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Last SGA meeting of the semester emphasizes more member involvement

In a lengthy meeting to end the semester, members of the Student Government Association addressed resigning members as well as hosted numerous speakers in its agenda.

Cade Belisle/Collegian

Many cabinet and Senate members will be participating in study abroad next semester and the SGA will also be losing two prominent members – Associate Speaker Emily Grey and Treasurer Lindsay Vitale.

Grey announced her resignation in a heartfelt and emotional speech that received a standing ovation from the room and provoked a few tears from some SGA members. Grey will be transferring to Clemson University in the spring.

Vitale, a veteran SGA member, recently spearheaded a project to discourage drunk driving on campus and coordinate avenues by which sober drivers can connect to offer rides for others. She also pushed to pass the Student Activities Trust Fund (SATF) fee, a proposed fee hike from $97 a year per student to $125, which would allegedly benefit the students by being allocated to student services such as Student Legal Services and the University Programming Council.

Another speaker at the meeting was Amherst resident Terry Franklin, a member of the Amherst Town Meeting.  Franklin came to remind students to participate in town affairs as well as inform them that students are entitled to representation at Town Meeting.

Franklin explained that at Town Meeting there are 240 elected officials, and not one of them is a student representative. He also recounted numerous times where there had been minimal student participation.

Franklin acknowledged that there is also a lack of publication that clearly tells students about their right to run for this elected office. He said that he hopes students will take the initiative to get their voices heard in a body that makes decisions that directly affect the students at the University of Massachusetts.

Briefly, Franklin gave the SGA a glimpse into what is generally said during the town meetings regarding UMass and its students, which created a response from the body.

“The town meetings are quite hostile to UMass students,” he said. “But they don’t bother so much with Hampshire and Amherst students,” adding that in the eyes of the town, “UMass is the enemy.”

“Students are called things like vermin there,” Franklin said. “They are seen as the cancer spreading through the community.”

He encouraged students to get involved because he said it will give them the opportunity to vote on issues such as the ever-increasing fines for students living off-campus and how to properly allocate the police budget.

Franklin went on to explain that in order to get on the ballot, one must get nomination papers from the town office. Nomination papers are available now and the nomination period ends in February. The only requirement to get one’s name on the ballot is a signature of a registered voter from the precinct in which they live.

A powerful moment during the meeting was President Akshay Kapoor’s address to the Senate. He explicitly addressed his opinion that the SGA is not acting to their full potential.

“Mentality of a lot of the Senators is inactive,” Kapoor said. “This role you are elected to is to get things done and to represent those who voted for you.”

While Kapoor expressed his disappointment for the Senate’s activity this semester, he also encouraged them to improve.

An important part of the meeting was again the address of the SATF fee.

To better inform students on this vote, Secretary of Finance Zac Broughton will be visiting each residential area this week to hold a town hall-style meeting where all constituents of the living areas are invited to come and listen.

Broughton visited Orchard Hill’s Field Hall in Sweets and More at 5 p.m. and Greeno Sub Shop in Central at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday. He is expected to visit the Dwight classroom in Dwight Hall Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. to inform voters in Northeast, Sylvan and North Apartments. On Thursday, Broughton is expected to visit the Southwest Cafe Thursday at 7 p.m. for the Southwest Residential Area.

Information of a similar session for commuter students was not available as of Monday’s meeting.

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

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