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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

USG Leaders Look to Diversify

 

When the Mass Media sat down with Travis Henderson and Dan McDowell, the incumbent presidential ticket of the USG in this coming election, it was evident that both men were experienced in the business of leading others.

Though the pair has been a part of the USG since freshman year, both remain humble, acknowledging their relationship with the students of UMB as an “important part” of their legitimacy.

Before coming to UMB, Vice President Henderson lived in northern Philadelphia with his parents. Philosophy, or the study of the human condition, was an interest early on in his academic life, which has flourished into his major at UMB.

“My primary interest is focused toward perception and the self, which started with the study of knowledge.”

Henderson’s experience has been colored by his work as a humanitarian aid volunteer in India, during his freshman year at UMB. That experience was “informative” on his view of the human condition.

In the past, he has been noted as a active chairman of the Student Events and Organization Committee (SEOC), and has a long track record of engagement, which has been a notable aspect of his role as Vice President of the USG. 

This experience has led him to believe that he knows “what people are looking for” at UMB and “where there can be improvement.”

As the Speaker of the USG, Dan McDowell, a native of the North Shore and a Political Science major, has found it both rewarding and challenging to work at a commuter school.

“It’s weird. I’ll have people come up to me and say, ‘You’re Dan. You’re the student government guy. What’s going on? What is [the USG]? Where’s this office?’ It’s a great experience because I know that I’m tangibly helping someone.”

In addition to his duties as Speaker, McDowell has worked as a orientation leader and Beacons Ambassador to acquaint new students and visitors with the finer parts of UMB.

Domestic policy has also been at the forefront of McDowell’s interests. He has been involved with public higher education in the recent Massachusetts Students Uniting (MSU) protests against 1500 dollar fee hike for UMass students. Recently, he has been trying to restart this movement after it fell out of the limelight.

When the interview turned toward the matter of governance, both Henderson and McDowell had one message to sum up their view of the USG.

“We both view student government as a way to advocate for the people around us, our friends and classmates, especially for those we don’t know,” said Vice President Henderson.

Engaging everyday students, student clubs, and centers has been a cornerstone of their time in office. For example, in the coming weeks, the USG will be unveiling a report reviewing student centers in terms of what goes on there, what are the struggles of the coordinators and other issues. This report will form the basis for a future board of coordinators to use to channel their concerns to the USG.

Henderson also set up the UMB Student Tenant Association, as Vice President, and did it within a few month’s time.

Diversity is a major concern, both Henderson and McDowell acknowledge, at the USG and UMB as a whole.

Henderson notes that the USG has not done enough to make it diverse beyond race and gender, “but also the opinions and thoughts” of its members.

He stated that there are philosophy, sociology,  and “a lot of” poli-sci majors in the USG, but there are no nursing students due to the constraints those students have because of their major.

Hence, Henderson believes that the USG should do more to “engage the academic community at large.”

Speaker McDowell remarked that the USG and UMB community are “not well advertised enough and can always have room to grow, but I think the community we do have right now is underestimated. There are always events going on. There are always people recruiting.”

Vice President Henderson adds, “We have a beautiful and vibrant community that is underestimated whether that’s in clubs or centers or in classrooms.” The sense of community is there, says Henderson. “We don’t have a apathetic student body. It’s [a matter] of an apathetic student government.”

Both candidates have done their best to “open doors” on an otherwise “closed door” campus.

Henderson reflected on a time when he felt particularly alone at UMB. Then he was made a “welcomed member of the UMB community” by the actions of student club leaders.

During his time as SEOC chair, he spent an entire winter break working on the budget of his committee and felt burnt out by the end. It was at that point when the leaders of the student clubs stepped up to tell him “thank you” for his hard work.

This, in the words of Henderson, was the moment ”that solidified what I was doing.”

When both candidates were pressed to speak about the opposing ticket’s claims, Henderson and McDowell were candid in their answers.

Regarding the matter of diversity in the USG, Speaker McDowell said, “There’s never a time when it can be said we’ve done enough. Unfortunately, we have to set deadlines [and] had to turn down people who were qualified because we have to have standards.”

He cited the fact that, as a leader, he has to balance the USG’s business along with its outreach efforts.

Henderson was surprised to hear about the allegation about being too “conservative.” He noted that this was “the first time” that Senator Madelon has brought this up and that this was “very concerning.”

“One thing that I learned early on as SEOC Chair was that you learn the most from criticism.”

As for the other concern about the “overhead budget” question, both men said it wasn’t a real problem originating from the USG. Clubs have always had the right to get funding by engaging the community – though there are stipulations about returning USG funds used to do the fundraising.

The plan, according to Henderson and McDowell, is to continue their existing strategy of engagement of student clubs and everyday students with improved and more organized sense of community feedback.

In the end the question is: are these candidates qualified?

Henderson stated, “I think I’m qualified to be the President because of my vast experience with the clubs and aspects the community.” 

McDowell said, “I have experience engaging the community and the community has experience engaging me… Students no longer feel nervous about talking to me, because we are so visible now.”