SGA discusses inclusivity and the state college debt review

SGA discussed updates on the Gender-inclusive Bathroom Study, the Massachusetts State College Debt Review, and outdated COVID-19 prevention methods during it’s April 19 meeting.

During her report, President McKenzie Ward provided a progress update on the Gender-inclusive Bathroom Study.

She said she discussed adding a changing table to the new bathroom with Dale Hamel, executive vice president one of the point people for the study.

SGA discussed considering this addition to the new restroom at it’s April 6 meeting.

According to Ward, Hamel said they would be “more than happy” to add it to the study.

Ward said she began working on this project in December 2021 in an effort to increase gender inclusivity on campus.

She originally thought it was “just going to be changing a sign,” she said, but it has become a $100,000 project.

She said currently, the only gender-inclusive restroom she knows of on campus is located in the McCarthy Forum, and it is often locked and therefore unusable.

Ward said it sends a bad message that the only gender-inclusive bathroom in the McCarthy Center is behind the Forum stage. “It really makes it seem like we’re trying to hide people who don’t want to use a gendered ‘men’s’ or ‘women’s’ restroom.”

A motion to allocate $5,000 of SGA’s unallocated Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) funds to the “Gender-inclusive Bathroom Study” was passed.

Ward thanked the senate, saying, “This is making sure that everyone on campus has a place – that they feel safe and welcomed.” 

Secretary Sam Houle said he attended the Massachusetts State College Debt Review on April 14 and learned that the Massachusetts State College System has $1.2 billion in capital debt.

He said according to the review, each Framingham State student pays $2,100 in fees that goes toward paying interest on the University’s debt.

“That’s $2,100 that students are paying and not getting anything back for it,” said Houle.

He said this debt increases student fees by 25%, adding, “It’s 25% that students are paying and receiving absolutely nothing.

“You’re shrugging off $1.2 billion onto your students that are already dealing with the extremely inflated cost of college,” he said. 

Houle said he hopes SGA can become “more vocal” about this issue.

Ward said that according to a study she read, for the last 20 to 30 years, Massachusetts has been “​​severely” undercutting public institutions of higher education.

She asked, “Where is that money going to that should be going to us?

“It just adds to the conversation that the University needs to be more transparent in what the fees are that they’re charging us.”

Anthony Sims, a sophomore English major, suggested SGA send a letter voicing their concern on this issue to Massachusetts gov. Charlie Baker  “asking genuinely for change.”

During Open Forum, Sims said it bothers him that payment in cash is not accepted at The Grille and other campus dining locations.

He said, “Not everyone has a debit or credit card on them with money on it.

“Personally, I’m a college student. I’m poor by nature,” he said. 

Sims added if he wanted to transfer cash to his bank account, he would have to drive to his hometown, which is one hour away, which would cost him excess “gas money.”

Dara Barros, diversity and inclusion officer, said the reason campus dining locations don’t accept cash is due to COVID-19 restrictions implemented when it was thought the virus could be transferred by surfaces.

She added dining services, located above the police station in McCarthy, can transfer cash into RamCash.

Faculty Advisor Sara Gallegos said this concern should be voiced in an email sent on behalf of SGA.

She added, “Most places have already moved to bringing cash back,” and it is “illegal” not to accept cash in Massachusetts.

The issue of accessibility on campus was revisited from SGA’s April 6 meeting.

Ward said a friend of hers was in the dining hall with a student who needs a straw in order to drink.

The student usually brings their own but had forgotten it that day, Ward said.

She said the closest location that had straws was Dunkin’. However, when her friend informed the staff worker at the entrance of the dining hall about their situation, they were met with “attitude and were told they should be better prepared.”

Ward said, “If we’re supposed to be an inclusive campus, we should really be taking into consideration our students who are just trying to help other students.”

She added this is especially true since other dining locations on campus are allowed to have straws.

During her Diversity and Inclusion Officer report, Barros said the diverse student artwork selected by the Center for Inclusive Excellence, is now on display there in O’Connor Hall.

She said there will be “listening sessions” for the search committee for the new vice president of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement (DICE) that she will attend.

There will be a student listening session on April 27 at 1:30 p.m., she said.

Barros also encouraged everyone in attendance to consider the diversity courses being offered for the fall.

“I’ve taken those classes here and they were pretty eye-opening and interesting,” she said. 

Sims proposed forming a “coalition of clubs” on campus in order to “streamline” student experience, productivity, and collaboration.

He said, “Most of the clubs that exist now were founded by just a singular group of friends and they would all take place at roughly the same time on the same night[s].”

Sims said an example of this would be the conjoining of the Comic Book, Anime, and Gaming clubs.

“It would lead to greater events with more profit margins, and it would be better [for] just bringing people together,” he said.

He added, “There are certain clubs that may not seem like they line up, but sometimes, they can.”

Sims said one “genius” example of this was the collaboration between the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Comic Book Club.

He said the two clubs purchased approximately 50 tickets to go see the then newly released “Black Panther” movie in IMAX theaters. 

Emily Rosenberg, outreach and event coordinator, passed the “U-Rock” to Ward.

The “U-Rock” is presented to recognize a senator’s accomplishments during the weeks between meetings.

[Editor’s Note: McKenzie Ward is Opinions Editor for The Gatepost. Emily Rosenberg is an Arts & Features Editor for The Gatepost.]