SGA, And Everything You Might Have Wondered About It (and more!)

SGA; Hidden In Plain Sight

Northeastern University supports almost 25,000 undergrad and post-grad students. Handling a university of this size is no doubt a daunting and challenging task for those who are employed full time in administrative roles. What is surprising, whoever, is the group of students who quietly work behind the scenes of behalf of their peers in the Student Government Association (SGA). The Executive Cabinet is made up of Student Body President, five Vice Presidents overseeing various boards, and a Comptroller who deals with funding student organizations, as well as appointed positions Chief of Staff and Executive Director of Communications. SGA’s general body consists of over 80 senators on behalf of their individual colleges.

“We are not here to represent the administration to students, we’re here to represent students to the administration,” said Student Body President Elliot Horen. Even though SGA openly markets themselves as a resource for students, often times there is still a lack of clarity to how students can get involved and how they can make an impact. Outside of the Executive Cabinet, SGA is made entirely up of general student senators.

In recent years, there has been unrest at Northeastern over student’s representation as senators. Senators often represent their colleges, but there is little control over how many senators per college. One letter in the Huntington News explained how D’Amore-McKim had 10 senators, while College of Arts, Media, & Design had one, which could theoretically mean SGA didn’t holistically represent the university at large. The letter went on to say how there also were very few senators from a marginalized background. However, SGA does not force anyone to be a member, and they can only be as diverse as the students who are interested to be involved.

To solve this, SGA is working on targeted student organization outreach, which, according to the Huntington News, is “designed to give underrepresented groups a voice.” This also was the goal in SGA’s new monthly initiatives.

“Every month we have our own monthly initiative, and I participate in that whenever I can to increase awareness of SGA,” said Vice President for Student Involvement Nick Haberli. “One of the first projects I did in SGA was an outreach program, reaching out to other freshman at the time, essentially spreading the good word. It involved working and speaking in front of groups of people to, maybe not join SGA, but to just be involved, and to understand who they can talk to if they needed to get fixes.”

Once a problem is identified, SGA works to rectify the problems through outreach and groups dedicated to the issue. This can be seen in Bailey Uitz’s experience with SGA.

“I joined because I was always involved in SGA in high school, so I thought it would be a good place for me on campus,” said the middler physical therapy major. “I joined a University Health and Counseling Services working group this semester to try and make improvements to our health services, since as a future health care professional that’s something I am really passionate about, and I know that it is also something many people feel needs a lot of improvement.”

Because of this group, UHCS has extended hours twice a week to accommodate those who are on co-op, and has more appointments available with less wait time. These changes were implemented within a semester, thanks to the work of Uitz and the SGA working group. These changes were based on student surveys to see who is utilizing the services, how often, and to see where UHCS could potentially improve. According to the Huntington News, roughly 71 percent of surveyed students have needed to see a doctor, but decided against going to UHCS. Statistics like these are what the working group aims to change.

“On mental health, we continued to hear reports from students that the services they are receiving are just not timely or high quality, so we’ve been working for the past year with Dr. Klein, the director of UHCS to improve that,” said Horen. “We are in partnership with Students Against Institutional Discrimination and partners with Active Minds, and I think our success happens when we are able to bring together students groups around a common goal.”

Since SGA is an influential group hidden in plain sight, there are those who are aware of what SGA does on campus, and the potential that lies in the organization. Senior computer engineering major Rachel Rudolph was a member of SGA early on in her college career. Although it’s been a few years since she was an active participant, she still advocates for the power of SGA.

“I think it’s really important for all students at large to at least sit in on one SGA meeting to see the hard work that our peers are doing for our benefit. It is very difficult to understand the reasons behind certain changes or initiatives without being present to hear the discussion and progression,” said Rudolph. “Each student here is given an opportunity to voice their opinions or implement change, and SGA is the avenue to do this. I think if I could change one thing about my experience in SGA, it would be to become more involved in the committees or initiatives. I think SGA should hold their members more accountable in speaking up or getting involved, because I wish I had done that myself.”

