New social justice coalition, athletic department ‘bubble’ and new affordable meal plan among the many topics discussed at first SGA meeting

SGA unveils big plans for near future

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

By Gretchen Keller and Irina Costache

The University of Massachusetts Student Government Association welcomed the new school year on Monday with their first meeting.

The meeting included discussions about a new social justice coalition, the appointment of new senators, the construction of a “bubble” for the athletics department, the creation of a more affordable meal plan and addressing head football coach Mark Whipple’s controversial statement last week.

In light of the recent racist incidents across campus and the community forum held on Thursday, SGA Vice President Nathalie Amazan explained her plans to create a new social justice coalition.

“As we know, students on this campus have not felt safe on this campus due to the color of their skin, and for other kinds of identities, and that is something that is fundamentally wrong, and we talked about how we are going to get to becoming a racially-just campus,” Amazan said.

Amazan said that she aims to reach as many students as possible by recruiting students for the coalition through RSOs, student agencies and all departments on campus.

“We are putting together a social justice coalition that will be students who came to that forum and other students interested in joining will carry out the ideas and demands that came out of that forum, and then some,” Amazan said. The coalition is still being formed.

In addition, newly-elected senators for all classes were appointed. Senators were also appointed to seven different SGA committees including ways and means, finance, outreach and developmental, undergraduate experience, social justice and empowerment, academic oversight and administrative affairs.

Future construction projects were also introduced to the senators.

Kyle Kendall, a senator currently sitting on the athletic faculty committee, commented on the University’s plan to build a new “indoor training facility that would be open to the athletic department first, and then campus recreation.” These indoor turf fields known as “the bubble” would be beneficial for sport activities in diverse weather conditions.

The building is currently in the design process and is planned to be placed behind the football stadium. Kendall said that the total cost of the project would be a little over $6 million, all of which is covered by funding from a donor, alumnus Martin Jacobson.

The meeting also touched on the issues of affordable meal plans and food insecurity, which had was brought into the campus spotlight following a silent protest on Sept. 12 in Hampshire Dining Commons.

James Cordero, a sitting member of the advisory board for the vice chancellor of administration and finance, said “we had our first meeting two Fridays ago and talked a lot… about meal plan prices and food insecurity on campus. Essentially, we’re working on creating a more affordable option for meal plans that includes three meals a day because we believe that is necessary for students to be food secure – two meals a day just doesn’t cut it.”

Toward the end of the meeting, SGA President Timmy Sullivan touched on the recent news of offensive comments made by the University football coach. Sullivan insisted that the SGA put out an official statement on the issue.

“Personally, I think that myself and Vice President Amazan are going to say something about this. The University has suspended the coach for a week without pay, as well as mandate that he do a sensitivity training. However, I think that our office is still going to send a statement… I do believe that the SGA should comment on that because it’s reprehensible.”

The SGA plans to release the statement on the matter soon.

Gretchen Keller can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @gretchenkellerr. Irina Costache can be reached at [email protected]