Andrew J Sciascia
Student Government Association’s 2019 Election season saw the candidacy of qualified student leaders as well as heavily detailed-oriented policy discussions.
Above all, however, its conclusion sees unprecedented excitement to get started on the job from all of its newly elected board members.
“I am just very excited to start representing this student body – I am excited to get to work,” said newly elected SGA President David Morton, a junior business and political science major.
Online polls closed at 4 p.m. Wednesday evening, and the results poured in soon after, with 1,000 students – about 8 percent of undergraduates – having voted.
With 664 votes, Morton was elected alongside running mate Hannah Casey, a sophomore political science major, who will serve as SGA Vice President.
Running unopposed, Morton and Casey centered their platform around progress toward a better student dining experience, accessibility for students of all ability statuses and increased outreach to other student clubs and organizations.
“Something I really want to see happen early is making it a requirement for senators to, every week or two, go out and meet with a new club and truly hear and bring back their concerns,” said Casey.
Having served for two years on the body, Morton is no stranger to SGA elections season – particularly having come up just short of the presidency last spring when he campaigned with running mate, and close personal friend, Eric Eisner.
In the year since, Morton says he has seen good strides forward made by his Spring 2018 opponents Andre DiFilippo and Vilma Okey-ewurum and looks forward to building on those strides with Casey.
Further down the ballot, Eisner was elected to Senator At-Large once again alongside Gianni Newman, Simran Miranda, Kevin Zhang and Erik Pettaway.
Running the only directly contested race in the bunch, Ryan Callahan, a sophomore political science student, was elected to the role of Student Trustee – besting Connor Redding with 616 votes and just over 82 percent of the vote.
Callahan had resolved to center his efforts as Trustee around advocating for programming and funding to sexual violence prevention education, sustainability efforts and improved disability services at UMass Lowell and throughout the UMass system.
Callahan will be one of two Student Trustees with a vote on the UMass Board of Trustees come the 2019-20 Academic Year, something he took issue with while interviewing with the Connector.
“It is something the Trustees have been fighting for a long time. I look forward to working with them to try to better not only our campuses but also this process” said Callahan. “These students need us to be an advocate for our school. If we don’t get a vote, what’s the point in even being there?”
Like Morton and Casey, Callahan also expressed enthusiasm in regard to working with other student leaders and getting started on the job as soon as was allowed.
“It really means everything,” said Callahan. “I love this school. I love this place. The fact that I get to represent it in this way – it’s a dream come true. I can’t wait to get started.”
A hot topic on campus during to election was the Massachusetts Political Interest Research Group’s UMass Lowell chapter, which was up for their biannual funding reinstatement referendum.
Much discussion was had around campus in the weeks leading up to the vote surrounding MassPIRG’s default billing of $11 to each undergraduate annually for the purpose of political action and advocacy.
MassPIRG’s default fee, which students may waive in one of several Student Information System financial tabs, was reinstated by the student body Wednesday – as it has been every two years since 1978.
“It was great! We did, in the last three days of [Get Out the Vote] week, we made about 3,000 contacts. So that was really exciting. We had a really great team of people doing a lot of work,” said Ann Kurian, MassPIRG UMass Lowell’s chapter chair.
“We were pretty much active all hours of the day for three days,” added Jesse Dawson, an undeclared freshman.
Still – coming as a possible result of elevated dialogue surrounding the organization – MassPIRG saw a vote more contested than in years past, finishing with approximately 71 percent of the vote and just 579 students voting in favor while 234 voted against.
Should a similarly small number of students choose to waive their fee next year, this result means MassPIRG will once again be feeing UMass Lowell students for a total of nearly $125,000 – that is according to information given to the Connector by the Office of Student Affairs.
This funding will be pooled between ’s 12 collegiate chapters in the state for a total of more than $1 million which will go toward their sustainability and voting initiatives, paid political organizers, lobbyists and, presumably, the organization’s statewide office a brief walk from the State House on Beacon Hill.
“[Students] believe in the mission,” said freshman business major Easmond Tsewble. “They see that now we are building a bee hotel on East Campus, so that the campus, the plants, will be better. The environment on campus will be better. The students see the results. They support the cause. And they’re willing to throw $11 at it per semester.”
Seeing the student dialogue and substantial support in these spring elections, MassPIRG’s representatives also stressed their principles of transparency as well as student engagement, involvement and advocacy on Friday.
And it appears this call for more undergraduate involvement is echoed by SGA, who, according to Morton, will be looking to fill 15 to 20 senate seats come fall with students with for bettering the student experience at UMass Lowell.
“The biggest things for me are recruitment and getting our senators more involved in the campus community. We hear all the time that SGA is only around during elections. Honestly, that’s kind of true,” said Morton. “We need to get the senators to understand that they’re representing the students, so they need to be out there listening to those students. If we can do that, we’ll have a lot of success.”