SGA is active on campus advocating for their current initiatives, although there involvement may not be visible. One of their two major projects this semester was Northeastern Votes, enrolling students to vote in the election. Northeastern Votes was an initiative involving 16 campus organizations including SGA, who had a goal of “80 by 20” according to a Huntington News article. The goal was to register 80 percent of the students on campus to vote by 2020. Before the national and state elections on November 8th, the initiative registered over 1,000 students to vote.


Baker Still Not a Fan of Trump

Given how much a former governor of Massachusetts has been in the media lately, it’s interesting to note how the current governor has been acting regarding Trump.

While Mitt Romney seems to be cozying up with Trump for a spot in his cabinet as Secretary of State, Charlie Baker is cutting off the option before it can even materialize. While being interviewed for a WGBH radio show, a caller asked him if Trump were to offer him a job, would he accept?

According to the Boston Globe article, Baker responded, “I would have said I was flattered but I really like the job I have. I’m incredibly grateful that the voters of Massachusetts on my second try gave it to me, and I plan to continue to do it to the best of my ability.”

Baker made headlines a month or so ago when he said he planned to not vote in the election due to his distaste for the candidates.

While I was not a super fan of Baker for advocating against voting, especially in an election as contested at this one, it’s refreshing to see someone not baking down against Trump.

The Boston Globe article cast Baker in a cordial light, while still maintaining a distance given Trumps past comments and history. Trump hasn’t come close to being inaugurated, his cabinet picks have made headlines almost every day for the past week. Given how much Romney campaigned against Trump, I see it as slightly embarrassing for him to go crawling for a job. Fingers crossed.


Roadblock for Legalization

After passing recreational marijuana on November 8th, Massachusetts’s citizens eager to get started may have to wait a little bit longer.

Last week the Boston Globe reported that legislature is considering delaying weed stores opening date until mid-2018, rather than January 2018 as listed in the ballot measure that almost 1.8 million people voted for. However, according to the Globe, some are saying this would not give adequate time to regulators to prepare proper oversight. Also mentioned is delaying home growing, which according to the bill voters approved, should be legal December 15th.

However, Richard Evans (who has been pushing for legal weed for over 4 decades), doesn’t see their concerns as valid. According to him, Colorado managed to do the same thing in the same amount of time that Massachusetts officials have.

“We have a law that we have to implement, and it’s the will of the voters,” the Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said to reporters. “I’m going to be meeting with some of the proponents over the next week to have that conversation to assure them that we hear the voters voted. We want to work with them because we’re going to need to make some changes in the law. But we’re going to respect the principle here, which is: The voters have spoken.”

Should no progress be made before Dec. 15th (something that wouldn’t be unheard of in government, even state-government), then home growing can continue as before. For people who have wanted this for a while (40+ years in Evans’ case), this delay can be seen as another push to stop legalization all together. However, as Rosenberg said, the voters have spoken.

BPD Set to Monitor Locals Social Media (or “Creep Social Media” as I Like to Say)

According to a Boston Globe article, the Boston Police Department plans to purchase new software that will be able to search websites, blogs, social media (basically anything on the Internet), to screen for criminal activity and public safety threats.

However, as with any change in the public space, there is already pushback from civil liberty groups calling it “alarming” and were angry that there was a “lack of transparency in selecting the software” according to the Globe. There also were worries that it poses a threat to free speech and privacy.

Since everything on the Internet is already public and viewable, I think these “fears” are unfounded and useless (not to be politic-y or anything like it). Everyone is educated on the dangers of over-posting online, and how it can impact your life away from the computer. Posting about criminal activity or threats of any type is asking to get caught or reported to the authorities, and this software just cuts out the middle man’s responsibility of reporting. The software can create a virtual “fence” that sends alerts if a post is added containing any of the targeted search criteria.

The main complaint that can be debated is that the Boston Police did not ask the citizens “whether we want our tax dollars spent on something like this,” according to Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. BPD is planning to spend up to $1.4 million on the software. According to the Boston Globe, they intend to pick a vendor by December 5th.

Crockford believes that the groups can potentially target Black Lives Matter, members of the Tea Party, and anyone who make not agree with the government.

