SGA elections ratified at first senate meeting of the semester, Julia Fox named speaker

President, vice president, student trustee and 60 senators ratified

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Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

By Alex Genovese, Collegian Correspondent

The Student Government Association at the University of Massachusetts held its first senate meeting of the fall semester Wednesday night via Zoom.

Introducing both incumbent and new student members to the SGA senate, interim Speaker Julia Fox instructed senators on procedures and introduced the SGA leadership. All attending leaders introduced themselves and gave a brief overview of their roles and responsibilities.

Reviewing the conduct of the election, Chancellor of Elections Ben Alvarez-Dobrusin reported a voter turnout of 9 percent for the president, vice president and senator races and 8.4 percent for the Student Trustee race. Turnout was also 9 percent for the referendum question dealing with Open Educational Resources, which passed.

Following the report, all newly elected students, including President Sonya Epstein, Vice President Jenny Chang, Student Trustee Tim Scalona and the senators were sworn-in by Chief Justice Cynthia Murphy.

Nominations and elections also took place for speaker and associate speaker. Interim Speaker Julia Fox and newly-elected freshmen senator Tulsi Patel were nominated for speaker. Freshmen Senators Zach Bhattacharjee and Himanshu Padnani, and sophomore Senators Meher Gandhi and Nandni Talreja were nominated for associate speaker.

Results of the election, which was conducted during the meeting, had Fox elected speaker and Gandhi elected associate speaker.

“Having stepped into the role of interim speaker due to COVID-19 and the quick transition to remote learning, I have had to rapidly adapt as a student leader to get new informed responsibilities and support the SGA and the student body in an unprecedented situation in a completely virtual world,” said Fox, speaking prior to the vote.

“Through my time as associate speaker and now interim speaker, I have done extensive work with the chancellor, the vice chancellors and many other administrators, faculty and student groups,” Fox continued.

Prior to the vote, Patel noted the importance of “being open minded and being able to talk to everyone and being confident in what you believe in” as reason she should be speaker.

Gandhi, a public health major and the current interim chair of the finance committee, cited her background in cultural RSOs as a strong reason for running for associate speaker.

“I want to have unheard voices heard,” said Gandhi. “During elections, we should reach out to student groups. We need to continue to empower these voices.”

Speaking for his candidacy, Bhattacharjee, a political science major, said, “I believe that I am attentive enough to detail and willing to put in the extra work to assist the senate and the speaker. As a representative from the Class of 2024, I offer an interesting perspective because I have not been in the SGA, but I have my own working experience.”

“International participation was not as good as I expected it to be,” said Padnani, a computer science major, prior to the associate speaker vote. He cited this as the reason for running for the senate and for associate speaker.

Nandni Talreja, a who studies engineering, noted her struggles with time zones, having to leave the senate meeting for a midterm at 5 a.m. India Standard Time.

Alex Genovese can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @alex_genovese1.