Letter to the Editor of the Berkeley Beacon

To the Beacon Editorial Board,

Following the release of the editorial “Don’t ask students to fund scholarships,” I wanted to provide some clarifying information that we were not given the opportunity to prior to its publication. The most central point is that this scholarship is intended to give back unspent money to students through a scholarship.

The source of funding:

SGA does intend to create a scholarship for returning undergraduate students who have shown excellence in leadership in their time at the college. However, the allocation of that funding does not, in any way, affect the allocations organizations receive for the 2018-2019 Academic year.

The $226 annual student activities fee mentioned in the editorial is allocated to organizations based on the requests they submit during the Annual Budget Request process. The Appeals balance is based on unspent organization funding from prior years. The Appeals account currently holds a balance of $48,352.57, after 31 approved Appeal Requests this year. Any SGA recognized student organization is able to request additional funding through the Appeals Request process.

The funding for this scholarship would come from the funds that organizations have not spent from their budgets in prior years, not from the amount available for annual allocation to student organizations.

Additionally, the Financial Advisory Board and members of Joint Session take great care in ensuring that organizations have the opportunity to grow over their time at the college. While next years allocations have not yet been finalized, the financial advisory board is recommending an increase of roughly $140,000 from last years allocations.

To say that funding this scholarship hinders an organization’s “opportunity to grow and use our funds to improve every year” disregards the fact that we routinely close the fiscal year with unspent funds in both organization accounts and the Appeals budget. It also does not account for the fact that in the vast majority of cases, organization budgets do increase from year to year.

The propriety of the scholarship in the context of POWER:

The editorial also raises concerns about the propriety of funding a scholarship while progress to achieve the demands raised by POWER has been slow. However, the editorial does not acknowledge the fact that President Pelton, in his 2017 State of the College Letter, announced the creation of the “topper scholarship fund” which provides five $20,000 scholarships to students of color and socio-economically disadvantaged students. This scholarship fund is double what POWER demanded in their petition last semester and comes from the college, not from students.

The student leader scholarship at issue is a supplement, not a replacement for progress.

Additionally, Celia Reilly and Lucie Pereira, the two co-chairs of POWER were not contacted prior to publication of this editorial. While they cannot speak on behalf of POWER’s entire membership at the current moment, they are both in favor of the student leadership scholarship.

For the last month and a half, I have been working on the inaugural Financial Accountability Initiative which is designed to address the structural inequality perpetuated by the financial inaccessibility of this college. The catalyst for all of this work are the issues raised by POWER during last semesters protest. Part of addressing these issues includes providing resources for students to fund their education.

Unclear Requirements:

The editorial also raised concerns about the fact that the requirements of this scholarship are not clearly outlined, nor is the process by which this scholarship would be awarded. These are accurate assessments. However, no money has been allocated to the scholarship for those exact reasons.

During all Joint Session discussions of this scholarship, we have made clear that these plans are not set in stone and that we intend to create and share a more concrete plan prior to allocating funding. While concrete details have been sparse, that is by design. With this still in the discussion stage, we want the opportunity to solicit input from members of Joint Session and from the student body prior to any vote, both by the SGA and the student body in the form of a constitutional amendment.

I want to conclude by reiterating what was mentioned in the final paragraph of the editorial. If these discussions raise any concerns, please reach out. We exist to speak on behalf of students and we work consciously to do so. That does require work and investment on behalf of students that goes beyond posting on social media. I ask that you reach out if you have questions, thoughts or concerns about anything we do.

Best,

Ian Mandt
SGA Executive Treasurer

SGA Executive Board's Response to #ThisIsEmerson Protest

This past Tuesday, students of Emerson College walked out of class to demonstrate their dissatisfaction and anger with the handling of diversity on campus and the failure to address concerns raised two and a half years ago at a similar protest. The fact that so little has been done demonstrates an institutional problem that will not be easy to solve. However, despite this difficulty, this work needs to be done.

The students of color who face the brunt of these problems have been the ones to carry the weight and have done the work up to this point. This should not be something they have to do. It is the role of the administration to take the concerns of students and address them, and it is the role of the Student Government Association to help amplify those concerns and advocate on the behalf of students.

The SGA is fully committed to stand with those who protested and raised their concerns and demands to the administration. While we have worked to to address similar issues in the past, we recognize that we have not done all that we can.

