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Kelly, Gay to focus on transparency, accessibility and sexual assault training

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

As the Student Government Association elections quickly approach, presidential and vice presidential candidates Charlotte Kelly and Sammi Gay continue to campaign for a number of issues at the University of Massachusetts, including transparency and accessibility.

Kelly has been involved with the SGA in the past as a senator. Although she studied abroad last semester, she said, “I came back really motivated and wanting to change the system and change the way the SGA operates.”

Her running mate, Gay, has not been involved with the SGA and said it was intimidating at first to run. However, she added that she is motivated to get voices from various groups on campus heard.

“While we were collecting signatures, it became apparent students feel disconnected and disenfranchised with the SGA,” Kelly said. “They don’t know what happens in the office, they don’t feel comfortable entering that office and they don’t feel like there’s anyone advocating for their rights and needs.”

Gay echoed that sentiment, saying, “I was one of those students previously before running in this campaign who felt disconnected and felt like I had no say and that my voice wasn’t heard.”

The duo said they want things to be more transparent between the student government and student body in the way things run. Kelly said she spoke with hundreds of students about the SGA.

She believes it is important to realize what kind of purpose the organization holds on campus because it communicates with administrators, handles a budget of $2.2 million and has full jurisdiction over a set of constitutions the student government has to abide by.

Kelly also said it’s important for students to realize that anyone is capable of being a leader, even if they don’t necessarily hold a position, “… whether it’s them being a good bystander or good roommate.”

“As long as you’re doing your part in this community to flourish and build these connections, you’re a leader,” she said.

Kelly is currently the director of Women’s Affairs and while she is a part of SGA, she does much of her work outside of the organization.

She also works with the Coalition to End Rape Culture and the It’s On Us campaign and meets with Secretary of Diversity Danielle LaRoque one-on-one.

One of the main points of their campaign is improved access to the University.

“Whether it’s financial access to this university for students, access to resources for students of color once they get here, access to space for (Registered Student Organizations) and student groups or access to the administration, we want to make sure that UMass Amherst is the most accessible place for all students, regardless of age, race, gender, ability, sexual orientation, etc.,” Kelly said.

Kelly is also looking to address Title IX and said UMass lacks proper training. She believes there should be better funded resources, such as in the Center for Women and Community and the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health.

Kelly has spoken with several resident assistants and New Student Orientation counselors who said they have not been trained enough to know exactly what to do when sexual assault occurs. Kelly hopes to expand training so every first year student will know what consent is and how to prevent sexual assault.

Gay has expressed her interest in working with LGBT people of color by collaborating with the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success (CMASS) and the Stonewall Center to make sure issues and concerns are communicated. She also wants to increase awareness of the effects of energy usage and waste, as well as food and environmental justice.

Kelly and Gay’s campaign has a presence on Twitter and Facebook. They have also spoken to students about concerns and issues on campus.

“We are going to put ourselves fully into this,” Kelly said. “UMass is working right now, but it’s not working to its fullest potential. We want to change the system so it works, not so it continues.”

Catherine Ferris can be reached at caferris@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Ca_Ferris2.

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