Student Trustee candidate Josh Odam wants to create frameworks for student activism on campus

By Stuart Foster

(Collegian File Photo)
(Collegian File Photo)

Josh Odam, the lone candidate running to become the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Student Trustee next year, said he would use this position to help grassroots advocacy movements on UMass campuses.

Odam, a junior studying political science and legal studies, said he planned to invest himself in the UMass community as Student Trustee to create substantial and impactful change throughout the UMass system.

“I think my track record has proven that I am someone who puts the community (at the highest) priority,” Odam said.

Odam described four major policies that he intends to pursue as Student Trustee, the first being the expansion of mental health services at UMass.

As the co-undergraduate programmatic director of Student Bridges, a college positive advocacy group at UMass that fights for the successful retention of marginalized communities on campus, Odam noted the ability of students of color to access the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health as a specific concern.

“I want to make sure that students of color who are facing different stresses on top of being a college student saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt have resources available to them,” Odam said.

Odam also said he wants to ensure that adequate resources are available to the survivors of sexual assault who attend UMass.

He said that students who survive sexual assaults should not be forced to accrue university or legal fees as a result of their assault. Odam looks forward to working with the Coalition to End Rape Culture, a UMass student group that has promoted a sexual assault “Survivor’s Bill of Rights” for more than a year.

“I personally look forward to working with them further to help bring more resources such as ensuring that one’s assailant is not on the campus anymore,” he said.

Odam also said that as Student Trustee he would ensure that programs such as Student Bridges have the support necessary to do college outreach programs in marginalized communities, such as Springfield and Holyoke, as well as areas outside of western Massachusetts that would be more difficult for the Amherst campus to reach.

“One of my goals is to work to institutionalize feeder programs like Student Bridges on the UMass campuses closer to Dorchester, to Fall River, to other marginalized communities that we can’t necessarily access,” Odam said.

The last policy goal Odam described was creating the framework of a student association for attendees of public colleges in the state of Massachusetts.

As the People of African Descent co-representative in the United States Student Association, which represents over 1.5 million students throughout the country, Odam said his interactions with students in Arizona inspired this idea. He said that Arizona public college students had formed a student association, and used it to win fee freezes and rollbacks for their schools.

“Even if we cannot begin to lay that framework for a state student association, we can lay a framework for a UMass student association with the five UMass schools beginning to establish that unionization,” Odam said.

Odam said the creation of a statewide student association could prove fruitful in lobbying the non-student members of the Board of Trustees, who are more inclined to vote in favor of raising student fees. He went on to say the fees would only worsen the conditions of students who have to work multiple jobs to keep up with loan payments, in addition to studying at school.

Odam, who was an SGA senator representing the Southwest Residential Area in his freshman year and the SGA’s secretary of diversity in his sophomore year, said he was promoting his campaign through word of mouth and various different social media outlets, including Facebook and Instagram. However, he added that he was also using more traditional methods to promote his campaign.

“Nothing beats old fashioned flyer dissemination in dorms, in common areas, so you can expect to see a lot of that too,” he said.

Odam mentioned seeing elected officials within and outside UMass who take powerful positions in order to add it to their resume or gain connections, and that he was tired of seeing these officials not take into consideration what is best for their constituency.

“The people that I keep around me, we put the community above all else,” Odam said. “That is something that we need to go back to.”

The SGA elections will open March 20 at midnight, before closing on March 23 at 11:59 p.m.

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