SGA honors long-term advisor, swears in new senators

“I don’t think any of us would have been okay without her”

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Shilpa Sweth/Daily Collegian (2022)

By Cristian Clewis and Daniel Frank

President Shayan Raza gaveled in the first 2023 Student Government Senate Meeting on Sept. 28, 2022. New members were sworn in, advisor Lydia Washington was given a heartfelt goodbye, and the future of the Student Legal Service Office was discussed.

12 new senators were sworn in by Associate Chief Justice Aiden Hallerman and the election was ratified with unanimous consent. An updated motion was then passed to amend the freshmen senate election results to reflect the actual freshmen turnout number. These new senators were then appointed to a variety of committees.

Former Student Government Association Advisor Lydia Washington was present via Zoom for the passing of a resolution honoring her leadership and service in the role. The resolution included a motion to rename the Registered Student Organization Center as the Lydia Washington Registered Organization Center, a surprise to her.

President Raza praised her, calling her “the glue of the organization for the better part of 15 years.”

“If you were here last year, you’ll understand how important Lydia is and continues to be to this organization,” he continued.

Vice President Meher Gandhi spoke to Washington’s impact on the SGA throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns, “Lydia Washington got us through that year – I don’t think any of us would have been okay without her.”

Washington, who is moving on to become the Executive Director of Student Centers at Emory University, was moved by the generosity.

“Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. I feel like I’ve always wanted something named after me – I don’t have five million dollars to donate, so I am very thankful for this. I’m speechless,” she said.

The motion passed unanimously and was followed by a standing ovation. More than a dozen SGA senators added their names to the resolution honoring her. Washington also left some words of wisdom for those new to the SGA.

“Please use this opportunity to continue to support student voices. Please use this opportunity to have intentional and healthy conversations with one another,” Washington said. “You all are strong together and not as strong divided. So please make sure you are working together and coming together and continuing to make sure the SGA is as powerful as it’s always been, even before I was here,” she continued.

President Raza also called attention to the necessity for the UMass Student Legal Services Office’s litigation power to be renewed this year, calling it an “all hands-on deck kind of process.” Every 10 years, the SLSO must renew its right to go to court for students. His plea for action was extended to all members of the UMass community.

The SLSO impacts students’ everyday lives by assisting with the housing process and immigration disputes, among other legal issues.

The Senate was again unable to ratify the Student Trustee vote due to turnout not reaching five percent. The interim appointee, Adam Lechowicz, a computer science PhD student, will continue to serve as the current Student Trustee as approved by the SGA. He remarked that this “wasn’t necessarily the outcome [he] expected last spring.” Despite this, he named the renewal of the SLSO his “above top priority,” and plans to push for greater student representation on the Board of Trustees.

He also noted that the University of Massachusetts will have a voting member on the trustee board this year, although the University was not under the impression that it was their turn.

Finance Chair Ian Harvey is attempting to enumerate the expenses that the SGA pays for at the Student Union to increase administrative transparency. The Student Government Association pays approximately two million dollars every year to support the Student Union, but a conversation with the UMass administration revealed a lack of clarity in the usage of the funds.

In their reports, multiple senators mentioned the difficulty that RSOs face in booking spaces. In particular, the Muslim Student Association books a space on campus every Friday for prayer but does not have a dedicated space to do this. The SGA has been in talks with the UMass administration to remedy this.

Secretary Zachary Bhattacharjee noted that the “fastest RSO application process ever” will be released by the SGA on Friday.

Speaker Clare Sheedy also called attention to the interview applications for senate seats that are open to all grades. Interested applicants can apply on their website.

Cristian Clewis can be reached at [email protected]

Daniel Frank can be reached at [email protected]