Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

SGA passes five motions before spring break

SGA swears in new undersecretary for the attorney general and approves funding requests
Dylan Nguyễn

The University of Massachusetts Student Government Association (SGA) held its 1909th regular meeting in the Cape Cod Lounge of the Student Union on Wednesday, March 13. The Senate approved funding requests from two Resident Student Organizations (RSO) and swore in a new undersecretary for the attorney general.

The meeting began with announcements regarding upcoming events. The Center for Education and Policy Advocacy (CEPA) got approval for a temporary food closet on campus and put forward a motion to urge admin to provide funding for an official food pantry.

Attorney Benjamin Ferrell, from the Student Legal Services Office (SLSO), explained the goals of SLSO and that members of SGA were welcome to talk to them about university by-laws and other legal matters.

President Tess Weissman was present at the meeting following a hiatus. She’s previously met with Speaker Jackie Fallon and Acting President Joshua Gauthier to discuss transitioning back into regular proceedings.

“I had a good month or so to think about what I’ve accomplished in SGA,” said Weissman. She urged fellow members to reflect on their role and what they hope to achieve during their tenure. “Keep pushing, we have about a month left. Finish strong [and] think about what you need to get there,” she said.

Gauthier explained how he interviewed candidates for the Campus Life Search Committee.  “[I was looking at] what some of their personalities were like, what their values were. All of them brought different personality traits to the table.” Ultimately, Gauthier’s goal was to gauge the candidates’ personalities and assess how they would interact with students one-on-one.

Five percent of students need to vote in presidential elections in order for the election to continue. Speaker Jackie Fallon announced that they passed the five percent threshold and applauded outreach for being active in reaching out to students to vote. “Getting votes is a beast. I’m really impressed with all of your participation,” she said. “Even if students think we’re annoying, at least we’re out there.”

During cabinet report-outs, Secretary of Health & Wellbeing Amira Elmansoury met with Ruben Sanca, the executive director of Recreation and Wellbeing. Sanca explained “Strength and Snacks,” an initiative at the Recreation Center to open early and have female instructors explain how to use equipment.

Elmansoury also has been working on a motion to designate a multi-faith prayer room on campus and presented it to the Social Justice and Empowerment Committee (SOJEC) Sunday, March 10.

Senate then broke for half an hour for members to observe Ramadan.

Upon returning, the Senior Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Farshid Hajir discussed the outdated general education requirements for the Humanities and Fine Arts College. He expressed his interest in reviewing the requirements which were created in 1985 but have not been updated since. “We know there is a lot of student interest in adding more requirements around sustainability and diversity issues, inter-group dialogues and the ability to talk to other people with different opinions,” he said.

Cabinet report-outs followed the break. Attorney General John “Ian” Harvey said they would be walking through campus to find priority bathrooms to convert into gender neutral bathrooms.

In Senate Committee report-outs, Secretary of External Affairs Lily Bruce explained their new initiatives with libraries, where they’re collecting survey data to extend the library’s hours until 12 a.m.

Two motions were introduced by Secretary of Diversity Tanyi Muanya to approve funding to RSOs through the DIA fund. The first proposal (2024-S41) was to allocate $25,000 to the Filipino Student Association for their Bayanihan Ball.

“Bayanihan means coming together in cooperation and as a community for reaching one goal, derived from the word “bayan” which means town, nation or community,” said Sophia Belarmino, the group’s advisor.

The amount requested was amended to $15,000 by SGA following FSA’s decision to choose MICO as their musical performer. “Our culture is not as widely known on campus, especially as a [predominantly white institution], especially in western Mass.,” said FSA president Julian Esmer.

The motion was passed and the next RSO, the Cape Verdean Student Alliance (CVSA), presented their request (2024-S42) for $16,310 towards their 37th Awareness Night. Treasurer Nina Medis said the goal of the event is to “reflect [on] the different facets of Cape Verdean-ity, recognize excellence in representation and culture [and] those who have helped us get where we are.”

President Jadine Dos Reis explained that the funds would go towards booking one of two singers (June Freedom) the Batacuda music team and DJ Eddie Correia, in addition to other costs. The motion passed unanimously.

Following the DIA funding allocation, Chair Humphries introduced motion 2024-S43 that would advocate for institutional funding to be provided towards a temporary food closet on campus and for a designated permanent space.

Harvey questioned why consultations weren’t provided onto the motion. Humphries explained that there was urgency in the matter due to the upcoming spring break and a meeting with Chancellor Javier Reyes and Congressman Jim McGovern on March 25. They decided to move forward following data from a survey made the previous semester related to food insecurity on campus which had the 150 consultations needed. The motion was passed.

The next motion (2024-S44) was also introduced by Humphries for a Hunger-Free Campus Initiative Student Government Resolution. MassSPIRG’s hunger and homelessness coordinator Maitri Chandrashekar also spoke about the proposal.

“[The resolution] is urging the Mass. State House to pass the Hunger Free Campus Act [and] to combat food security on their campuses,” explained Humphries.

A motion was passed to change the wording of the resolving clause to make it “relatively stronger,” Harvey said.

Chandrashekar explained that one of the main “roadblocks” with food security on campus has been funding and that the resolution would allow for more state assistance in the process.

The resolution was passed unanimously.

Gauthier introduced a motion (2024-S45) for medals of recognition from both the office of the president and the senate to appreciate members of the community. A question was put forth regarding the potential risk of favoritism.

“Ultimately while we are making a gamble on the character and the integrity of the presidents that will follow us,” Gauthier responded, “I hope that the president wouldn’t want to conspicuously favor certain students and make it seem non-inclusive. If they do, there’s always the senate here to amend the motion.” The motion passed 15 to 5.

Then, the new Undersecretary to the Attorney General Ryan Darbhanga was sworn in by Speaker Jackie Fallon.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:03 p.m.

Kavya Sarathy can be reached at [email protected]. Mahidhar Lakkavaram can be reached at [email protected] and followed on X @Mahidhar_sl.

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