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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

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Unequal College Representation in the Undergraduate Student Government

As all University of Massachusetts Boston students know, our school is certainly among the largest colleges and universities in the Greater Boston area and Massachusetts in general. As of Fall 2015, there are now 17,030 students enrolled at UMass Boston, which is a new enrollment record for this university. One reason UMass Boston attracts such a large number of students is due to the fact the the university offers students to choose from 11 different colleges and graduate schools. Currently, the number of students that are enrolled in an undergraduate program is 12,949. The political institution that acts as the voice of students and is supposed to represent the interests of this large student body is the Undergraduate Student Government (USG). In their most recent elections in September, the USG was able to welcome 14 new senators to their legislative branch and its three committees, namely Budget and Finance (B&F), Campus and Community Affairs (CCA), and Student Events and Organizations (SEOC).

As it is their duty, all members of the Undergraduate Student Senate have to consider the interests of all students that are enrolled in any college that offers undergraduate programs. It is also their duty not to favor a certain college just because the senators themselves are enrolled in this college. However, it might sometimes be difficult to consider the needs of a certain college that is underrepresented in the Senate, and thus, in the committees. Currently, the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) with 24 senators and the College of Science and Mathematics (CSM) with 15 senators are represented most strongly in the USG. These numbers also match the general distribution of the overall size of colleges, as CLA and CSM are the largest colleges in terms of student enrollments at UMass Boston.

In contrast, other colleges such as the College of Management (CM), which is the third largest college at UMass Boston, fall short with only three senators currently enrolled. Also, the fourth largest college, the College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CNHS), has only one current senator enrolled. Shelby J. Harris, the Assistant Dean of Students, explained to the Mass Media that “Historically, we have struggled to get CNHS majors, as the Nursing program often requires clinical rotations during the Senate meeting time.” This prevents them from having a more regular schedule like students from other colleges. Yen Pahn and Thomas J. Kraemer, the Speaker and Vice Speaker of the Undergraduate Student Senate, pointed out that the dominance of senators enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts is natural because it is mostly students majoring in Political Science (or similar studies) who are interested in the political work and political institution at UMass Boston. However, as Phan emphasized, it is not the college enrollment that determines if a student is accepted as a member of the Senate. Rather, it is more important that the possible candidate has passion and dedication for his or her work. “We don’t care where you come from, we just want to know why you’re here and why you want to be in the Senate,” she clarified in the interview.

Also, Kraemer clarified that “We treat every opportunity to help and serve the students, no matter what college they are in, fairly and equally. There is no nepotism or favoritism in our decisions, whether it is funding clubs, or events, or trips.”