Senator resigns from Student Government Association, citing a ‘sometimes hostile environment’

Senator Isabel Leonard-Rose resigns

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

By Irina Costache, Collegian Staff

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In Monday’s University of Massachusetts Student Government Association meeting, Senator Isabel Leonard-Rose stepped down from her position, citing issues of values, behavior and power structure as reasons for her leaving the organization.

Leonard-Rose, a sophomore social thought and political economy major, served as the chair of the outreach and development committee. In this position, Leonard-Rose headed many important efforts within and outside of the Senate. Leonard-Rose stated that “advocacy and student power and mobilizing people on campus to make change even when it feels impossible” were some of the initial reasons she joined the SGA.

She continued, “What I found was a cliquey and sometimes hostile environment where it seems like people care more about upcoming motions than really talking to people and I want to be very clear with all of you as to why I’m leaving. I’m leaving because I never felt welcome in the first place. I’m leaving because there’s more talking behind each other’s back here than anywhere I’ve ever been or want to be.”

She further said, “I’m leaving because after co-facilitating…a necessary dialogue about racial justice, our response to that was to put forth the motion to limit those conversations. I’m leaving because I was denied the right to vote on decisions in my committee based on abstract rules and hierarchical power structures that exist here.”

I hope [this] serves as a reminder to all of us to be kinder people and to always challenge the institutions that we’re part of,” Leonard-Rose said.

Speaker Ryan Mahan addressed Leonard-Rose’s decision to step down in a statement during the meeting, saying “[Leonard-Rose] has really changed the way that we are interacting with each other this year and the impact that she has had on Senate has just been tremendous. [Associate Speaker] Rachel [Ellis] and I talked with [Leonard-Rose] for a long amount of time on Friday, working together to address some of the current concerns she has with the Senate and trying to take some creative approaches to the issues.”

No specific proposals regarding adjustments to issues surrounding Senate structure or culture have been publicly presented at this time.

Falling the day before Massachusetts midterm elections, the SGA meeting also addressed voting accessibility and Election Day events.

In an announcement, UMass Democrats spoke about their effort to get students to vote. The organization will be offering free rides to polling locations on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Students can get access to these rides by contacting the UMass Democrats at [email protected] through their Facebook page.

A representative for MASSPIRG also spoke at the meeting, addressing their organization’s “Get Out to Vote” campaign. The group will be running a table at Haigis Mall starting at 6 a.m. and running throughout day, where students can get information about their polling locations and transportation availability.

SGA Vice President Nathalie Amazan further spoke about an SGA co-sponsored event with the political science honor society, Phi Sigma Alpha. The two groups are hosting an Election Day viewing party on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. in the Integrative Learning Center, room N255.

Related on iClicker issues referenced in last week’s article, Senator Colleen Coakley mentioned efforts to expand the iClicker library. Coakely said, “We’re looking to use our grant that we received for the program last semester to purchase more iClickers and I’ll also be reaching out to the students businesses who helped out last year… to hopefully have donations for people who donate iClickers at the end of the semester.”

The SGA also voted on a new motion to create a select committee called the “undergraduate registry oversight committee.” The committee will work to improve sustainable RSO growth, taking on the responsibility of “research into resource availability and allocation” and “understanding the needs of student organizations,” among other things.

Senator Allie McCandless, the chair of the ways and means committee, noted the importance of RSOs and this committee, saying that “the power, voice and agency of all of our students is best represented and shown in our organizations.” She also pressed the “need to institutionalize supporting RSOs.”

Irina Costache can be reached at [email protected]