A letter from the SGA executive vice-president

, Beacon Correspondent/strong

What’s the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do in college?

Pay for it. At least, that’s the answer for me, and I would guess, lots of other Emersonians.

I think we all have it on our minds. Still, college affordability is something nearly every elected Student Government Association member promises and doesn’t really know how to deliver. To be honest, I’m not sure the administration knows either. I’ve watched presentations about streamlining financial aid, allocating higher percentages of the yearly tuition price-hike to help students in need, and raising awareness about scholarships. All of these efforts are won battles in a lost war. Every semester I feel the guilty twinge in my stomach when a close friend tells me that he or she is transferring to another college because they can’t afford to come back the following year.

College affordability was a big talking point during SGA elections. As executive vice president of SGA, I’m not so sure of myself as to promise that I’m going to be the one to really make college affordable for every Emersonian. But, I think I need to make my tiny dent in the Sisyphean boulder by bringing about whatever changes I can. All of us need to chip away at it, bit by bit.

I want to make college slightly more affordable by reducing financial stressors that we don’t often mention: one, in particular, being the need to feed yourself with your own money due to inadequate meal plans.

It’s ridiculous that we don’t have a single meal plan which guarantees three satisfying meals per day, every day, all semester. The closest thing we have to a guarantee to being fed all semester is the Weekly Plan II, which gives 14 meals per week, or two dining hall meals per day.  The third meal, in theory, would have to be supplemented through the use of a paltry $100 in Board Bucks at the Emerson’s Café, Paramount Café, or Max Café, which I promise will not last you even half a semester given the oppressive prices for any filling food item at any of those locations.

All of this, of course, operates under the assumption that your schedule aligns well enough with the operation hours of these dining spots, many of which restrict their selections past a certain time of the day — especially tricky if you’re a vegetarian or vegan. And goodness help you if you try to eat at the dining hall on a weekend and have any fairly common dietary restrictions: enjoy your many helpings of cantaloupe and honeydew melon, because the rest is all bacon and omelets.

I refuse to believe Emerson is trying to teach us a lesson about adulthood through forcing us to ration our own meals by spreading our starvation out over the course of a semester in the hopes of keeping it at bay.  Or, by forcing us to load up on EC Cash just to have enough energy to make it through the next lecture or film shoot or rehearsal.

None of these awful truths exist because anyone in the administration at Emerson is actually out to get us. It’s that everyone is trying to do their best job and just keep their head above mountains of obligations. They want to help, but no one person has the perspective to know exactly what we need and how to get it.

This year in SGA, I, along with Senate, want to investigate where our food comes from and why it’s distributed the way that it is. We’ll try to bring in speakers and key decision-makers from across the college who can inform us as we try to better understand this problem. I strongly urge anyone reading this to attend SGA Joint Session meetings on Tuesdays from 2:00-3:45pm. They are open to all, and we actively seek outside opinions. The Emerson SGA website has the email addresses to contact the Executive Board, whom you can ask to place you on the mailing list to receive the meeting locations each week.

So how will I go about fixing this problem? Truthfully, I have no idea. But, I know it won’t be — can’t be — done alone. And it won’t just be with SGA’s help either. If last year’s cage-free eggs initiative was any indicator of what it takes to bring about change with our dining services (thousands of emails and signatures and letters combined), we really need the entire student body’s support behind us in SGA.

Our time here at Emerson is too short (and too expensive) to hope that someone else will solve our problems, most likely after we’ve already graduated — hungry and penniless.

emTau Zaman is a junior political communication major and executive vice-president of the Student Government Association./em