New school year brings new visions to SGA

By Sam Hayes

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Maria Uminski/Collegian

As the academic year begins this fall, so does the new Student Government Association (SGA) term.

In addition to the implementation of the new Vice President position, SGA members are looking to involve more students, restructure relations with the Area Governments and Registered Student Organizations as well as prepare for fall senate elections.

New SGA President Akshay Kapoor was sworn in last April, but he recently said in an email interview that his real work started this summer.

“What most students do not know is that because UMass runs on the July fiscal year, the mid-summer months are the busiest,” he explained. “Most large decisions are made during this time.”

Kapoor said he has spent the summer meeting with administration, including new UMass Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy, to work on providing students with new services.

“My big push for the year has always been services,” Kapoor said.

New services he discussed were “a campus wide volunteer day, the sober shuttle program, a conference hosted in conjunction with the northwestern district attorney’s office [located in Northampton] on underage drinking [and] sponsoring buses down to Gillette [Stadium] for home [football] games.”

The new Student Trustee Jen Healy, elected last spring like Kapoor, also plans to focus on student services for the fall term.

“The most important issue that I would like to work on is making the SGA more accessible to students,” she said. “This may mean having regular, widely-publicized office hours in the SGA office and releasing an agenda of the weekly meetings. `… I would like to see as much input from the student body as possible so we can be sure that we are being effective representatives.”

Healy also has broader visions for student interaction, including increased student communication with the other UMass campuses.

“I would like to see UMass, as a system, become more united. I think the Amherst student body could benefit greatly from having strong lines of communication with the four other campuses.”

Healy will be one of the two student trustees who has a vote during Board of Trustee meetings this school year.

As the first person to hold the position of SGA Vice President at UMass, Garrett Gowen has ambitious plans for the fall semester focused on student involvement.

Gowen described the focus of the Kapoor-Gowen administration as, “communication and collaboration.” He explained that one of the first ways the SGA will try to achieve these goals is with a coffee hour.

“Every week from Monday to Thursday between 4 and 5 p.m., students [can] come into the new lounge space of the SGA office, enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee and connect with student representatives over issues and questions they might have,” Gowen said.

As the former area Governor of Orchard Hill, Gowen also said that he wants to restructure relations between Area Government and the SGA as well as shift their responsibilities.

“I plan on holding [Area Governments] accountable to their responsibilities, as well as supporting them in their plans. I want to see AGs grow into collaborative enterprises, which coordinate area House Councils, partner with RSOs, and pool resources with other areas. Gradually, I hope to bring AGs away from the programming which dominates them and transform them into grassroots arms of the SGA.”

Secretary of Finance Zac Broughton talked about the logistics of funding new initiatives as well as giving Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) increased power over their own funding.

“[The SGA will] grant RSOs the ability to control more of their money with the students that come in during the fall semester, rather than let all of the planning go to the leaders of the previous semester who probably graduated,” Broughton said.

Broughton also discussed buying five to seven new bicycles for the UMass Bike Share program, working with senate committees to fund the Sober Shuttle program and a fundraiser to supply each UMass graduate with a decorative case for their diploma.

Secretary of Registry Nick Barton also will be working on RSO changes, including application improvements, constitutional changes and infrastructure upgrading.

“I am currently working on a renovation of some of the office space in the Student Union to make the space more accessible for RSOs,” Barton said. “This renovation is based around a survey conducted last year and will revolve around storage and meeting space. We will bring in storage units for RSOs who do not have an office and we will create two new conference rooms for RSOs to book for meetings free of charge.”

Secretary of Web Management Zach Dawson and Secretary of Public Relations and Recruitment Renee Barouxis both discussed the importance of increasing the use of social media to communicate between the student body and the SGA.

“This means website upgrades, increased use of social media outlets, more press releases to the Collegian and other newspapers, and continued addresses to the radio station,” Barouxis said.

Sam Hayes can be reached at [email protected]