As we settle into the spring semester, we reflect on the work of the Undergraduate Student Government. The new slate was filled by Macie Jones and Hadley Zibel as the president and vice president respectively, alongside Jake Bates as the UMass Boston student trustee.
The executive members took charge in April 2021 with a strong commitment to making the transition to in-person learning smooth and efficient. In order to summarize the fall semester, The Mass Media has gathered reports from the student trustee, president and vice president.
President Jones' report incorporates some of the important updates on the Student Government’s constant correspondence with the administration to ensure the continuous implementation of measures in the light of COVID-19 and student safety. Some of the biggest highlights of the fall semester are:
The senate appointed Jaein Kim to the Cabinet as the international student officer
The senate appointed Anjani Naidu, a second-year International Relations major and economics minor, as the Boston Intercollegiate Government representative. BIG is a coalition of student governments across universities in the greater Boston area. Naidu—alongside Dhruv Naik, executive Cabinet member and BIG representative—will speak for UMass Boston at BIG General Assemblies and committee meetings. Recent projects that the Cabinet members are working on include implementing the Care Days Initiative, which will promote students' well-being and mental health resources.
The senate appointed Tessa Lyman to the Cabinet as the academic officer.
The senate appointed Nikita FilsAime to the Cabinet as the diversity and inclusion officer.
President Jones and Vice President Zibel stated they met with the Dean of Students, John Silveria, and Director of Health Services, Rob Pomales, to discuss implementing mental health days on campus and to have diligent measures for COVID-19 protocols. This included surveillance testing policies and updating the UMass Boston COVID-19 dashboard with vaccination and positivity rates.
In November, the President and Vice President met the Mass. Public Research Interest Group team to discuss new projects and ways in which the Student Government can assist. MASSPIRG is an advocate for the public interest, and the UMass Boston chapter currently works on three important projects: 100 percent renewable energy, open education resources, and hunger and homelessness. Following this meeting, the executive members met the Academic Provost Joe Berger and discussed open educational resources more extensively.
The Student Government is diligently working on the menstrual product initiative that provides necessary products for free. The recent update from President Jones' end is that they met the Dean of Students, John Silveria, and spoke with the heads of the menstrual product company to discuss the plan of setting up machines at various locations on-campus.
Trustee Bates has been diligently working on achieving the goal of encouraging students and faculty to use more open education resources, which are educational materials that are low-cost, or even free, alternatives to textbooks. President Jones was able to talk to the provost about getting professors to submit their book lists earlier so that students can have a considerable amount of time to buy, rent or sell books at the right time.
Trustee Bates has been actively involved in the enrollment committee as a part of the campus' strategic planning process. Student Trustee Bates, alongside the committee members, is attempting to determine what aspects of campus life can be improved to encourage higher retention in current students and higher enrollment in newly accepted students.
During the spring semester, the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees will meet to finalize and vote on the annual budget for the fiscal year 2022-23. According to updates provided, the budget will determine many important things, including how much students will be paying in tuition next year. Trustee Bates is hopeful about the spring semester and plans to do his best to provide an accurate perspective of UMass Boston if any tuition increases come to a vote.
The USG held its first General Assembly of the spring semester on Wednesday, Feb. 2. The GA ended productively with input from the senators on the classes being conducted in person amidst the fear of Omicron. Not many students are feeling positively about the transition, but according to the Vice President's report, the number of classes under BeaconFlex has increased, compared to the fall semester.
The university piloted a flexible teaching model named BeaconFlex in the second half of Spring 2021. This model allows a limited number of courses to benefit from meetings on campus while allowing students to choose between attending the class in-person in a designated room, or remotely via web conferencing. The pilot of BeaconFlex has been extended to Spring 2022 with a greater number of classes becoming involved.
Another important takeaway from the GA is that the USG is holding a special election to appoint the senate members. Additionally, students should anticipate the presidential and student trustee elections later this year before wrapping up the spring semester.
The USG is the official student body of the University of Massachusetts Boston. General Assemblies and committee meetings take place on alternate Wednesdays from 3-4 p.m.