SGA leadership pledges sustainability, accessibility, accountability

President+Pranit+Chand+and+Vice+President+Neiko+Pittman

President Pranit Chand and Vice President Neiko Pittman

By Maeve Lawler, Deputy Enterprise News Editor

Emerson’s Student Government Association onboards a new president and vice president following its spring semester election cycle. Pranit Chand, a senior data science and economics major, and Neiko Pittman, a junior media arts production major will serve as the 2022-23 president and vice president.

Last spring, the pair ran on a joint ticket, eventually winning and taking office at the end of the semester. Once instated, Chand and Pittman worked throughout the summer to formulate their long-term goals—many centered around sustainability, boosting Emerson spirit, and holding Emerson organizations to a higher standard.

“We’re committed to making student lives better at Emerson and that’s what we want to do, that’s what we have been assigned to do in this role, that’s why we campaign to do so,” Chand said in an interview with the Beacon. 

In his sophomore year, Chand served as SGA’s Marlboro interdisciplinary senator and was later elected as vice president his junior year. Now as president, he is responsible for the Academic Senate—a group of “elected representatives from various departments on campus.”

 “[Who] all directly report to me and I am responsible for making sure that the voices of the students in those academic departments are being well observed and carried out,” Chand explained. 

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Along with overseeing the Academic Senate, Chand is also responsible for the executive board, class councils, and leading SGA’s general assembly meetings. 

Pittman joined SGA the second semester of his freshman year as visual media arts senator for the Academic Senate. The next year, he became the Lion Pride senator for the Student Experience Senate—a position he created to help boost school morale. 

“The Student Experience Senate is responsible for a lot of advocacy…especially population representation on campus,” Pittman said. 

He added that this senate includes sustainability senators, intercultural senators, international senators, non-traditional senators, LGBTQ+ senators.

Chand and Pittman’s first goal of the year is a laundry detergent initiative in collaboration with Generation Conscious, a non-profit dedicated to producing affordable, zero-waste hygiene products. Generation Conscious also works to provide college campuses with laundry detergent sheet refill stations—a machine that dispenses water, plastic, and waste-free detergent sheets that can be purchased with a subscription plan.

“Neiko has been instrumental in partnering with [Generation Conscious] and creating initiatives,” Chand said. “We’re very far ahead in that process and hopefully, by the end of September we’ll have one of those laundry detergent machines on campus.”

Chand and Pittman also want to improve SGA’s accessibility to all students.

“My biggest thing I want to change is the fact that we need a fellowship amongst SGA,” Pittman said. “When I joined, stuff really felt like a power dynamic. It took a lot of pushing through jargon and understanding in order to be a part of SGA. I want to make it simpler and easier for people to join, as well as just a more welcoming place for everyone, no matter who you are.”

In an attempt to recruit more members, SGA created a new general member position as a “low commitment position” so students can get involved with SGA events, activities, legislation, and other responsibilities without a time-consuming commitment.

In light of COVID, Chand explained that SGA “revamped” its constitution to make it more streamlined and accessible. The organization created new committees like its Public Relations Committee to help foster relationships among Emerson community members. This semester, SGA also hopes to fill various roles within the organization, like class councils. Additionally, there will be an opportunity for the student body to go over the new constitution and ask SGA questions at a future date. 

Chand also hopes to integrate regular academic “town hall” meetings, as well as a financial town hall as a way to address students’ financial concerns. Because inflation has been on the rise, he also hopes to organize a referendum for students to vote on if SGA should raise the student activity fee—a part of tuition used to fund student organizations—to better manage org budgets. Regardless of the outcome, Chand said SGA will act accordingly to control finances, which could mean making budget cuts to free up funds.

“As students have been demanding more financial transparency from Emerson, we want to honor that for the student body,” he said. “We will do what’s in our abilities to make sure that happens and all of the students’ concerns about how finances are being spent at Emerson will be addressed.” 

In terms of affordability, Pittman wants to make laundry detergent cheaper, hoping to eliminate the cost entirely for those with lower socioeconomic standings or financial need, if not for all students.

In terms of promoting Lion pride, Pittman hopes to use SGA as the “home” of school spirit by leading school events and fostering new traditions at Emerson. 

“There is a lot of Emerson culture, but, at least in terms of community, I think it can feel like a very divided and separate place at times,” Pittman said. “Everyone has their own niche little communities everywhere, but we don’t really do much school pride and big school stuff.” 

“Community doesn’t always mean just your friends—it’s your sense of belonging,” Chand said. “Helping students find those communities would be one of my biggest asks from Emerson that we could improve upon.” 

Chand also discussed Emerson’s Student Organization Compact—an agreement made between the college and affiliated student organizations to engage in a systematic review of its selection process, member recruitment, programming, and limits on participation, according to Emerson’s community equity action plan. This compact is part of the annual student organization reactivation process along with mandatory training from Student Engagement and Leadership and Intercultural Student Affairs regarding equity and inclusion. 

“We do want to hold student orgs to a higher standard than previous years,” Chand said. “If you’re a part of a student organization you have to sign that compact, which is your commitment to uphold the spirits of justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, as well as respecting people’s identities. We will be holding student orgs to that standard.”

Pittman is also part of the Student Organization Affiliation Process, a process facilitated by SEAL. Affiliate-eligible organizations must have proof of activity for at least one semester, a full-time faculty or staff advisor, five or more members, and a working constitution according to Emerson’s student organizations website. 

“We’re trying to change the language [in the SOAP process] so people know the difference between an unofficial org and a registered Emerson org,” Pittman said. 

Registered Emerson organizations go through the SOAP process and receive funding from SGA’s student activity fee budget. Unofficial Emerson organizations can be Emerson-associated, but don’t receive funding from the student activity fee.

Pittman hopes to give SGA “more of a name” at Emerson and plans to do so through a rally taking place on April 14. Pittman hopes to shine a spotlight on Emerson’s performance organizations, placing them all under one roof in the Cutler Majestic Theater and hinting at a surprise “special performance” to take place during the event.  

He also acknowledged the hard work it takes to be in SGA as an advocate for the student body. 

“It can be really hard doing the advocacy work you do in SGA because you don’t get paid to do it, and you get constantly criticized for it,” Pittman said. “Making SGA feel less ‘worky’ and more socialized and increasing our morale is part of my goals. That way it actually is a sustainable org and people still want to join and continue to do the work.” 

“[We] ran on a ticket together because we were like ‘These are the changes we want to see and we want them happening now,’” Chand said of himself and Pittman. “It’s just trying to leave that one piece of legacy that carries on in the future.”