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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Javier/Pereira administration is a cautionary tale

Undergraduate Student Government Logo.

Undergraduate Student Government Logo.

I wanted to write this anonymously, but I couldn’t bring myself to.

My name is Lia Odiaga. I was elected to UMass Boston’s Undergraduate Student Government as a Senator in the spring of 2019. My first swearing-in was one of the most exciting days of my life. I saw USG as a way to make powerful, impactful changes for the student body and community at large. I was optimistic, hopeful, and above all else, excited to serve my community. I was also lucky, because my first year in USG, I was surrounded by people who were equally driven to do right by the students. Despite being interrupted by COVID, the 2019-2020 school year was one of good work, good fun, and—most importantly—good faith.

It was in that good faith that I voted for President Javier and Vice-President Pereira. They came to General Assembly. They visited my committee (Campus & Community Affairs) and helped us with an event we were planning. I thought they were interested in the Senate’s work and wanted to help us accomplish our goals.

During our very first fall General Assembly, I was proven wrong. I watched and listened in horror as the President rattled off a list of Executive Cabinet appointments they had made over the summer in their reports—positions I had never heard of before, filled with people I had never met. I was shocked that a new administration would do so much without Senate approval, but more to the point, I was shocked as I realized that there was nothing we could do to stop them. There was nothing in the USG Bylaws which barred President Javier from doing this.

Senator Maurice Roberson and I acted quickly. We wrote two pieces of legislation meant to ensure that future Cabinet appointees would have to demonstrate understanding of the Bylaws and receive Senate approval. Yes, it was a response to the summer appointees; but it wasn’t only about the summer appointees.

See, I was still holding the President and Vice-President in good faith at that point. I figured that they were just trying to do their jobs, just like I was trying to do mine. The bills weren’t an accusation of misconduct; they were a way to close a loophole that a future President with ill intent might exploit maliciously.

There was a bit of huffing and puffing on the President and Vice-President’s parts during the General Assembly, as was expected, but the bills passed the Senate with an overwhelming majority. I expected that our purported leader would take the loss (and it wasn’t really a loss, anyway, because it wasn’t about them) and sign it.

The next morning, my committee chair told us that they’d vetoed both bills. It was at that point that my good faith went out the window.

During the next General Assembly, we held a hearing to override the veto. And as relieved as I was that the Senate stood by me and Senator Roberson and successfully passed those bills over the President’s head, I was more consumed by pure indignation over his and the Vice-President’s conduct. President Javier claimed that somehow the Senate was less representative of the student body because Senate elections are generally non-competitive, while his race was, therefore justifying his appointing Cabinet members without Senate approval (which, again, the bills weren’t just about him). Still, we overrode the veto, and I hoped, I prayed that it was over.

Apparently, it wasn’t over for Vice-President Pereira, though, because instead of moving on to talking about the Dorchester Bay City project (an agenda item she had requested, incidentally), she spent a solid minute and a half lecturing us about how we were ignoring “real issues” in favor of creating legislation around internal affairs. When Speaker Farrin Khan reminded her that she was going off-agenda, she said, “I’m getting there,” and continued her ranting.

I had to leave USG at the end of the semester for mental health purposes, but I’ve stayed up to date on what was going on at USG, and I’m absolutely horrified. The President and Vice-President have embarked on a consistent campaign to obstruct the Senate and the CCA committee specifically, even going so far as to veto a resolution condemning anti-Asian racism, then post a statement of their own on the USG Instagram account—the one that CCA is meant to control. Meanwhile, they want to put a bronze statue up on campus. I can understand why—a bronze statue is a better legacy than the one they’re leaving.

I’m sure that the President and Vice-President will accuse me of being petty for writing this and having it published. And sure, maybe that’s true, but I’m not the one who has vetoed nearly every single piece of legislation coming out of CCA and so thoroughly obstructed Senate proceedings that virtually nothing has gotten done this year.

I voted for Janrey Javier and Jaely Pereira. I expected presidential conduct and good faith. What I got—what we all got—was J and J’s Flying Circus.

This all may seem unimportant because it’s only the student government. Who cares, right? But USG takes in about a million dollars of student activity fees every year. We, the students, put around a million dollars into the hands of the Undergraduate Student Government, and as things stand, there are virtually no checks on its executive body.

Until these loopholes are closed, and, more importantly, until the student body at large starts paying more attention to USG, there will always be another Flying Circus of bronze statues.