SGA discusses misleading vaccination statistics at town hall and senate meetings

‘A lot of us are being counted twice’

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Ana Pietrewicz / Daily Collegian

By Lucas Ruud, Collegian Staff

On Wednesday evening, misleading vaccination statistics, the Survivor’s Bill of Rights and academic policy updates were all discussed at the first Student Government Association town hall meeting of the semester and at the weekly SGA meeting that ran immediately after.

During the town hall meeting, the student body came and asked questions to a panel of SGA leadership. There was a low turnout from the student body, as every audience member that asked a question was associated with the SGA.

Natalie Rubin, chair of the Outreach and Development Committee, gave a report about the Town of Amherst presenting misleading information about their vaccination statistics.

“The state was releasing a 40 percent vaccination rate… now they’re including the student population and the vaccination rate is 78 percent,” Rubin said. According to her preliminary research, the Town of Amherst added the almost entirely vaccinated UMass student body to their statistics, which Rubin views as “unacceptable.”

Rubin believes that the Town of Amherst is counting vaccinations in their statistics that didn’t happen within Amherst, which means that some students are getting their vaccination status reported in two different municipalities. “We shouldn’t be double counted in terms of vaccines,” she said.

Additionally, Rubin reported that community members viewed students coming back to campus as a hazard to public health, contributing to the 2020 fall semester being almost completely remote. She finds the alarmingly low vaccination rate of Amherst community members as hypocritical, “considering the pushback they gave to us coming back in the fall.”

“The town is not being straightforward about it,” Rubin continued. She is “working on keeping the town accountable,” and believes that the majority of unvaccinated Amherst community members are a risk to the UMass community, not the other way around.

Secretary of Sustainability Audrey Gabriel reported on the status of the Survivor’s Bill of Rights, which is a document that, if implemented by the University, would significantly increase the rights that survivors of sexual assault have at UMass.

Two weeks ago, Gabriel and other contributors to the SBOR met with administration for the first time to discuss discrepancies between the SBOR and Title IX regulations.

“We decided on more aggressive meeting times,” said Gabriel, confident that frequent meetings with administrators will lead to “full implementation of SBOR by December second.”

“That’s the date we’re going to hold them to,” continued Gabriel, referring to their efforts to ensure that administration follows through on the timeline that they provided students.

Chair of the Academic Oversight Committee Julia Carino also provided updates to academic policy-related issues.

“It has become abundantly clear that we need more rules around how online classes operate in writing,” Carino said. She referenced professors who require students to have their cameras on, which she is looking to discuss with administration due to the controversy the issue seems to have caused.

Carino also explained that professors are not allowed to hold midterms on Monday and Tuesday night, and that some professors have been not following University policy relating to students making up work. “Over the last couple of weeks, I had an influx in reports of violations in make-up work policy and exam times,” Carino said.

She encourages anybody that is having issues with academic regulations to reach out to her.

Speaker Patrick Collins announced that the next town hall meeting will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 13 in the Black Box Theater in the Student Union. He hopes that more students will attend and ask questions.

The weekly SGA meeting that followed the town hall included the appointment of Zachary Bhattacharjee to the chair of the Undergraduate Registry Oversight Committee and two special assistant appointments. These appointments were the only significant motions.

“I’m excited to work with UROC,” said Bhattacharjee, who was previously a member of the Administrative Affairs Committee.

“A lot of RSOs and agencies are not aware of UROC and how we can help,” he continued. “We need to form a better relationship with RSO and agency leaders.”

Brain Forgue, a political science student, was appointed as a special assistant to the Administrative Affairs Committee. Nick Spano, also a political science major, was appointed as a special assistant to the Undergraduate Service Committee.

Editor’s Note: an earlier version of this article stated that professors could not schedule finals on Mondays and Tuesdays, which was inaccurate.

Lucas Ruud can be reached at [email protected].