemented this next academic year. I also envision this committee handling matters such as those of Rob Smith and Clayton Looney given this committee is the most diverse committee.”

Filings for the upcoming election ended April 3 at midnight, and a recently announced primary election for the ASUM president and vice president will occur on April 20. The general election for the 2023 ASUM senate will run from April 27 to April 28.