Maybe it’s political exhaustion stemming from the last year, but if this software does what it’s supposed to, I’m all for it. I’m not going to complain about an extra layering keeping me safe. Sure, taxpayers were not asked to approve it. However, there are many programs that taxpayers are not directly asked for input. If that were the case, voting would be a much more grueling process for all involved.


Maura Healey Goes to Texas

Global warming is a threat to everyone’s future, although there still are those that may not agree. The companies that have the most to lose are those that deal with fossil fuels like Exxon Mobil.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is one who is against companies like these. In April, she launched an investigation into whether the firm deceived investors and consumers. To stop this, Exxon filed an injunction on first amendment grounds (among others), while Healey is moving to dismiss the injunction according to the Boston Herald article. However, now go to Texas to prove that her actions are not “big-time political moves.” Texas Federal Judge Ed Kinkeade said last month he believes the AG is attempting to “satisfy a political agenda” and that he must hear more from each side before he can accurately make a ruling.

“Attorney General Healey’s actions leading up to the issuance of the CID causes the Court concern and presents the Court with the question of whether Attorney General Healey issued the CID with bias or prejudgment about what the investigation of Exxon would discover,” Kinkeade wrote according to the Herald article.

Clearly this action gives hope to Exxon Mobil executives. Should Healey succeed, the company would be forced to disclose any records from 1976 onwards about what they knew regarding global warming and climate change.

According to Exxon Mobil lawyers, “For nearly a decade, climate change activists and certain plaintiffs’ attorneys have sought to obtain the confidential records of energy companies as a means of pressuring those companies to change their policy positions.”

Healey’s office thinks that this fight should be in Massachusetts court, “where this belongs” according to Healey’s spokeswoman, and that there is no personal jurisdiction in Texas.

Regardless of the outcome, global warming isn’t a topic that is going to go away anytime soon. Even though a judge in Texas may thwart Healey’s attempts to find out information (that some may view as blindly fishing), there are still debates out there about how to properly care for the environment, especially what that would look like under President-elect Trump.

Trumps vs. Sanctuary Cities (and How This Affects Boston!)

There’s been lots of discussion lately surrounding potential changes that might happen under President-elect Trump. A popular topic is regarding illegal immigrants.

Trump has stated that once he takes office, he will stop federal funding to sanctuary cities, those that welcome all immigrants, regardless if they are in the country legally or not. This action would affect Somerville and Chelsea. According to a Boson Globe article, this would cost millions in aid. In addition to the “sanctuary city” status, Somerville also has an additional executive order in place, called the “Trust Act”. This shields immigrants with minor or no criminal records from deportation. Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone hopes Trump will reconsider his threats, however, said he not change the status.

“We are not going to stand voiceless and in silence and let a Gestapo-like atmosphere be cultivated in this nation and come to our communities and break families apart,” he said. “That will not be tolerated.” The federal funds that Somerville will forfeit are 3% of the current cities budget.

City Councilor Tito Jackson is current pushing to make Boston a sanctuary city in response to Trump’s statements according to the Boston Herald.

“[It is] critical that we remain steadfast in ensuring that immigrants who are undocumented actually have a path to citizenship, versus further victimizing people in these communities, who are often the victims of violent crimes as well as taken advantage of in the shadows,” said Jackson.

Boston already passed a Trust Act similar to Somerville’s in 2014. At stake for Boston would be over $250 million in federal funding if Trump uses this order against them.

Gender Breakdowns in the Tech Industry (Data)

Gender percentages in tech firms has become a hot topic recently, as a push to get women more involved in the sciences becomes popular.

For comparison purposes, we as a class looked at four of the top tech firms (Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Apple). While women are roughly 30% of each of the firms (with some firms demonstrating higher women numbers than others), men very clearly are the majority in the companies.

However, delving deeper into the data, we can see that the number of women actually in technology-driven roles is much smaller than we originally thought. While the percentage overall includes women in more administrative roles/HR in the company, the bars labeled “Women in Tech” and “Men in Tech” include only the engineer/technology based employees. This gives a more dismal view of women in the industry. While we can assume more women are getting involved in these companies, it is clear many of them aren’t in the potentially higher-paying roles.