Ahead of the University of Maryland SGA’s spring term, some student leaders have outlined key priorities for the semester such as raising awareness of student fee operations and raising funds for the Counseling Center.
Last semester, some Student Government Association members including Kislay Parashar, the SGA president, worked with the university’s administration to fund bus transportation for students with internships in Annapolis, such as the Maryland General Assembly.
“It is just a way that we can support students interning at Annapolis that don’t have the means to get themselves there,” said Parashar, a senior computer engineering major.
Administrators agreed to fund the initiative, which was previously funded by student fees. The bus service will start running on Tuesday, Feb. 15.
“For the first time admin is supporting the funds,” Parashar said. “It’s not just the entire thing being funded by students.”
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Lily-Max Cooke, a senior government and politics major and the SGA director of government affairs, has coordinated the internship bus service to Annapolis for the past two years.
When the SGA met with administration, Cooke said she mentioned the importance of the bus for those interning in the city. University President Darryll Pines and his cabinet “offered to fund the bus right then and there for this year.”
“Because of our planning and foresight, I think that the president’s office was excited to see our involvement in the process and wanted to assist in that way for this year,” Cooke said.
Another key priority for the SGA this semester involves the lack of live-monitored surveillance in Old Town. A resolution on the issue will be on the legislative body’s agenda at their first meeting of the semester on Wednesday, Feb. 2.
In the spring of 2020, the College Park City Council cut funding for live streaming security cameras in neighborhoods such as Old Town that took effect a year later, in July 2021.
The SGA executive branch issued emergency legislation last semester that condemned the city for this action. However, Parashar decided to pull the resolution from the agenda because they wanted to wait until after the city elections to see whether the new council members would revisit the subject.
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“It’s time to have the conversation, like actually have the conversation again,” said SGA Vice President Josie Shaffer, a senior government and politics major.
With new legislation pending, Shaffer wants the city to recognize that students are concerned about the issue.
“When students hear something like that, that there isn’t that layer of protection off-campus in Old Town a neighborhood where a lot of students live, I think that does raise some flags for students,” Shaffer said.
The SGA will also host a forum sometime in the beginning of March to explain how student fees are used, according to Parashar. The university increased tuition by an average of two percent for students in state and five percent for students out of state.
Many students are unaware of fee increases and how the money is used, which is a topic the SGA wants to raise awareness and transparency for.
The SGA is also working on creating a mental health student fee — something Parashar said is valid in comparison to other student fees. This fee could increase the number of services the university’s Counseling Center can offer students.
“Up until now the counseling center has been underfunded and has had a long wait time, which was a big issue for students,” Parashar said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated the Student Government Organization was working to increase the mental health fee. The SGA is working to create a mental health fee. This story has been updated.