Freshman, transfer students encouraged to vote in upcoming SGA election

Voting will take place from Sept. 21 to Sept. 25

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(Anish Roy/Daily Collegian)

By Sophia Gardner, Assistant News Editor

Incoming freshmen and transfer students, as well as all other students at the University of Massachusetts, will be eligible to run and vote in the upcoming Student Government Association election. The student body will be electing senators, a president and vice president and student trustee to represent them.

The elections will be held from Sept. 21 to Sept. 25 and voting will take place through Campus Pulse. Students can access the page which will allow them to vote through the SGA website. SGA elections generally take place at the end of the academic year, however the election and voting period was pushed back due in part to complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to voting, the nomination period will take place between Sept. 7 and Sept. 14. During this period, students running in the election will be required to obtain a fixed number of signatures in order to get their name on the ballot. Students running for senator must obtain the signatures and Spire ID numbers from a minimum of 50 students from their graduating class. Students running for president or vice president must obtain the signatures and Spire ID numbers from at least 200 undergraduate students. Those running for student trustee must obtain the signatures and Spire ID numbers from at least 250 undergraduate or graduate students.

After the nominations period, there will be a virtual candidate meeting on Sept. 14 and Sept. 15. Campaigning will take place from Sept. 18 to Sept. 20, and the Daily Collegian, in collaboration with Rebirth Project, will hold a virtual president, vice president and student trustee debate on Sept. 18.

The SGA is “modeled after the structure of our national government,” according to Interim President Rachel Ellis. Like the national government, the SGA has three branches: the executive, the legislative and the judicial. Julia Fox, the current speaker, described the SGA as “the representative body of the undergraduate population . . . and they work to better the lives of undergraduates on and off campus, and they work with UMass administrators, faculty [and] student groups. They work to change the campus for the better for academics, the undergraduate experience, social justice, sustainability and more.”

The SGA plays a role in both administrative decisions and the day-to-day lives of UMass students.

“SGA has a lot of power, both mandated and informal,” said Derek Dunlea, the current student trustee. “The administration is required to consult with student government, and this allows an important place to encourage different decisions or question process. But importantly, the role of student government is also one of collaboration and informal relationships, one where electing the right students can mean student input actively shaping and working to make the student experience better.”

One important function of the SGA is to serve as a check on the power of the administration, according to Esha Maewal, the chancellor of elections.

“Governments were created to serve their citizens, student government was created to serve the student body,” Maewal said. “Universities are structured in a way where administrators do not always have the students’ best interests in mind. Colleges are businesses and often are treated as such.”

Maewal went on to explain how the SGA can impact administrative decisions.

“The administration often makes decisions without consulting SGA leadership,” said Maewal. “This was the case during our emergency closing in March. Fortunately, there is a piece of legislation known as the Wellman Document that essentially outlines that the UMass administration cannot make any decisions that impact students when appropriate.”

Fox also discussed the impact of the Wellman Document: “With our student government, we have a great deal of power due to a document called the Wellman Document, so legally, there has to be student consultation or input from the student government to administrators, so we have a great working relationship.”

“This document can still be used to our benefit, its principle grants the SGA limitless authority,” said Maewal.

Fox also outlined some of the SGA’s other powers, such as the SGA’s oversight of the Registered Student Organizations and Agencies on campus; “So that’s a 3.2 million dollar budget of the student activities fee that we fund and divvy up between all the groups,” said Fox.

Ellis encouraged students to get involved in the organization. “Basically, as a freshman, you’re looking to go into that senator role, so you’re looking to be a part of the legislative branch . . . you would be voting on motions that truly impact the University.”

Fox also stressed the importance of getting involved with the SGA, regardless of major: “Anyone can run, and anyone should run. Even if you have no experience in government or politics, or you’re not a political science major. We have a wide array of STEM majors and representation from different departments, so you should just get up and run.”

Ellis also encouraged students to vote in the upcoming election. “This matters. This is your experience at UMass. Whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, you need to make sure that the people representing you are the people that you want representing you.”

Dunlea also stressed the importance of voting: “Voting means taking the first step in being involved in this process and is your way to help yourself and students! Get involved, email some of the incumbents or candidates, and see who you want as your voice to the administration. In times like this, choosing the right people is so important so do your part, and they want to talk to you, so reach out!”

 

Sophia Gardner is an Assistant News Editor and can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @sophieegardnerr.