Proposed SGA document calls for agreement to ensure student consultation with administration

By Stuart Foster

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Evan Sahagian/Daily Collegian

Evan Sahagian/Daily Collegian

A proposal to establish a clear administration-student consultation policy was presented Monday to students by Student Government Association President Sïonan Barrett in an effort to better define the process.

The presentation, which was held in the Student Union and attended by roughly 25 students, went over the attempts by Barrett and Vice President Chantal Lima Barbosa to define how the student body should be consulted when major policy changes are proposed. Changes would be enacted if Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy agrees to support the new definition of consultation, according to the proposal.

Barrett described how the Wellman Document, which requires that students be given the ability to recommend policy changes after being consulted, allows for the student body to vocalize their views on proposed University changes that affect them.

“The Wellman Document helps to ensure that student governance has the priority in consulting anything related to student affairs,” Barrett said.

However, the language of the Wellman Document is not specific in terms of how students must be consulted when major policy changes are proposed. As a result, there are sometimes varying ideas of what consultation should consist of.

Barrett and Lima Barbosa’s proposed document would require an administrator to meet with the SGA leadership a week before presenting the proposed policy change to the undergraduate senate. At the proposal, the administrator would have to provide a link to a website with the proposed document listed online, as well as a section for student feedback.

Next, a mass email would be sent out informing students of an open forum to be held two weeks after the email is sent regarding the proposed policy change and containing a student survey about the document. On the day of the forum, the SGA leadership would reveal the results of the student survey, before the senate votes to support or oppose the policy change. Senators would not be required to attend the forum before the senate vote, although they would be strongly encouraged to.

“We’ve been trying to work on what we feel is a baseline for the administration,” Barrett said.

Barrett was careful to point out that the powers of the senate are limited. The body can only vote to approve of or oppose the proposed policy changes and that the Board of Trustees makes the final decision.

“According to the Wellman Document, the SGA and students do not have the final say on policy changes,” she said.

Overall, Barrett was optimistic about the document, claiming there virtually zero chance Subbaswamy would not support it. She said her eventual goal is for consultation to be defined this way on all UMass campuses.

Students who attended Monday’s forum were also generally pleased with the document.

“It makes sense for sure, and it seems practical,” said Sean Peters, a freshman political science major. “It seems reasonable to ask for something like this.”

Other students, while still supportive of the document, questioned how effective it could actually be at influencing University policy.

“It’s pretty straightforward and increases transparency to students, but it is also very limited still,” said Alisina Saee-Nazari, a sophomore social thought and political economy major who is a columnist for the Daily Collegian. “It represents a system that allows students to voice their opinion, but doesn’t show that the University is taking action to hear what they have to say.”

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster.