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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Popping the Undergraduate Student Government bubble

Campaign+photo+for+Janrey+Javier+and+Jaely+Pereira.

Campaign photo for Janrey Javier and Jaely Pereira.

All opinions expressed here represent our own opinions and do not represent the opinions of any organization we may be a part of or represent. 

“Are you ready to do this?” We asked each other before handing in our nomination papers full of signatures. “Yes.” We both decided with conviction as we handed our papers in. On February 7th, 2020, we (Janrey Javier and Jaely Pereira) officially threw our names in the political flames of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) as a President/Vice President ticket during the 2020 USG Elections. Little did we know about the challenges that lay ahead for us as a team. Yet, we pushed forward, determined to rise above our predecessors, determined to amplify voices of the unheard, and determined to pop the infamous “USG Bubble”.

The “USG Bubble” is a term recognized by certain students on campus, especially those who are involved as student leaders across campus or part of clubs, centers, organizations, and even recognized by some folks within USG. It characterizes USG as a clique, only allowing certain students to feel truly welcomed and stay in the organization, while those who have differing ideals and opinions often feel alienated, discouraged to speak up, and silenced, ultimately leaving the organization and deterring others. Its pretentious vibe blurs its responsibilities, efforts, and accomplishments, leaving many students asking “what do they actually do?”.

We wanted to change that. We wanted to create opportunities for students to join USG who shared the knowledge and experiences of their peers without being challenged by the barriers this “bubble” creates. Pathways for students who might not have been recognized by some members of USG, but deserved to have a seat at the table just as much as all the members of USG are privileged to have. In hopes of accomplishing that, our first step was to win the 2020 USG Elections as a President/Vice President ticket in order to enter the doors of USG. Winning the election as the first students of color in at least 8 years, a Filipino-American and a Latina, from outside the organization shattered barriers and opened those doors to encourage other students of color, initially unfamiliar with USG, to join as well. The real work began at inauguration and we chose not to waste a single moment, even during the summer when USG typically “takes a break”.

After just three months into our roles, we’ve had to respond to different situations that arose, such as the outcry of racial justice for George Floyd’s murder, the fear for many international students incited by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ban for F-1 and M-1 visa holders, advocating for a student study space on campus for the fall semester in the Fall Planning Committee for Campus Life,and the need for student representation in the Academic Continuity Task Force as UMass Boston prepared its first remote academic year during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, our capacity to lead and serve could only go so far. We knew that we needed to lean on other student leaders to support us in our efforts to serve the student body. We needed a team that would support the work we wanted to accomplish. A team that mirrored the student-body experience who we could tap into for knowledge and guidance on certain issues. A team that was a pathway and opportunity for students outside of USG to represent their peers and continue popping that USG bubble. That’s when we decided to restructure the Executive Cabinet to do just that.

Our team has 10 members, each bringing unique experiences and perspectives to represent different aspects of student-life on campus.

We appointed Tessa Lyman ‘22 to lead as our Academics Officer and she has been able to accomplish so much with her role. She has been a member of the Evaluation of Remote Teaching and Learning Committee within the Faculty Council, gathering important data surrounding students and staff as we navigate the remote environment. We have also entrusted her to be the student representative for the Academic Subcommittee within the Fall Planning Committee to advocate for students as UMass Boston prepares to return to campus in Fall 2021. Tessa’s determination and perseverance to accomplish so much with an unwavering work ethic has been inspirational. 

We appointed Earl Williams ‘21 as our Accessibility Officer and he has been a fierce advocate for students with disabilities at UMass Boston. He has collaborated with the Ross Center and the Dean of Students throughout this past year to discuss gaps within the UMass Boston system where accessibility and inclusion for students with disabilities is not considered. Earl’s compassion to support students with disabilities and needs for accommodations at UMass Boston radiates beyond the virtual environment we’ve been constantly challenged by. 

We appointed John Tesson ‘21 as our Athletics & Recreation Officer and his efforts and accomplishments in his role are recognized across campus. Over the past year, he has been heavily focused on amplifying the need for a new recreation center, creating a comprehensive petition to gather student support, writing an opinions article for the MassMedia titled “Why UMass Boston needs a new recreational center” that further details his reasons, and collaborating with USG to pass legislation that supports the petition as well. We have entrusted him to be the student representative for the Director of Athletics Search Committee. John has become the embodiment of what it means to become a health-promoting campus and has shown consistent dedication to making UMass Boston a healthier place. 

We appointed Nikita FilsAime ‘23 as our Diversity Officer and she has been able to meet the moment of racial justice for our campus through her efforts. She has made it a point to reach out to multiple student organizations and centers, such as UMB NAACP, the Veterans Center, the Black Student Center, and the Queer Student Center, to listen to students and learn what their needs are to understand the best steps to take in support. She has also collaborated with the Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Black Life, Joseph Cooper, to host a police forum on campus to discuss police brutality with UMass Boston Police Department as well as a space for Black women to come together, find community, and support each other. Nikita’s confidence to support our students of color has been inspirational and encouraging as we continue working towards becoming a leading, anti-racist univeristy. 

We appointed Henry Chavez ‘21 as our International Relations Officer and he has been a vocal advocate for the immigrant community. He has worked closely with the Student Immigrant Alliance with UndocuAlly training, proposals to the Chancellor calling for more support and resources for the immigrant community, and supported the establishment of the first-ever UndocuWeek at UMass Boston. He has also worked closely with Provost Berger to help establish the Immigrant Student Success Initiative, which is a group of faculty, staff, and students who will be able to implement proposals that will create more supportive processes for the immigrant community such as pathways to resources for undocumented students as well as more financial aid opportunities. Henry’s genuine character and efforts have uplifted the immigrant community to be at the forefront of conversations surrounding equity and inclusion. 

We appointed Ian Candela ‘21 as our Technology Officer and his knowledge and expertise

has been an important perspective as we navigate the different challenges a remote environment creates. He has worked closely with Technology and IT at UMass Boston and has advocated for accessibility needs of students who do not have access to proper technology or WiFi for classes. He has also advocated for centralizing the different platforms professors use for class into one platform for consistency and flow. Ian’s dedication for a seamless, online experience has been able to improve the remote experience for countless students. 

We’ve appointed Alexander Killian ‘20, Hadley Zibel ‘22, and later Dhruv Naik ‘23 as the Boston Intercollegiate Government Delegates for UMass Boston. The Boston Intercollegiate Government was recently reintroduced in the Summer of 2020, creating a space where Greater Boston colleges and universities could come together to discuss relevant student issues and work on city-scope projects. Alex, Hadley, and Dhruv have represented UMass Boston well in this space, working on projects that engaged city officials and programs that intersected students across Boston as well as embodying the mission of the university to be more connected with the city. 

Lastly, we’ve appointed Erin Noël ‘22 and Handel Ulysse ‘22 as the Police Community Advisory Board Representatives for the Police Community Advisory Board. The Police Community Advisory Board was charged by Chief Donald Baynard of the UMass Boston Police Department in response to the fall out of George Floyd’s murder and the concerning state police presence on campus during the Summer of 2020. Handel and Erin have represented the stories and perspectives of student trauma with police brutality well in this space, advocating for the need of a better relationship between police and the campus community. 

Our gratitude for the service of Tessa, Earl, John, Nikita, Henry, Ian, Alex, Hadley, Dhruv, Erin, and Handel extends far beyond what we can encompass in words. Throughout this entire year, the work of our cabinet inspired us in our work to keep pushing for change on our campus, regardless of the pushback we all faced in doing so. Over this past year, the work of our team was grounded in working to see structural, systematic, and programmatic changes within UMass Boston and for those who are often unheard, to be heard. Though more than half of our cabinet members were not in USG when placed into their roles, not only did they all rise to the leadership position, but they rose above and beyond the requirements of a cabinet member. Their tireless hours of unpaid work, creating concrete solutions to issues across campus and advocating for those solutions, will not go unrecognized.

This year has been unlike any other. Though ourselves & our cabinet have only ever met together online, communicated over online platforms, and participated in Zoom meetings, the work we are doing transcends far beyond a screen. Last year, we were told most of our work would be ‘reactive’ but we saw beyond that minimizing statement. We knew we must be ‘proactive’ for not only the current experience of students, but for the future experiences of students. The work of the Javier & Pereira Administration, including our incredible cabinet, has been to do our best to deconstruct the barrier in place for those who are not in the Undergraduate Student Government and give a voice to those who are not given a seat at the table. Our team has worked to strengthen and build bridges that have been neglected or were never built, with other student organizations and professional departments across campus. However, our team has also worked to analyze and deconstruct current systems that do not benefit and limit the student body.

We dreamed big. Our cabinet dreamed big. The barriers in place of structures and systems in USG did not stop our efforts in doing what we could to see these dreams into a reality. We know we have just taken the first steps. These steps are what could open doors for the next person outside of USG to see themselves being in these positions to do this same work. We recognize how much representation, unheard student experiences, and conversations to dismantle oppressive systems matter in spaces like the student government. To those who have never felt welcome to join, we see you and we were you. To those who have felt alienated, intimidated, or discouraged to speak up in this space, we see you and know your experience.

As we leave office on May 5th, 2021 we leave a message to students, especially our students of color: you are enough. You are not “too quiet”, “too nice”, “too loud”, “too passionate in social justice”, or “too inexperienced with USG” to be involved in USG. You are more than the intimidating societal structures or systems put in place to limit your voice. Your voice and history matters, especially in a room where a body of students speaks for a student body when making legislation or handling well over half a million dollars. 

We envision a future where we will not be the last people of color in the President & Vice President roles. We envision a place where ourselves & our cabinet would have been welcomed, where our stories and those of the students we have spoken with would be taken into full consideration, and where we could have collaborated with other branches to advocate for change for the entire student body. We envision a room of student government representatives whose identities encompass the student body and where constructive conversation to address campus-wide issues takes place. We envision marginalized voices within the UMass Boston community rising up together to become campus leaders, the face of the university, and the veracious voices of the student body. Through our work and who we’ve been in these roles, we hope it has opened doors for at least one other student to step up, lead, and serve the student body. We hope to see those who come after us continue opening doors, breaking down barriers, and building open spaces, rather than closed rooms, to pop the USG bubble for all students.