New USG executive board shares future plans

Sophie Brams, Staff Reporter

The Undergraduate Student Government Executive Board for the 2021-22 school year has been elected and is the first all-female board in Tulane student government history. 

Jamie Roa decided to run for USG president because, she said, she has always wanted to be a changemaker on campus. Among her top priorities is creating a more transparent and equitable Tulane. The first step to that is making USG more accessible to the student body.

 

“I really do want to open up the USG structure, making sure students know exactly what’s happening within USG, but also that they have an equitable say in what these elected officials do with their time, their money and their voice,” Roa said.

 

She added that she aims to open up USG executive board meetings and reinstate Senator office hours which will allow for students to engage with an individual school’s representatives. She would also like to add in opportunities for office hours with high-level Tulane administration.

 

“I want to make sure that when we do transition to this post-COVID lifestyle at Tulane that admin is being genuine and transparent with the information that they are giving the students and then allowing students to comment on what’s happening because we are the students who are being directly affected by these changes and policies,” Roa said.

 

Noting that many of the buildings on campus are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Roa said this is another issue she wants to address by working with the Goldman Center for Student Accessibility to ensure that accessibility exists within the classroom as well.

 

Roa said her passion for improving the Tulane experience is based on dismantling the narrative that Tulane is perfect and creating a Tulane that is better than she found it. 

Roa’s campaign, among others, was criticized for racist harassment of other candidates. Roa apologized in the March 23rd Senate meeting, after several senators resigned in protest.

  

Olivia Mullaney found her home in USG and has served in positions in each of her years as a Tulane student. She now takes on the new role of executive vice president, following in the footsteps of her previous initiative-based work.

 

Like Roa, Mullaney’s focus is on the internal optics of USG and how it can be made more equitable and accessible.

 

“USG, for me, has always felt like a home, but I know that is very much so not true for other students on campus, especially BIPOC students,” she said.

 

As part of this position, Mullaney will chair the USG Constitution and Bylaws Committee and has some ideas for reforming meeting procedures. She said that as a senator she sometimes hesitated to speak up for fear of using the wrong language or not following the correct procedure.

 

“Making it less formal, but still formal in the sense that we operate as a governmental body but in ways so that people aren’t afraid to speak up and share their opinions,” Mullaney said.

 

Mullaney said she plans to achieve this goal by expanding the senator training program which teaches senators how to sit on committees, how to work initiatives and every other part related to serving in USG. She also hopes to get freshmen aware of and engaged with USG early on by creating a TIDES liaison position.

 

Mullaney said she believes USG has the power to enact change and wants to use her position to better improve the lives of students.

 

“I love the student body,” Mullaney said. “I love my peers. I love Tulane, and I want to do everything I can to make this experience the best for everyone, just how it’s become the best for me.” 

 

Drew Lopez decided to take on the role of vice president of academic affairs because she knows what it is like to need a little extra help. 

“I required a lot of support so I actually used these resources,” Lopez said. “I wanted to advocate for people who’ve had similar experiences.” 

Lopez will work closely with Tulane’s academic support services to coordinate programming and implement initiatives that help students strive academically. Lopez said the first step is making sure students know what resources are available, especially for students who may feel like their issue is small and unimportant. 

“I want to advertise our resources in a way that people know they can get access to them, even if the world isn’t ending,” Lopez said.

She also wants to create an academic census, which would be an online platform where students can share how they feel the resources do and don’t work. 

“We want to make sure that all groups are represented and all groups have equal access and feel like these resources apply to them as well,” she said. 

Lopez said all this information will help USG and Tulane administration know what improvements to make going forward. This may consist of retraining resource professionals, like case managers, or creating new resources altogether. 

“My plan is to get all the information first, and then we can tailor our response based on what students want and need,” Lopez said.

Lopez added that academic support is crucial so that students can enjoy all the other great things Tulane has to offer. 

After serving as the treasurer for two organizations on campus, Alexa Authorlee noticed some changes needed to be made in USG. 

“I noticed that there are a lot of things that student organizations would like to do to make campus better, but because of either nitpicky things in the bylaws or because of backlog with administration, student organizations and students at large are not able to really see the impact they want to see on campus,” Authorlee said. 

Authorlee said her top priority for the upcoming year as vice president of finance is to continue and expand financial literacy workshops on campus. Specifically, she wants these programs to be open to the New Orleans community as a whole. These workshops would be held after 5 p.m. and would focus on a wide array of different finance-related topics that vary by age group. 

“Tulane should become more involved with our students but also with the New Orleans community to make sure they have access to the resources to offer,” Authorlee said. “We have to recognize that we live in a city where most of the citizens are predominantly black and socioeconomically disenfranchised.” 

She also said that she hopes to alleviate the intimidatory nature of budget meetings, especially for students of color. As she is passionate about a range of social issues, Authorlee said she hopes to be involved in all aspects of USG, not just the financial side. 

Last summer, Holly Steinberg served on a committee that was focused on reopening plans for the fall semester amidst COVID-19. It was here that Steinberg noticed a breakdown of communication, which is why she decided to make opening up lines of communication between Tulane administration and students a top priority for her term as vice president of student life.

“I realized how hard it was for students to get their questions and concerns answered, especially as school started,” Steinberg said. 

To help aid the effort to increase transparency, Steinberg said she wants to implement a freshman leadership program for the spring semester, available to spring scholars and sophomores as well. 

Steinberg also has specific initiatives that she hopes to introduce on campus like offering charger rentals in the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life and library, a student-business farmer’s market, expanding late-night dining options and adding campus printing locations and credit. 

As for why she is passionate about improving student life on campus, Steinberg said she believes USG can truly make a difference. 

Peyton Friedlander was introduced to USG through her position as a liaison between the Community Action Council of Tulane University Students and student government and it was this experience that sparked her desire to serve as vice president of student organizations.

Friedlander said her main goal as VPSO is to amend the USG bylaws to allow prospective campus organizations to gain “active” status immediately and integrate into campus life. As it stands now, student organizations must operate under provisional status before becoming active organizations. 

“The main difference is that the council chairs will be directly receiving the applications for prospective organizations and helping them acclimate to becoming an active organization,” Friedlander said.

Another initiative Friedlander plans to implement is including an anonymous suggestions form on the USG website so that the executive board can get a better sense of what students want to see improved and changed on campus. 

“I hope that my experiences leading up to my new involvement as an exec board member are encouraging to allow all Tulane students to step up and create the change they want to see on campus,” she said.

Friedlander said that she hopes to be a part of changing the elitist culture of USG and encourage diversity and inclusion within and between student organizations. 

“I am starting to become more aware of inequities in the organization that I hope to address and improve along with the rest of the board in the coming year,” she said.

She said that she knows it can be difficult for new students to find their niche on campus and wants to offer guidance through that process.