An online, Voice Your Choice student vote scheduled for April will decide how $100,000 in alumni donations will be divided between sections of Student Access.
Scholarships and funds fall under Student Access, which includes the General Scholarship Fund, Student Assistance Fund, Anonymous College Completion Fund, and the Mary Burrill Alumni Scholarship for Diversity. The areas of Student Access on which students will vote have not been determined, but Associate Director of Student and Young Alumni Engagement Jillian Naimo said voting should open in April.
The Office of Student and Young Alumni Engagement began the Voice Your Choice campaign in the fall 2018 semester. Students voted to allocate $100,000 to one of five areas within the college—Student Access, Academic Excellence & Innovation, Community & Co-Curricular Activities, Global Initiatives, and The Emerson Initiative.
Seniority determined the amount of money each class could allocate. Seniors voted on $50,000, juniors $25,000, sophomores $15,000, and freshmen $10,000.
Naimo and the Voice Your Choice committee—made up of students—said in a Nov. 30 email to the Emerson community they decided to allocate money to the top four initiatives each class voted on—Student Access, Community & Co-Curricular Experiences, Academic Excellence & Innovative Learning, and Global Initiatives—despite 65 percent, or 325 out of 500 students, voting to award the money to Student Access.
“Initially, the way the program was set up in my … mind was each student would own one area,” Naimo said. “Every student could vote, and then the seniors would get their top pick and that would get knocked off, and the juniors would get the next one and that would get knocked off.”
Naimo said she and the committee received backlash after splitting the money between the four areas. She said she took the backlash as a sign of people paying attention to where their vote went.
“It’s great that people were upset—it means they’re paying attention, and they’re absolutely right,” Naimo said.
One hour after the initial results were released, Naimo sent an email retracting her decision and outlined a plan to allocate $100,000 to Student Access.
Emma Grant ‘18 voted for Student Access in the Voice Your Choice campaign as a senior last semester.
“I feel like most people voted for Student Access because we want it to be easier for people who come from lower socioeconomic origins to be able to attend Emerson,” Grant said. “I’m worried about what applying [funding] in different areas might mean.”
Senior Erik Ly, who also voted for Student Access in the campaign, said he thinks the Voice Your Choice committee should do a better job this semester at promoting the vote in advance and keeping students updated.
“I think the concept is good. I just need them to communicate about what’s really happening,” Ly said.
Naimo said she will restructure the voting process so that, if a majority of students vote for one section of Student Access, the majority vote will count.
“If people decide to all vote for one thing, then that’s the student voice. That’s what their choice will be,” Naimo said.