Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Top officials in the SGA outline semester priorities

By Sam Hayes

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Chris Roy/Collegian

Chris Roy/Collegian

Members of the University of Massachusetts Student Government Association (SGA) anticipate a fall schedule heavy with preparations for fall elections, possible opposition to impending tobacco-free regulations on campus and potential judicial changes.

Recently elected SGA President Yevin Roh highlighted altering the processes behind UMass handling of judicial cases as one of his administration’s priority goals for the semester.

Roh is advocating for the creation and installation of a Peer Judicial Board (PJB) to give students a greater role in determining disciplinary and housing sanctions of students – a responsibility that currently rests with the Dean of Students Office.

The proposed PJB would be limited to involvement with University misdemeanors, particularly involving Residential Life. Crimes of a larger magnitude – such as violent crimes – would still be addressed entirely by the Dean of Students Office.

Additionally, the board of students would not determine guilt or innocence of these “smaller” crimes. Only confessed guilty students could use a PJB and the peers hearing the case would be from the confessed student’s residential area. The board, in the view of members from the SGA pushing for its development, aims to design a different, more effective sanction than the Dean of Students Office.

 

“PJBs would give an alternative to residents who take responsibility for their policy violations (Serious violations, such as ones involving violence, would still go straight to Dean of Students) and allow them to be reintroduced to the community using creative, non-punitive, sanctions,” said Roh. “The goal of PJBs is education and community development – we are a school of learners and adults. We, as members of the UMass residential community, should and need to hold each other accountable.”

The SGA President also plans to continue to work on newly passed tobacco-free regulations, which are slated to go in effect in 2013.

“There are parts of the policy which have its merits, but other parts of this policy are totalitarian,” said Roh. He cited, “not being able to smoke in a private vehicle” as a measure of the policy he found to be “totalitarian.”

“The greatest fault of this policy is that the UMass community is expected to enforce it,” continued Roh of the tobacco policy, which passed in April of last semester and bars students from using all tobacco products on campus grounds. “How can the student body be expected to enforce a policy we had little voice in creating?”

The policy was passed by the Faculty Senate and its passage sparked controversy among students, staff and faculty, many of whom felt public input on the matter was not well-requested prior to its passage. SGA Sen. Nathan Lamb also expressed his hope that creating change around the tobacco ban would be a priority for the SGA this semester.

Lamb, who presented a bill before the SGA Senate last April opposing the policy – officially dubbed “A Tobacco-Free UMass Amherst” – wants to also create designated smoking areas on campus, seeing this solution as a compromise for those who still want to smoke on campus.

Next in Lamb’s priorities is the construction of a plan to increase student retention. Lamb will also be developing a way to reform SGA finances to allow for easier allocation of funding to various student-run groups and Registered Student Organizations.

SGA Speaker Jarred Rose hopes to increase transparency of the SGA’s actions. He has developed a group on social networking website Facebook called “Office of the Speaker,” which can be found at the web address: http://www.facebook.com/groups/228766257157953/.

“I am someone who believes that the best way to get people involved in their community is to simply open the doors and make sure you are in constant communication with those you want to seek,” said Rose.  “As Speaker, I have made sure that the UMass SGA’s name is actively on Facebook, Twitter and posted on as many websites and in as many articles as possible.”

Rose said that each SGA event and Senate meeting is posted on Campus Pulse and open to the public. SGA meetings will be on Mondays each week at 7 p.m., and are generally held in the Campus Center.

Additionally, Rose said the SGA website www.umass-sga.comhas relaunched and “will have a large page dedicated to showing all the candidates for SGA Senate so the public can know who is running and compare and contrast.”

Rose also said addressing the smoking ban “was very much in the SGA’s list of goals for this year.

“When the Chancellor and the Faculty Senate decided to go along with this course of action, they once again didn’t ask the student body or their representatives what their opinion was,” said Rose in an e-mail to the Massachusetts Daily Collegian.

“The poll that was done was done in a class called ‘The Biology of Cancer and Aids’ which is clearly made up of students of who have self-selected into that class and most likely already have a certain pre-disposition about smoking,” he continued.

“I personally spoke in front of the Faculty Senate when this issue came to a vote,” said Rose of the Faculty Senate meeting during which the smoking ban was passed. “I, along with many other students, felt that the student body had never been consulted in this issue. UMass follows a system of shared governance and it is mind blowing that the Faculty Senate, the governing body with by far the smallest population, should pass this policy without consulting anyone else.”

Rose said the SGA will be creating two referendum questions for the upcoming election’s ballot. The first question will ask students if they support a complete ban on smoking on campus. A separate question will ask students if they would instead “like to see a designated smoking area policy.” According to Rose, Roh, as president, has the authority to appoint students to a board that would oversee the implementation of a policy of designated smoking areas.

Meanwhile, Student Trustee Tina Kennedy, who served as the SGA’s associate speaker last year, is working to bridge the communication gap between students and University system’s Board of Trustees.

“I will be working on actually being a liaison to the student body,” said Kennedy. “In working with administrators on campus and student groups, I hope to produce flyers to circulate through the campus updating the body on what the Board [of Trustees] is doing. I’ll shy away from the boring stuff. I want to make it as informative as possible.”

 

Kennedy will also be working with the Graduate Student Senate on a co-insurance plan for graduate students, in addition to working on sustainability initiatives as the University looks at the possibility of having private companies come in and help improve the campus’ sustainability outlook.

Sam Hayes can be reached at [email protected] Alyssa Creamer contributed to this report. She can be reached at [email protected]

 

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