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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Student Senate Approves and Funds New Agency

The UMass Boston Undergraduate Student Senate approved the instatement and funding of a Student Educational Research and Advocacy Council (SERAC) at its meeting on Oct. 11th.

“My biggest goal [for SERAC] is to help provide UMB student government with some long-term institutional memory,” graduate student Jason Pramas said. “Given the high turnover rate of student government officials, it’s very difficult for them to do something as complex and necessary as running a campaign for lower tuition and fees over the course of the years it might take to accomplish that goal. With SERAC in place, students’ concerns will have more of a fighting chance in the larger political arena to improve policy on issues that affect their ability to get the best education they can for the lowest price possible, and on a host of other issues.”

Pramas proposed the addition of SERAC last spring when he represented CPCS on the undergraduate Student Senate, and reworked the proposal in September to have it passed this month. Other student governments that have similar agencies, specifically UMass Amherst’s Student Council for Educational Research and Advocacy (SCERA), inspired him.

“A SCERA led campaign in 1994-1995 actually resulted in a freeze of tuition and fees for the following year,” Pramas said. “They did a bunch of public forums on key issues in the student interest over the years, and wrote quite a few reports on a variety of short, medium and long-term campus issues. They directed at least one major advocacy campaign per year. In addition, they coordinated non-partisan voter education and get-out-the-vote drives, success of which I’d like to have at UMass Boston.”

Despite the plans and the success of its implementation, the Senate’s SERAC has yet to get underway.

“Given that the next two-year state legislative cycle will begin in early December, it would really be in the best student interest for SERAC to be up and running by mid-November,” Pramas said. “Hopefully, the Senate will be able to make sure that the hiring process moves quickly. Because SERAC is only enabled for a trial run until this May, the faster the better, and if it’s going to become a permanent part of the UMB student government, it really needs to prove its worth in time to be added to the regular 2007-2008 budget-which will probably be ready by April.”

If the trial run is successful and SERAC becomes a permanent part of the student government, one matter could affect its influence.

“My concern would be the danger that inactive Student Senate administrations can leave SERAC as sort of a ‘brain without a body’ by either refusing to give it any instructions, by giving it nonsensical instructions, or by ignoring its prescriptions entirely and refusing to act at all,” Pramas said. “SERAC is only worth having if the Senate makes proper use of it. Similarly, if SERAC is inactive, or gives nonsensical prescriptions, it leaves the Senate as a ‘body with less of a brain’ and obviously, the Senate has brains. If either the Senate or SERAC were inactive then student government would not be fulfilling its duty to represent the student interest in all relevant political arenas-be they on-campus, or off-campus in the community and in government. That’s would not be a good situation. So, there needs to be commitment from both institutions to stay on the ball.”

Pramas is hoping that students will be able to volunteer to help do research and advocacy work. Any questions should be directed to Pramas by email at [email protected].