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Student government discusses Board of Regents topics

Izzy ManzoPhoto Editor

Four SGA members are being inducted into the national leadership honor society Omicron Delta Kappa, SGA announced during their weekly meeting on Oct. 25.

Representatives-at-large Lupita Barajas, Benjamin Coombs and Camryn Brown, along with secretary Sam Widomski, will be officially inducted during a ceremony on Nov. 7. Omicron Delta Kappa, or ODK, encourage “collaboration among leaders across campus” and has chapters at 317 colleges and universities, according to its website.

“People who have accomplished a lot and have a legacy of scholarship and leadership [are members of ODK],” said representative-at-large Asma Rahimyar. “[The new initiates] are in the midst of some pretty hallow legacies, and you should be really proud.”

SGA President Alexis Zhitomi and Vice President Brooke Mercaldi also spoke about attending the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Board of Regents meeting on Oct. 24, where they gave a statement about how important it is to support Southern students and that as a “working class university” raising tuition would harm the student body.

During the hearing, Zhitomi and Mercaldi asked about the nuances of having community college at a reduced cost and if it would impact four-year college

“It was talking about ‘Will the Board, like, promise to not raise tuition.’” Zhitomi said. “How they can also, in addition, help support students with initiative centers—free open source textbooks and scholarship money.”

Student Conduct and Discipline Director Christopher Piscitelli said their question was touched on by the Board because of the plan to waive an estimated that it will cost $20 million for students to attend community colleges debt free.

“I think it’s important to make that connotation,” said Piscitelli. “You have to use all of your federal financial aid moneys first, then they pay the difference.”

The Board did not predict a negative outcome would come from making community colleges more affordable for students and that “from a fiscal perspective,” there will be no noticeable impact on four-year colleges.

“They formed a committee to look at what the problems are going to be from an enrollment perspective,” Piscitelli said. “They’re absolutely anticipating that there will be an enrollment issue, but not ‘Your tuition dollars are going be raised to cover the cost of your tuition.’ They said [that] very flatly.”

Concerning open source textbooks, Zhitomi and Mercaldi said that it is an ongoing issue, although a committee has been established to address it. “They’re still working,” Mercaldi said. “They’re still traveling to campuses across the state.”

The committee has been working on the issue for over a year, according to Piscitelli, due in part to the fact that it is an issue that cannot be addressed and solved easily.

“It’s an ongoing committee,” Zhitomi said. “It’s not going to be, like, a snap and we’ll be able to change everything, because each individual university has to adapt it to their own—like, Southern would have to adapt it to their own [policies].”

The Board passed two initiatives during the hearing: one about pets on campus and one about the opioid epidemic in Connecticut. However, neither of these policies has a direct impact on most people on campus.

“Pet policy’s been something that we’ve been following already, in regard to our residence halls allowing therapy pets and, obviously, service animals,” said Piscitelli.

He said, per Southern’s policy, only service animals are allowed in academic buildings, while emotional support animals are allowed in residence halls.

Zhitomi said during the hearing, CSCU President Mark Ojakian expressed an interest in attending a future SGA meeting to discuss issues such as increasing tuition and open source textbooks further.

“We were one of, like, four students there,” Zhitomi said, “so he did make note to Brooke and I that the invitation is always open for him to come to a body meeting. So, we can kind of get in touch with him and see his availability.”

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