Senate Notes: Scramble For New Trustee

Gintautas Dumcius

The sudden resignation of UMass Boston’s student trustee left student government and Student Life officials scrambling to find a replacement before the Board of Trustees meeting February 4.

Jamal Brathwaite was appointed by a small group made up of undergraduate and graduate students last Tuesday, only a day before the Board of Trustees met in New Bedford in their first meeting of the year.

Brathwaite, who could not be immediately reached for comment, replaces Omar Bukhari, who was elected last April by a margin of five votes, in an election where less than three percent of the UMass Boston population turned out to vote. Fritz Hyppolite, current interim president of the Student Senate, came in second place.

Hyppolite sat on the quickly cobbled together committee which selected the replacement, as did GSA head Caroline Coscia, along with two undergraduate and two graduate students.

Bukhari did not return an e-mail seeking comment on why he stepped down, but Director of Student Life Joyce Morgan, who supervised the replacement process, said, “He felt his schedule precluded him from giving all of his time,” and he wanted UMass Boston students to have the “representation and support they deserved.”

Getting a new student trustee was a top priority for Student Life, since UMass Boston has voting rights this year. The power to vote rotates among the five student trustees, with two given the power each year. UMass Boston, and UMass Dartmouth’s Carolina Marcalo has the vote as well. The trusteeship is a one-year term and students elect a new student trustee every April. The rest of the Board of Trustees is appointed by the governor.

An emergency meeting of the Student Senate was held early in the first week of school, to decide how to go about selecting a new student trustee. Roach, who came in third in the last election in April, advocated going back to that election.

Hyppolite said he wanted to have it open to as many people as possible, citing confidence in the student body.

Roach defended going to back to the original election, saying that it is how professional organizations handle it.

“In our defense, we’re not exactly pros,” said Hyppolite.

Roach stated he believed the last election was still valid, since it went to the student body. Any other option “might be seen as illegitimate,” he said. “We’re appointing someone in two days, when there’s already an election students voted on.”

The Student Senate ultimately voted to form a committee made up of two members from the student government association and the graduate student assembly, respectively, and two undergraduates and two graduates. They also voted to consider the runners-up to the original election first, in an apparent compromise.

Nomination papers were in the Student Life Office over the next several days, as candidate interviews, held in the Wheatley Student Lounge, started up. A total of seven candidates.