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MassPIRG stays, Active Minds in need of volunteers

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On Tuesday, April 5, 2106, the Student Government Association held their first meeting of the month. To begin, Madam President Evelyn Dina made the president’s address. Dina explained that she, along with senior class president and parliamentarian Ryan Losco, met with President Dr. Ramon Torrecilha to compromise on changes that would be made to commencement involving who would announce graduates’ names as they walk to receive their diploma. Afterward, they sent an email to the campus community.

Essentially, fewer faculty members will read graduates’ names. Each department’s graduates will not be exclusively represented by a member of that respective department.

“The decision to limit the faculty members who announce names at commencement was discussed to improve both the consistency and clarity of the ceremony,” Dina and Losco said. The email then went on to clarify that this decision was not made in hopes of shortening the run-time of commencement.

In the email, Dina and Losco stated, “Once a student receives their diploma cover and is greeted by President Torrecilha, the faculty chair or representative from each department will also offer their congratulations as each student departs from the ramp to return to their seat.”

The email also went on to explain the rational behind the compromise.

“This will allow students to share this special moment with their faculty, as well as ensure the consistent and clear reading of each student’s name,” Dina and Losco said.

In the SGA meeting itself, Dina expressed her support on the matter.

“I truly believe this is a fair compromise,” Dina said.

President Torrecilha, who was also briefly present at the meeting, spoke to the SGA and reminded senators about his 60 minutes with the President event. He also said that though it is not officially decided, he is thinking that Pancakes with the President will be on May 4.

The largest portion of the meeting encompassed the MassPIRG Referendum Vote that takes place every two years.

MassPIRG is a statewide, grassroots, non-partisan, student-funded organization dedicated to campaigning for social change on the federal, state, and local level, especially on-campus where they also affect change.

In the past, MassPIRG assisted in creating and implementing the 1981 Bottle Bill and the 1983 Lemon Law, as well as campaigning for affordable higher education and increasing the number of registered voters.

They are funded entirely by the waivable fee of $9 per semester. This fee allocated within their budget in the following ways: 50 percent to staff salary; 34 perfect for the Central PIRG staff; 24 percent in operating fees; and two percent in U.S. PIRG dues, the federal chapter.

The Westfield State chapter of MassPIRG itself has registered about 1,000 voters at the University within the past four years with their new voter campaign. In addition, the chapter eliminated all plastic bags on campus and replaced them with paper bags.

Their main focus this year is the New Voters Project. Because of the upcoming election, this project will focus registering more students on campus so they can vote here in Westfield or through an absentee ballot.

In this week’s meeting, the SGA would vote on whether the optional semesterly fee of $9 would remain on the student bill as an opt-out rather than an opt-in. If it was changed to an opt-in, MassPIRG would lose a significant amount of funding and would not be able to sustain itself on campus, Dina said.

Ryan Losco moved to make the vote a roll-call vote so present senators would be able to vote individually on behalf of their constituents. They motion carried unanimously.

As a result of the roll call, 52 senators voted in favor of keeping the optional fee as is, and 11 voted against keeping the fee as an opt-out rather than an opt-in. Among the votes against, two were abstentions.

Ultimately, MassPIRG stays for another two years.
Moving forward in the meeting, President Dina announced that the facilities and operations day, formerly known as maintainer appreciation day, would be a breakfast event on Friday, April 8 from 9-10 a.m. Dina affirmed that all students are welcome to the event.

Dina went on to announce that Active Minds is in need of at least 20 volunteers for the Out of the Darkness walk, an event that raises funds that go toward raising awareness for suicide and increasing resources for suicide prevention.

Next, Vice President of Programming Haley Batchelder gave her report, in which she clarified a misunderstanding about the recently publicized “petting zoo” event on the Friday of SpringFest. Batchelder explained that the event is actually a travelling zoo, and while students may have the opportunity to engage with and pet the animals, the event is mostly educationally based, and the animals are not actually part of a petting zoo but rather Forest Park Zoo in Springfield.

The next meeting of the Student Government Association will be April 12 at 5:30 p.m. in the Peter D. Mazza Student Government Room in the garden level of Ely by Dunkin’ Donuts.

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