January 27, 2015

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SGA presses on as semester draws to a close

Cade Belisle / Collegian

As the end of the semester draws near, the Student Government Association (SGA)  worked to finalize motions during Monday night’s weekly meeting.

The meeting focused on a motion to formally endorse a smartphone application that helps students connect with sober drivers that is being made available to students this coming Thursday.

The motion, sponsored by Senator Chris Lehmann, said that the SGA would give its formal support behind the app which will be for students to use on and off campus on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Treasurer Lindsay Vitale was the motion’s main supporter and discussed the highlights of the Sobrio App: a free, downloadable app for smart phones, that looks to easily connect willingly sober designated drivers to those in need of a ride home.

The motion recognized that the SGA represents the students and their safety and therefore would formally support a free supplemental program to discourage drunk driving.

Vitale said she hopes that “this will be a useful supplement on campus to prevent drunk driving.”

“Drunk driving is clearly a problem across every campus,” she said after the  meeting. “This may be another way to help stop that and help students make better decisions to get safer rides home,” she continued.

“Most fraternities and sororities have a system set up to drive members home,”  Vitale said. “This app just extends that idea to the rest of the student body.”

Vitale also stressed the fact that while the app is free to use, drivers can suggest a small donation, which in turn will lead to students having the ability to make a profit off being the designated driver for an evening. “This could be a great way for RSO’s to fundraise, by just volunteering for a night.”

One of the creators of the Sobrio App, University of Connecticut (UConn) Senior Consumer Behavior major Nadav Ullman, expanded on the goals of this service.

“The experience of people needing rides and giving rides is a given on a college campus,” explained Ullman in a phone interview. “We’re not creating or changing behaviors, but there is a need for this kind of thing.”

“We needed some kind of platform to connect drivers with people in need of rides,” Ullman explained. “We turned a chaotic experience into an easy, systematic one that lays out all the information for the driver.”

Ullman, along with fellow UConn senior biomedical engineering major Tom Bachant, had the idea to create this type of tool this past January.  Ullman and Bachant took their talents to a startup weekend competition and for the past few months have seen nothing but success for their idea.

Launched in early September to the UConn Storrs campus, in its first few weeks the creators watched as hundreds of students utilized their product. “The app has done much better than we thought it would. Now, thousands of students each weekend use it.”

Echoing Vitale’s claim that it will not only provide a service to the community but also to the students’ pockets, Ullman explained, “Drivers can make upwards of about $120 a night, so it’s a good opportunity to make some extra cash.”

The app is available from the iTunes App Store. The App will be launched at UMass this Thursday night.

With 41 senators present, the motion unanimously passed to formally support this app.

Also at the meeting, , Secretary of Finance Zac Broughton explained the necessary measures that now need to be taken to ensure this special vote necessary to raise the Student Activities Trust Fund (SATF) goes off without a hitch.

The SATF fee will raise the current fee from $97 to $125 each year. This is a $28 increase over the course of a year, or $14 per semester. The fee would provide funding to registered student organizations (RSO’s) as well as provide funding towards other student services such as the Student Legal Services Office (SLSO) and the University Programming Council (UPC).

This special referendum will take place Dec. 6, 7 and 8 via an on-line vote through campus pulse and will be open to all members of the undergraduate community.

Broughton explained measures that he will personally take to explain this unique situation to educate students on this vote.

He plans to set up special town-hall style meetings, one in each residential area. In these meetings, constituents will be invited to ask him as well as other members of the SGA questions about the question.

SGA President Akshay Kapoor explained in his message to the Senate that he is proud that as student elected representatives, they will be able to give their constituents an opportunity to vote on the aforementioned question.

“No matter what the students vote, I think we should take pride in the fact that we are giving them the opportunity to vote,” said Kapoor.

He continued, “It’s important that student’s vote on something like this.”

 

Ashley Berger can be reached at aberger@student.umass.edu.

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