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May 14, 2017

Outsider candidates Rocco Giordano and Dhananjay (Danny) Mirlay Srinivas intent on shoring up student-administration relationship, getting more voices heard

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

Rocco Giordano and Dhananjay (Danny) Mirlay Srinivas are not the typical Student Government Association insiders running for president and vice president. Giordano has been the elections commissioner for the past two elections while Mirlay Srinivas has no experience with the SGA prior to this campaign.

While neither has a lot of practice with the day-to-day operations of the SGA, both have gotten the majority of their experience working with students more directly as residential assistants.

Currently, Giordano and Mirlay Srinivas are president and vice president of the National Residence Hall Honorary, respectively.

“I’m running from the outside because I feel the SGA needs to change,” Mirlay Srinivas said.

The two legal studies majors have also been involved with legal aspects of student life on campus. Giordano served a brief stint as an SGA judicial advisor and Mirlay Srinivas is a legal assistant at the Student Legal Services Office.

Their experiences, both with students and with the University of Massachusetts’ disciplinary practices, have encouraged them to seek to shore up relationships between students and the administration.

If elected, the pair has a particular interest in reforming the student conduct system.

“The UMass Amherst campus is home to an increasingly punitive student conduct system that seeks to make examples out of students who violate the code of conduct,” according to a post on their campaign’s Facebook page.

“Some of the decisions from the Dean’s office, I was stunned by,” Giordano said. “We do make mistakes but it is part of growing up.”

“Sometimes the crime doesn’t equal the punishment,” Mirlay Srinivas said. “We need to think about (students’) futures.”

The Giordano/Mirlay Srinivas ticket would also like to see the administration allow student businesses more freedom, especially by allowing them to accept Dining Dollars.

“Student businesses teach people to manage and be responsible and work as a part of a team,” Giordano said. “And they are widely successful. Not letting student entrepreneurs and businesses grow means there is no chance to learn.”

“The administration is pulling them down,” Mirlay Srinivas said. “(Student businesses) deserve the SGA’s full support.”

At the same time, the duo understands that the relationship between the students and the administration is a precarious one regarding the town-gown relationship.

Giordano, who has served as an Amherst town representative, believes the SGA should act as a liaison between students, University administrators and town officials.

“We are working toward them giving us (students) freedom and us (students) respecting that freedom,” Mirlay Srinivas said.

Giordano and Mirlay Srinivas’ extensive work with students has also led them to believe that, if elected, they need to play a significant role in making sure all student voices are heard.

One way is to try to increase voter turnout, but this is not their only plan. The duo is especially enthusiastic about spurring further election reform. Reforms that were enacted for this election neglected to address concerns over senatorial representation strategy.

“When the SGA makes plans, only a small minority have their voices heard,” Mirlay Srinivas said.

“The reforms could go so much further,” Giordano said. “Danny and I would love to see (a representation strategy) by college, not residential area.”

Mirlay Srinivas, an international student from India, sees room for the SGA to further support international students. If elected, he considers “integrating (international students) into the campus” a priority.

Although they share many of the same goals, Giordano and Mirlay Srinivas believe that their strength comes from their ability to balance each other out.

“We have the same priorities, but we are not in complete agreement on everything,” Giordano said. “It keeps us on our feet.”

“We complement each other,” Mirlay Srinivas added.

Anthony Rentsch can be reached at and followed on Twitter @Anthony_Rentsch

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