Question and Answer: SGA trustee candidate Max Roemer seeks to change the Code of Student Conduct

Platform focuses on conduct, University funding

(Photo provided by Max Roemer)

(Photo provided by Max Roemer)

By Kathrine Esten, News Assistant

Student trustee candidate Max Roemer, a junior legal studies and philosophy major, is running to be the University of Massachusetts’ representative within the Board of Trustees, the legislative body of UMass. Roemer currently serves as the president of the Residential Housing Association.

Here’s the transcript of the question-and-answer in preparation for Monday’s Student Government Association executive debate from 6-8 p.m. in the Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall. SGA elections will be held from Feb. 20 to Feb. 22.

Kathrine Esten: Why did you choose to run for Student Trustee?

Max Roemer: That’s a really good question. I have quite a bit of experience in student government, particularly in the Residence Hall Association. I started off as my house council president, then I was the national communications coordinator. I’m currently the president of our housing association, so I think [Student Trustee] is a good step up for me. I think when people ask that, everyone always thinks that people want this for a selfish reason. If I had to give a selfish reason, it’s that I want my degree to be more valuable next year than it was this year. I’m really excited that this role gives me an opportunity to make everyone’s degree, including my own, more valuable. 

KE: What are your strongest qualifications as a candidate?

MR: My strongest qualifications are the depth and breadth of my experience. It’s outlined on my website, but I’ve worked at the German Consulate, I’ve worked at top mergers and acquisitions firms, a huge experience here on campus at both [Student Legal Services Organization] and [Residential Life], in the Student Government Association. I think that gives me a broad perspective and a deep perspective on some of the most critical issues on our campus, such as diversity, inclusion, everything that really matters. Especially now, we have a huge opportunity to impact the code of conduct, and that’s something we need to capitalize on.   

KE: What policies do you intend to pursue as student trustee?

MR: The Code of Student Conduct just applies to UMass Amherst. I think one of the most nefarious parts of the Code of Student Conduct is the fact that if a student is arrested, and the next day the case is dropped, and the police say, “There’s no evidence here,” the arrest alone can be used for a suspension or expulsion from the University. That’s a practice I want to change. If someone’s not guilty, they’re not guilty. It’s that easy. At the same time, the standard of proof in a criminal case is a lot higher than the standard of proof in an expulsion case, so there are times we want to be able to make that distinction. Currently, [the standard] is too low.

A Five UMass issue I’d like to change, and this is something every trustee will say is a “Five for Five system.” So, currently, only two of the five trustees has a vote. It’s hard to change that when there are nineteen votes and two of them belong to students. The other option to change that, and it’s on Massachusetts legislature’s floor every year, is…to change that through the legislature. That’s something I’d be in favor of, that’s something I’d testify in front of Senate for.

And of course, decreasing student costs is a big policy issue I’d like to change. Previously, in fiscal year 2016, and not in fiscal year 2017, there was a policy of a 50/50 split between the University, so the students, and the state, in terms of funding, and that’s since faded. Another Five UMass policy I’d like to address is at least being funded at the rate of inflation every year. That means students don’t have to pay more every year for the same quality of education. That’s sort of a basic thing to ask for.

KE: Which policies would be your priority as student trustee?

MR: I’d prioritize student conduct at the moment, because it’s such an opportune time to get involved. The Code of Student Conduct is up for review, we have a new dean of students who’s in favor of shifting toward a justice perspective. If there’s any time in UMass’ history to reform the Code of Student Conduct, it’s now. Tuition and fees are always a big issue, and will be a big issue for me, but Code of Student Conduct is where we can make the biggest impact, right now.

Student fees, you know, everyone wants to see free college education, and that’s a 10, 20, 30, 40, 50-year process, and we can take steps toward that, and I will take as many steps toward that as I can. But we can see the most impact by impacting the Student Code of Conduct.

KE: As the representative of the UMass campus, how do you intend to communicate with the student body?

MR: That’s a critical point. I’m one person and I can’t possibly have all the ideas, all the diverse opinions of this entire campus, so it’s critical that I communicate with everyone. I want to set up open forums for students to have input on these issues. Students should be able to make recommendations in a meaningful way—not in the way that they make a recommendation, and it’s thrown in the recommendations box, and that’s thrown off a cliff, but ensuring that the administration reads it and puts it to a vote.

Through referenda, I think the biggest issues need to be passed. Additionally, I’ll be sitting in different RSO’s [Registered Student Organizations’] offices, I’ll be meeting with different student groups across campus. We have a really good set of multicultural RSOs, and the SGA has a registry of every RSO on campus, and it’s pretty clear to see what their mission statement is. So, for a specific issue, I’ll look into the RSO registry, look at their mission statements, and reach out to specific students who I think are primary shareholders in that issue.

KE: How do you feel your platform differs from other candidates?

MR: I’ll start off with a lot of similarities. Everyone’s going to run on affordability, everyone’s going to run on sustainability, and everyone’s going to run on the Code of Student Conduct. Aside from that, my experiences at Student Legal Services are a huge impactor. Student Legal Service is an office that provides free legal help for students on this campus, but I think it should be a basic right for students, even outside of criminal cases. That’s something I think we need to expand to the other UMass, and that’s something, based on my experience, I’m best suited for.

The other thing is the campus climate survey, that’s something I’ve looked into quite a bit. I’m very happy with it, but it does overlook the residence halls, which is an area I have a lot of expertise in. So, within that narrow aspect of the campus climate report, I think I’m best suited to address those issues.

KE: What do you like about the opponents that you’re running against?

MR: I don’t know one of them, so I won’t comment on him, but Rob Kearns and Jiya [Nair] are incredible candidates. Rob Kearns strikes me as the type of guy who’s going to have a lifelong career in civil service, who’s always going to be looking for the best in other people. And Jiya has a demonstrated success on this campus, as [SGA] attorney general, working on the land use policy among other issues. I think of all the candidates I know, students can’t go wrong. But of course, I think I’m the best candidate.

KE: Anything else you’d like to add?

MR: No matter how people vote, it’s important that they get out and vote. We saw this with the last election, the last presidential election, that there was a really low voter turnout. Through the electoral college, one candidate won. Of course, at UMass, we don’t have the electoral college, it’s pretty direct, but it’s important that people get out and speak their mind. Because voter participation starts now, at the college level, at the municipal level, and we need to create greater voter participation in this country, regardless of who wins this election. That’s something I really care about.

See below for the full audio of this interview, as portions have been edited out for length.

Kathrine Esten can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Kathrin