Massachusetts Daily Collegian

SGA leaders ‘set a tone’ of student activism for the year to come

Student Power Week kicked off Monday with rally

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(Hayley Johnson/ Daily Collegian)

(Hayley Johnson/ Daily Collegian)

(Hayley Johnson/ Daily Collegian)

By Hayley Johnson, Editor in Chief

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Leaders of the Student Government Association launched Student Power Week on Monday outside the Fine Arts Center, providing a platform for various University of Massachusetts groups to voice their goals and missions regarding student activism for the 2018-19 school year.

Representatives from 10 registered student organizations and from Student Legal Services spoke at the kickoff event: the Center for Education and Policy Advocacy, UMass Democrats, the Sustainable Organization Coalition, MassPIRG, Sustainability Projects Abroad, the Prison Abolition Collective, UMass Pride Alliance, the International Socialist Organization, the Menstrual Advocacy Coalition and UMass Students for Reproductive Justice. Each speaker was given a couple minutes to speak about their organization.

Stephnie Igharosa, a social thought and political economy and women, gender and sexuality studies major, also read an original poem, “Black Girls Love,” at the rally.

Monday’s rally is the first of multiple student power events facilitated by the SGA throughout the week.

The Center for Education and Policy is holding a rally to protest increasing tuition on Thursday as part of the Student Power Week.

“The idea for the rally Thursday is that we’re seeing the fourth consecutive year of tuition and fees going up, and that’s outrageous. This University is already quite expensive and that it keeps climbing every year just makes the problem of student debt worse,” said James Cordero, a sophomore English and social thought and political economy major and CEPA’s co-campaign and advocacy coordinator.

(Hayley Johnson/ Daily Collegian)

“On average, at a public university in Massachusetts, if you graduate, you’ll have about $37,000 of debt, and that is going to prevent you from buying a home, from buying a car, from feeding yourself sometimes. That’s hugely impactful on a lot of peoples’ lives,” he said.

Nathalie Amazan, SGA vice president and junior political science and legal studies major, is the main organizer of the week. Amazan explained the role of the SGA in this week is to provide a space for various RSOs to advocate for causes close to them.

“We live in a world that has a lot of problems, and those problems are reflected on our campus, so I think it’s important that we have students who feel supported,” Amazan said. “And this is SGA’s role, to really just support these groups. We’re not necessarily advocating for one way or another because we can’t technically do that, but we’re just using our resources to facilitate students using their voices.”

In preparation for the week, Amazan said the SGA emailed the eight councils that oversee over 200 RSOs on campus about participating. The types of advocacy that student groups seek is up to them, according to Timmy Sullivan, the SGA president.

“Whoever wants to participate is able to participate, and how you describe advocacy, or what you’re advocating for, really is up to you. I think it would be unethical for me to determine the parameters or the topics of advocacy for other people,” said Sullivan, a junior political science major.

James Fiorentino, a former history graduate student, spoke about UMass ISO at the rally. He said one of the primary focuses of ISO this semester is advocating for the Massachusetts Nurses Association’s fight for Question 1, the Nurse-Patient Assignment Limits, on the ballot this November.

“In this political moment, people are sort of searching for answers and alternatives to the status quo, so I think it’s important to help build and demonstrate to the UMass community that there’s a large amount of us out here who are interested in progressive change, however that may be,” Fiorentino said.

Started by two students in their dorm room freshman year, the Menstrual Advocacy Coalition, or MAC, recently became an established RSO in the fall of 2017. Juniors Kimberly Beliard and Karisma Pathak started the organization to end the stigma associated with menstrual cycles. Beliard spoke at the rally, saying the group hopes to work with the University to provide menstrual products on campus for students in need of them.

“I think getting different groups together who want to do advocacy work, having them have a space to do that in the beginning of the semester can set a tone that this is work we can be engaged in right now. It’s not just a legacy of the past, it’s very much in the present,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said he hopes students will take away from this week that “[engaging] with our political system can manifest itself beyond the ballot box.”

Hayley Johnson can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @hayleyk_johnson.

3 Comments

3 Responses to “SGA leaders ‘set a tone’ of student activism for the year to come”

  1. Tom Scalini on September 11th, 2018 3:44 pm

    Someone needs to ask Timmy and Nat to solve the dining issues, rather than jerking off about random stupid crap that 1% of this campus cares about

  2. Anon on September 13th, 2018 12:24 am

    They’re incoherent

  3. Ed Cutting EdD on September 13th, 2018 3:04 pm

    I agree completely, except that it’s more than just dining.
    I just looked at the parking fees — that’s obscene!
    And then all of the rules now imposed on you — Good Lord!

    There was a time when UMass students wouldn’t have tolerated this.

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