The Student Government Association submitted a proposal for a new Financial Equity Board this semester to advocate for the financial needs of the Emerson College student body. The proposal, written by SGA Executive Treasurer Abby Semple, aims to create a broader dialogue around financial equality.
The SGA proposed FEB hoping that they can better support students’ equal access and participation in financial matters. The working proposal indicated a few topics that FEB should address, including the retention of minority students, partnership with the Office of Student Success to promote the Money Matters programs, fiscal undertaking for Marlboro Students transferring into Emerson, as well as helping the Administration develop a better understanding of the average Emerson student.
We think the SGA’s proposal of FEB is interesting, unique, and demonstrates their effort in adding a more diverse presentation of the financial issues to support the student body. Emerson is an expensive school. The 2019–2020 full-time tuition fee for Emerson College is $48,560, nearly $10,000 higher than the average annual private college tuition in Massachusetts. Like Semple pointed out in the proposal, as only one of the many students attending Emerson, she cannot speak on behalf of the entire student body. By having student representatives, a more diverse range of topics related to different financial and living situations will be represented, and it will benefit students in addressing financial matters more equally.
However, even though the SGA did not pass the proposal and postponed the vote to the next joint session meeting on Tuesday, there’s a problem surrounding transparency. The proposal stated that the weekly Wednesday meetings for FEB would also be closed-door. This will prevent press or students outside of the organization from expressing their thoughts or concerns about the proposal, and it will also stop students from learning about the topic that the board discussed. The proposal said this decision is to ensure students “feel comfortable speaking candidly about personal financial matters.”
We do understand that for the appointed representatives of FEB, these conversations related to their personal experiences and their financial status are extremely sensitive and private for them, and they may not want to share that information with other students or members of Emerson. As said in the FEB proposal, however, one of the goals for the board is to involve more students to create a larger dialogue around financial equity at the school.
By having closed-door meetings every week, it would be hard for students and other members of Emerson to find out what the members talked about, especially when the FEB also wants to address issues related to the effect of extracurriculars as a financial undertaking for the Emerson Community. For the 2019–20 academic year, students paid $436 per semester to support the finances of on campus organizations, which is included in their tuition. If FEB does suggest to decrease funding for one or more student organizations on campus, they can potentially influence the Financial Advisory Board’s distributions of those funds.
These are important decisions that students outside of FEB or SGA need to have a voice in, and it’s also important for FEB to remain transparent in what they do in their weekly meetings and the suggestions they make to FAB. FEB should allow students to monitor their meetings and decision-making in some way, so that more students can have their voices heard and their concerns advocated for.
Students of color make up only 39% of Emerson College’s degree-seeking student population, and finances are an important reason behind it. As SGA works to keep finding different ways to represent different financial needs across campus, we encourage students to speak up and monitor the job that they do, and at the same time, we also hope to see SGA open their door to all students so they can really have their voice heard.