As the end of the 2014-15 academic year approaches, the University of Miami welcomes a new Student Government (SG) administration.
Senior Alessandria San Roman, 2014-2015 SG President who ran last spring under the ticket “Unite the U,” will step down on April 16. Junior Brianna Hathaway, who ran under the “For U” ticket, will take San Roman’s spot.
San Roman says this year’s SG administration was successful in keeping its promise of bringing the student body together and creating a sense of unity. While she acknowledged that this is a continual process, she believes SG initiatives obtained student response.
“We knew going in that this wasn’t something that could happen overnight; it wasn’t something that could necessarily happen this year,” she said. “It takes a long time to create a movement, so we worked through all of our different projects and initiatives to make sure that the uniting component was there.”
San Roman added that there are still a few programs prepared for April, including some giveaways and events.
The “Unite the U” ticket accomplished initiatives such as Smart Meals, guest passes to the UC pool and an awareness week promoting UM’s smoke-free campus. The administration also gave continuity to ideas from the previous administration, like free Metrorail passes for students taking classes at the Miller School of Medicine.
San Roman says, however, that changes in administration proved to be challenging.
“For us, it was a huge challenge to deal with the fact that President Shalala was retiring,” San Roman said. “Administration overall was kind of reluctant to take on new things if we had a new president that maybe didn’t agree with those ideas.”
Many of “United the U’s” original projects, like Sebastian’s Closet, are in the final phases, waiting for approval from administration. Sebastian’s Closet is a clothing reserve for students to rent professional attire for job interviews.
She also says that some initiatives were entirely out of the university’s control.
“Renew the Rivarly,” for instance, was set to make another UM versus UF game happen, but according to San Roman, the University of Florida’s athletic department ultimately decided not to go through with the proposal.
The Sustainability Scholarship Competition, which would allow students to develop projects that would reduce the carbon footprint of the campus, was also postponed. San Roman says it was too similar to the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative University Conference.
She hopes that next year’s administration will help take forward projects that are already in the final stages – something that is already being discussed during transition meetings.
“Overall, the experience was extremely positive and extremely rewarding,” San Roman said. “I always tried to make it a point that I would work with students and be extremely responsive to try to work with them on their concerns.”
For many students, SG responsiveness proved to be successful, as they generally saw increased SG presence on campus.
“It may be just that I am more involved on campus being a sophomore, but I do see them around more often,” said Kyle Guffey, a student in the Frost Music School. “Last year, I was not aware of them at all, but this year, I think they definitely reached out to organizations more than they used to and that shows a really good initiative.”
Incoming SG president Hathaway wants to keep this visibility going. She says that her priority is the student body.
“We want to make people aware that we are here to promote their issues and that we want to make sure their concerns are heard, and that we actually get stuff done,” Hathaway said.
This will affect many students that, unlike Guffey, did not sense an increased SG presence on campus. Junior Neil Mehta, for instance, has been a regular voter, but said that he is never aware of SG accomplishments after new administrations are announced.
“Honestly, SG seems pretty much the same to me as last year,” Mehta said. “I hear a lot about the campaigns for a couple of weeks, but after the voting, I don’t hear anything about SG until the next year.”
A part of reaching out successfully to students will be to establish a sound relationship with the incoming UM President, Hathaway explained.
“Obviously President Shalala is leaving and she has done a fantastic job of being very student-centered and giving students what they need,” Hathaway said. “So one of the most important tasks being an incoming SG president and an incoming UM president is making sure that we have a working relationship that can better the school overall.”
Some of the new SG administration’s main projects for the 2015-2016 academic year include a 24/7 food option to complement the new 24/7 study lounge in the Student Activities Center, gender-neutral bathrooms and a President’s Picnic for graduating seniors.
Hathaway also stressed finding solutions for better WiFi on campus and increased safety throughout San Amaro Drive, a frequent site of car accidents.
“We want to continue San Amaro safety from past administrations,” Hathaway said. “Even very recently we’ve had more incidents on that street and I’ve been working in this project with [current]Vice-President Willy Herrera since my freshman year as a senator.”
With many projects on their way, Hathaway expressed her excitement for the beginning of her term.
As for San Roman, she says being a mentor in this transition period has proved to be very rewarding.
“I know Brianna, Ishtpreet [Vice President-elect Ishtpreet Singh], and Robert [Treasurer-elect Robert Renfro] are great individuals,” San Roman said. “The advice I would give them as a whole would be to always remember that you go in this as a group and that you should always stay as a group.”