Gabriel Unruh elected speaker of Senate on Sunday
In its first meeting Sunday, the 11th Undergraduate Senate elected class of 2017 member Gabriel Unruh as its Speaker.
Unruh, who defeated Dante Bucci, senator for the class of 2018, served simultaneously as both Speaker Pro Tempore and Chairman of the Special Committee on Finance prior to his appointment. Unruh won with 17 votes to Bucci’s 6, and one voter abstained.
Although both Unruh and Bucci emphasized the importance of improving the reputation of the Senate, the candidates campaigned on contrasting interpretations of the speaker’s role. Unruh envisioned the Speaker as an advocate while Bucci perceived the Speaker as an impartial moderator.
As Speaker, Unruh said he plans to address issues related to racism, the Academic Access Fund and funds from the student activities fee in collaboration with the Senate.
“I want to be an empowering Speaker, not a Speaker who is warring, not a Speaker who doesn’t listen, but a Speaker who empowers every senator and empowers the work that Senators get passed,” Unruh said.
Unruh succeeds Will Mascaro, senator for the campus at-large, who resigned from the position of speaker in early October. Both Mascaro and Unruh were appointed simultaneously to fill vacancies in the ninth Senate in September 2014.
Mascaro said he believes Unruh will prioritize the interests of the student body.
“I do believe that Gabe represents what is the new image and purpose of the senate and that is one that sets the agenda, that works to amplify student voice and is a seriously advocacy-based body,” Mascaro said.
This interpretation of the Speaker’s role as an advocate contrasts with Bucci’s campaign speech to the senate on Sunday. In his speech, he expressed his belief in the importance of electing an impartial speaker rather than an advocate for particular issues.
“In my point of view, a Speaker shouldn’t have a particular set of advocacy initiatives,” Bucci said. “The senators are to have advocacy initiatives and it is my job to help get them accomplished.”
In keeping with Student Government policy, SG President Sasha Gilthorpe presided over the meeting until Unruh’s appointment. The election process included speeches by both candidates, question and answer sessions and debate amongst senators.
“The speaker is often in meetings with University officials, with other people in SG, with people from RHA, etc., and decisions are made in those meetings,” Unruh said. “I cannot consult all 30 of the Senators in those meetings. All I can do is act in good faith that I am doing what the senate and the students want. I think what the students want is most important.”