Jean Kim meets with SGA about housing proposal

By Zachary Weishar

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian
Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The University of Massachusetts Student Government Association is picking up where they left off last semester by resuming their dispute with Residence Life over the perceived lack of student input in the changes proposed in early December.

At Monday’s meeting, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Campus Life Jean Kim announced that she would not be signing the motion passed by SGA at the Dec. 5 meeting last semester in protest of staff changes to Residence Life.

The resolution stated that Executive Director of Housing and Residence Life Edward Hull must either work with the students in implementing the proposed changes or risk a vote of “no confidence.”

Kim declined to support the “no confidence” ultimatum and pointed to “a number of inaccurate statements” as well as several provisions in the resolution that she felt had already been addressed.

She also stated that she did not feel that the changes made by Residence Life were “unprecedented.” While she said the SGA viewed the changes as a drastic overhaul, she views it more as a “structural reorganization.”

If the proposed changes pass,  all 53 peer mentor positions will be cut while 23 new RA positions will be added. In addition, the apartment living assistant position in North Apartments would be eliminated as part of an experimental living arrangement that will model off-campus apartment living.

The SGA has expressed that it is against any drop in student employment, and feels that the termination of ALAs during the current semester would be unjust because contracts are signed on a yearly basis.

Kim responded by saying that all ALAs in good standing would be eligible for alternate positions within Residence Life.

She also insisted that the proposed changes will eventually result in a rise in student employment rather than a decline, and that the changes do not represent a drop in funding.

“These changes may actually call for an increase to the budget of Residence Life,” said Kim.

She also stated that the effect felt by the loss of peer mentors would be made up for by a new position, tentatively titled peer tutors. The details of this new position will be decided by a workgroup set up by Chancellor Robert Holub. The workgroup is expected to come to a decision by April of this year.

Kim was then questioned about whether a peer tutor would be able to address the problems that new students face when making a transition into college life.

“RAs should be doing this, becoming friends and helping students,” said Kim. “Peer mentors are academic. This is one reason that we added more RAs.”

Despite repeated questioning after her announcement to not sign the motion, Kim refused to recognize any wrongdoing on the part of the administration. She did concede, however, that it would have been more appropriate to form the workgroup before announcing the cuts.

“Yes, it should have been done,” said Kim. “But we are taking care of it now.”

Also in the meeting, the SGA also discussed the possibility that UMass is unable to get the lowest price on construction projects because of existing agreements or contracts with unions. The SGA will examine whether these restrictions are preventing the school from getting the best value on construction projects.

The SGA announced that it will be stepping up its marketing campaign for the UMass Textbook Swap program. They reported just over 200 new users for last semester, an improvement from past years. Despite the improvement, the organizers would like to have seen higher numbers. They attribute the moderate performance in part to restrictions on marketing.

Zach Weishar can be reached at [email protected].