Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Students seek involvement in administrative decisions on campus

Shaina Mishkin/Collegian

A sign, left behind by a protester that read “involve us,” sat perched in the windowsill of a meeting room in Chancellor Robert Holub’s office, while members of the Working Group on Student Success (WGSS), a group focused on supporting residentially-based academic success programs and services, discussed proposed changes to Residential Life.

The 8:30 a.m. meeting was delayed by half an hour on Friday morning by a group of over 50 student protesters from the Involve Us campaign, a group working to increase student involvement in administrative decisions on campus. Students filled the meeting room, and when there was no more room, lined the hallways.

The meeting was open to the public due to Massachusetts Open Meeting Law. However, University of Massachusetts Vice Provost for Undergraduate and Continuing Education Carol Barr told the protesters that some members of the WGSS found the presence of the protesters “intimidating.”

Deputy Chief of Police Patrick Archbald was called to the protest to negotiate a compromise between the committee and the protesters. At least one other officer was there in plain clothes.

“They told us that we weren’t doing anything wrong, and we had a right to be there as long as we don’t disrupt work,” said Ben Bull, a graduate student at the University and one of the organizers of the Involve Us campaign. “But there were concerns with how the meeting would progress with us there. They didn’t think the committee would feel comfortable speaking in front of the people they represent.”

According to the picketing code, found in the Student Code of Conduct, students have a right to picket until it “materially disrupts class work or other University business.” As there were concerns about the protest being disruptive to the meeting, protesters were concerned they would be removed by the police.

After several minutes of negotiation between Barr, Bull and Archbald, Bull returned to the protesters with two options: To be allowed to speak for the first five minutes and then leave a delegation at the meeting or to remain against the wishes of the WGSS.

In a 38-17 vote, the students decided to leave the meeting, according to Bull.

After several students delivered speeches about the importance of student representation and anecdotal evidence about the importance of the peer mentor program, UMass students Avery Fuerst, Allison McGrail, Kyle Mendes and Student Government Association President Yevin Roh were chosen to stay at the meeting.

Not all students were happy with this outcome.

“I think it is too little, too late,” said SGA Attorney General Kyle Howard. “I think it is a facade of student input, so when they pick an unpopular idea, they can say theirs [had] student input.”

During the meeting, the group discussed pilot programs for residential life policy changes that could possibly be implemented next year, noting that a decision needed to be made soon as possible, as students need time to apply for housing jobs.

The WGSS, along with the student representatives, considered eliminating the peer mentor position and introducing new programs into residence halls that would supplement classes. They specifically discussed adding a program that would help students’ writing.

Members also talked about the possibility of keeping the peer mentor position in some of the residence halls.

“At our meeting, we discussed a number of different options all while focusing on how different student positions, different programs and services provided in the residential halls can contribute to our students’ success,” said Barr in an email to the Collegian.

During the meeting, the student representatives were periodically asked their opinions on ideas that were being considered.

The group also talked about the possibility of trying different programs in different areas in order to gather data about how the different programs affect student learning.

“There has been a lot of anecdotal input, but we don’t have any assessment data,” said Executive Director of Residential Life Edward Hull. “I would feel more comfortable about having some data, not opinion guide us.”

However, no final decisions were made at the meeting.

“A final recommendation has not been determined yet, but will be provided to the Provost as soon as possible for the benefit of students who will be pursuing positions in the residential halls for next year,” said Barr.

Students who were not chosen to sit in on the meeting gathered in the lobby of Whitmore, where they discussed the importance of the protest.

“We contextualized what we were doing,” said Bull.

A small group of approximately 10 students decided to continue protesting at the Campus Center, where a meeting for accepted students was being held in the auditorium.

The group tried to enter the meeting, but was told by officials that it needed to register to attend, according to Bull. The group then went back to the lobby, where it acted as tour guides with its signs and distributed information to the potential students.

“If you are an incoming student, you have a right to the knowledge that decisions are being made without student input,” said Bull. “We felt it was our job to educate people.”

Shaina Mishkin contributed to this report.
Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected].

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