The University of Maryland SGA’s executive board is made up of three women students — the first time in at least 15 years that all are women.
The three highest ranking Student Government Association officials this year are President Ayelette Halbfinger, Vice President Alexandra DeBus and Financial Affairs Vice President Riya Singh. Through their leadership, they’re focusing on an increase in collaboration and openness within the organization.
Halbfinger, a senior finance and operations management and business analytics major said she wants to use the team’s dynamic to accomplish more as an organization.
“I love working with my fellow females,” Halbfinger said. “I don’t know if I can only accredit it to our being an all female executive team, but the three of us are significantly more in sync, more collaborative, more communicative, and we’re looking to really create greater collaboration and community between the different branches of SGA.”
DeBus, a junior biochemistry major, oversees the legislative branch, the first year the vice president has that responsibility.
DeBus has noticed a gradual change in the level of collaboration within the organization since she started serving in the SGA last year, she said.
“I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily pertinent to us being all women, but … we truly have such an open communication style,” DeBus said. “I think there’s been a lot of progress made towards peaceful collaboration, and ensuring that passionate debates aren’t getting in any way disrespectful.”
DeBus said as a woman on the campus and in the organization, there are two big issues the SGA should focus on: sexual misconduct prevention and increasing access to menstrual products.
“Obviously, sexual misconduct and prevention is an issue that doesn’t singularly affect women, but a vast majority of individuals who suffer from sexual misconduct are women,” DeBus said.
There will be hundreds of free menstrual product dispensers added in bathrooms in academic buildings across the campus, DeBus said. Similar free dispensers will also be in dorm bathrooms soon, DeBus said — an initiative that was born last semester.
Meghana Kotraiah, who is the SGA’s speaker of the legislature, said she attributes the positive changes she’s seen this year largely to the all-women leadership, but she’s also noticed an overall increase in the SGA’s diversity as a whole.
“One of the things is legislators feel a lot more empowered and confident to take on a really wide variety of initiatives,” Kotraiah said. “It’s so fresh and exciting.”
Veronica Tsaturov, a junior economics major who serves as SGA treasurer and on the finance committee, said she especially welcomes seeing women in leadership positions because she is in a traditionally male-dominated part of the organization. Tsaturov works closely with Singh, the financial affairs vice president.
Tasturov has noticed more women joining the finance committee since the all-women executive board took over.
With the SGA’s increasing diversity, members are hoping for more open collaboration across the board — but they wish those changes could have happened earlier.
“I think it’s amazing that we have an all female exec board,” DeBus said. “But my question is, why didn’t it happen sooner?”