We are currently working to determine what part of the institution each demand listed in the petition falls under and what specific steps we can take to help implement these changes. Branches of the SGA will work to address those concerns relevant to their specific responsibilities. We are committed to being open and transparent about our progress and the information we are able to share. On EmConnect and our website (emersonsga.org), we will post monthly updates that will be viewable by the entire Emerson community. We also encourage students to reach out to relevant representatives (found on emersonsga.org/members) with any concerns with this work, or any work, the SGA is doing. If you are unsure of who the appropriate representative is, feel free to contact sga_president@emerson.edu.

We recognize that those of us writing this statement are not students of color, which itself is a problem. Because of this we have blind spots and will make mistakes in addressing these issues. For this reason, and because it is our responsibility to represent the entire student body, we welcome the input of others. We will face roadblocks and challenges, but we aim to hold ourselves accountable and hope that others will do the same.

We hear you, we see you, and we stand with you. We realize that these are just words, but we will turn them into actions.

The Student Government Association Executive Board

Annie Makielski, President

Madeline Ramaley, Vice President

Ian Mandt, Treasurer

Lizzie Northey, Secretary

Ally MacLean, Chief Justice

Emerson as a Sanctuary, Emerson as home

Below is a copy of the letter the SGA sent to President Pelton, voicing our support for the College to support undocumented and DACAmented students in a way that is concrete, rather than just symbolic.

28 January 2017
M. Lee Pelton
Office of the President
120 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02116

President Pelton:

With a petition advocating for Emerson to declare itself a Sanctuary Campus and a DREAM School circulating social media, and given the Faculty Assembly’s vote at their last meeting of the semester, the Student Government Association made this the topic our first main agenda item of the semester. On Tuesday, January 24, the SGA invited representatives from Emerson UNITE—Understanding National Immigration Through Education—to speak about the issues undocumented students face both at Emerson and in the greater local community. Ultimately, the SGA voted unanimously in support of Emerson declaring itself a Sanctuary and DREAM Campus.

The SGA does not presume to write policy on behalf of the college, but we do hope that the administration—given the combined official support from students, and faculty—gives serious consideration to adopting the provisions outlined by the petition to make Emerson a Sanctuary Campus and remain a DREAM School regardless of the actions of the current White House administration. If Mayor Marty Walsh can vow to use “City Hall itself” as a means of protecting Bostonians, we believe Emerson can and must make strides to provide the same protections to its community—students and employees alike.

We also feel it important to acknowledge that the College already goes to great lengths to provide accessible resources to help undocumented students attend Emerson. This is a policy we fully support, and so we believe this is a practice that ought to be publicized. We are asking that the College openly support all of its students and staff: undocumented or otherwise, current or prospective. We are asking the College to be an example for other institutions; to stand up for what is right rather than what is easy. We recognize this could put the College in uncertain circumstances, but we find it urgent and necessary to address current and pressing political issues directly affecting the Emerson community. Multiple executive orders signed this week tell us we cannot proceed as normal; we cannot ignore that the basic liberties and freedoms of current students are at stake.

There are many hard choices ahead. The SGA voted with the mindset that to vote against supporting this measure—regardless of its repercussions— would be to reject the values of Emerson College: diversity and inclusion, respect and responsibility. If in the future we look back on this moment to ask ourselves what we stood for, let this be one of those things.

Where the College goes from here is on the shoulders of the administration. The purpose of this letter is to make the position of the SGA clear and unequivocal and to implore the College to consult those directly impacted by this decision and the policies that go along with it. It is imperative that affected students are heard, whether by consulting Emerson UNITE as a group or contacting undocumented and DACAmented students directly.

We understand that not every student in the Emerson community may support our stance. However, the SGA would be doing the community a disservice if we did not serve all students, as we are tasked. In doing so we can foster a more diverse, and subsequently stronger, student body. We believe that Emerson College can and should be a leader in this regard. We are the next generation of media makers, communicators, and storytellers; to leave members of our community vulnerable is to risk losing important voices, which only stands to weaken us all.

Our very best,

 

 

