New SGA leaders detail plans for their term

President Shayan Raza and and Vice President Meher Gandhi discuss systemic issues across the SGA and University

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Shilpa Sweth/Daily Collegian (2022)

By Abby Joyce, Collegian Correspondent

The University of Massachusetts Student Government Association welcomes a new president and vice president for the 2022-2023 academic year. Senior legal studies and economics major Shayan Raza was elected president alongside senior public health major and business minor Meher Gandhi, who was elected vice president.

Raza and Gandhi were both involved in the SGA years before their election last semester. Raza served as secretary of the registry and Gandhi led the Ways and Means committee during the 2021-2022 academic year. From their previous work, they learned about broader systematic issues in the SGA and the University, said Raza.

Raza and Gandhi were involved in Registered Student Organizations prior to their campaign and aim to delegate efforts towards representing these groups. “We’ve got to go through the funding process and see how hard it is for groups to request funding from the University,” Gandhi said.

“A lot [of RSOs] were struggling to find out how the SGA works in terms of RSO processes,” Raza said. “There is a lot of overhauling we still recognize needs to be done across the board, from how groups request rooms and request space, to how they request funding every year.”

Gandhi and Raza’s cabinet currently contains four presidents of different cultural organizations. “We’ve already heard from people about how they think the SGA is more diverse, which is amazing,” Gandhi said.

Discussing their other goals, Raza described that much of their work is dedicated to the equity of students within the SGA and inclusivity on campus.

“As a Muslim student and a Pakistani first-generation college student, there are a lot of things at the University that don’t really work for a student like myself and other students of color, first-generation students and low-income students,” Raza said.

Additionally, Raza wants to focus on, “repairing some of the relationships between administration and the SGA, as well as the SGA and other students. “At the end of the day, we are a part of the student body and are affected by the same issues that other students are affected by,” he said.

Among more ambitious plans for their term is the goal to construct additional permanent spaces for student groups, including the ones that were lost in the construction of the new Student Union.

“Meher and I really want to have some sort of construction project on campus to ensure that RSOs have the space to do what they want to do here on campus, whether that is a cultural night or even just a weekly meeting,” said Raza.

In the meantime, Raza is seeking to provide better accommodations to student groups, through streamlining the room reservation process or extending the ability reserve rooms in different buildings throughout campus.

The executive branch is further aiming to create more cohesion within the SGA. “The biggest flaw of the student government is when we take the branches we have to heart and act as two separate branches,” Gandhi said.

This year, they are dedicated to collaboration. “We’ve been able to be on the same page about everything and we have a great relationship with [the legislative branch] … I think that is what every year should be like for student government,” Gandhi said.

Currently, Gandhi and Raza are working on the renewal of the litigation authority of the Student Legal Service Office, which aids students in legal matters. A vote will be held in December deciding whether to renew this ability.

“SGA is in the process of doing a lot of organizing to make students aware of the issue and reaching out to external stakeholders like university alumni, state representatives, and other organizations that may be able to support,” Raza said. SLSO is the SGA’s largest expense and the group, “[wants] to make sure that those lawyers who we pay to represent students can actually represent students,” Raza said.

Abby Joyce can be reached at [email protected]