Emily Solomon ‘17
Executive President

Gabriela Kula ‘17
Executive Vice-President

John D. Depa ‘17
Executive Treasurer

Ally MacLean ‘19
Chief Justice

Raz Moayed ‘20
Executive Assistant

Lizzie Northey ‘19
Executive Secretary

Lauren Granada ‘20
Executive Vice Treasurer

Michael O’Connor ‘17
Class of 2017 President

Spencer Wright ‘20
Class of 2020 President

Kristen Mitchell ‘20
Class of 2020 Senator

Jessica Guida ‘19
Class of 2019 President

Brandon Kaplan ‘19
Class of 2019 Senator

Annie Makielski ‘18
Class of 2018 President

Arianna Conte ‘18
Class of 2018 Senator

Patricia de la Garza ‘18
Performing Arts Senator

Lucie McCormick ‘17
VMA Senator

Isabel Macomber ‘17
Writing, Literature & Publishing Senator

Rahul Thayil ‘18
Communication Studies Senator

Reilly Loynd '19
Service Learning Commissioner

Dylan Walton ‘18
On-Campus Commissioner

Sofía Alvarado Mendoza ‘18
International Student Commissioner

Emily Schnider ‘18
Disabilities and
Accessibilities Commissioner

Gregory Massimino Garcia ‘18
Communication Sciences and Disorders Senator

Emily Soemita ‘19
Marketing Communications Senator

On the Fall Semester

I think this may be the first time I’ve written something that is from me to you all—all students, not just the incoming class—rather than writing something on behalf of other students.

The week after the election, one of the members of SGA told me she had friends that were surprised I hadn’t said anything in the wake of November 9, not as an individual, but as the president of the Student Government Association.

Truthfully, I didn’t know where to begin.

As the month wore on and we moved into December, and more things cropped up, it seemed more and more appropriate to wait until the end of the semester to reflect.

And so here we are.

A semester at Emerson is always a whirlwind, and it’s nearly always stressful, but Fall 2016 in particular seemed to have us by the throat at every turn. From the election, to American Vanguard posters, to everything else—it was relentless.

My hope is that you’re all taking this break as time to heal as much as you can, as best as you can. My hope is that you are spending it with people who love and support you, whether they be family by blood or family by choice.

I hope you take the time to regather your strength, because 2017 is not going to be easy, either.

There’s a particular urgency I feel as I look toward my last semester here,  knowing that we’re entering a time shrouded in doubt and uncertainty. My time left in this position is drawing to a close, and yet it feels as though there is still so much work to be done.

There’s urgency because I know that Emersonians, if they choose to, can be more than just spectators or bystanders. It has always been my belief that Emersonians—as the next generation of communicators, media makers, and storytellers—are capable of shifting the culture in which we live.

So long as I believe that the best storytellers are truthtellers, I refuse to accept a “post-truth” society.

It’s for this reason that my belief in education has not shaken—if anything, it’s only grown. Emerson is uniquely situated in that, at its best, it not only strives to supply us knowledge, but also to encourage us to raise questions, to challenge, to find and tell the truth.

Emerson is not a perfect place. Far be it from me to cast any illusions about that. We are at times so caught up in believing we are progressive that we dismiss the idea that anyone could be capable of bigotry or ignorance.

There are some here that would still say that it’s important to listen to the other side, to make sure that we are not teaching a one-sided story.

My response to that is simple: it is one thing to rationalize how this happened. It’s another thing to claim that those reasons are valid. It’s one thing to hear out beliefs that differ from yours; it’s another to let bigotry roam free under the guise of “tolerance.”

So I caution us all against this kind of dialogue. Do not enable bigotry in the name of open conversation. It’s a waste of time, and not one we can afford.

And above all, I want to urge you: do not let it be said that you kept your head down and did nothing. I believe in the voices of Emersonians. I believe in our power to make change. Use it. Harness that. Put your passion and your drive to use.

It is easy to accept defeat and to let that paralyze you. It is easy to proceed with business as usual.

But do not rest. Do not settle—instead, overcome.

May your break be peaceful; I’ll see you in 2017.

Yours,

Emily Solomon
Executive President of the Student Government Association

A Response to the Call for a Student Union

In the wake of the recent piece published in the Beacon about forming a student union, the SGA felt it was time to make use of the Executive Blog for the first time. We hope this space will be a place to clarify and inform the student body of our position on a number of issues pertaining to the Emerson community.

We’re completely in support of any students uniting behind a common goal of betterment and change. Rising higher education costs create a financial bubble that affects our entire community and nation in a way that needs real, actionable change. Students face a choice between the financial risks of a exorbitantly priced college education and the inability to get a job without a college education. 

The cost of attendance at Emerson is approaching $60,000, making it harder and harder for students to attend year after year. We fully acknowledge that this directly affects many multicultural students: a rising net cost for the individual student means the College will become more socioeconomically and racially homogenous than it already is. With each student that gives up and says, “I can’t afford to return here; it’s not worth it,” Emerson loses another voice. As a result, our grasp on diversity and inclusion becomes even more tenuous. A two-year tuition freeze, on the surface, looks like a viable solution.

However, it may not be the most sustainable long-term decision.

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