SGA funds program for first-generation college students following federal aid cuts

UVM%27s+Student+Government+Association+discussed+student+voting+and+changes+to+the+former+Clean+Energy+Fund+at+their+weekly+meeting+Oct.+6.+

Allion Ouellette/The Vermont Cynic

UVM’s Student Government Association discussed student voting and changes to the former Clean Energy Fund at their weekly meeting Oct. 6.

SGA plans to fund a program for one year that assists first-generation college students with academic support and professional mentoring after the federal government cut its funding this year. 

UVM’s Student Government Association discussed how they will go about funding the Student Support Services Program during their Nov. 10 meeting. Members also discussed a resolution to better honor indigenous contribution and gave details about the celebration of Diwali.

Student Support Services Program Now to be Funded by SGA

The Student Support Services Program is a federal TRIO program that typically receives roughly $20,000 each year from the federal government to provide services to first generation college students.

The services include tutoring, financial aid applications and resources for locating private and public scholarships. 

However, this year federal funding was cut. 

TRIO programs are outreach student service programs designed to identify and provide services for students who are from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

SGA plans to give the program a certain amount of money that they will have control where and who it is allocated to. 

“I chose to do this because initially the administration was supposed to take this on and help find ways of funds and supporting the program,” President Lana Al-Namee said. “But it is one thousand times more difficult for them to be doing something like this… and I want to set a good example.” 

Chairs Zyakkiriah Rhoden and Olivia Lopez expressed some concerns about the funding, such as this only being a short-term solution and eventually leaving the program without any financial support. 

“It’s like putting a band-aid on a bullet hole,” Rhoden said. “When we do allocate the money to them we should still actively try to find money for it.” 

Chair Lopez mentioned that it will be important to communicate to the University that their funding is only for one year to avoid confusion as to why SGA stopped the funding. 

Resolution Supporting and Honoring Indigenous people

Senator Maddie Henson discussed the possibility of putting up a statue on campus that honors indigenous people.

Henson and Lopez worked on a proposal for Elizabeth Palchak, fund coordinator of the Sustainable Campus Fund, who recommended having SGA work on the proposal and then work their way up to higher officials. 

“We are hoping to erect a statue that is honoring indigenous people and that this University is on stolen land,” Henson said. 

The recitation of the resolution consisted of the acknowledgement that the University resides on land that was stolen specifically from the Abenaki Tribe.  

Hansen’s efforts began by consulting with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion division, who created a plaque that they said recognized the eugenics movement. However, Hansen said the plaque was “a little disappointing.” 

“The plaque in the library does not acknowledge the eugenics movement at the University of Vermont,” Senator Caroline Shelley said. 

Chair Lopez and other senators are also meeting with General Counsel Jennifer Papillo about when they can put a flag on campus to recognize Indigenous People’s Month.

Indian Student Association plans Diwali celebration

Communication Director Jayita Baruta spoke to members of the SGA about this year’s annual Diwali celebration this weekend. 

Diwali is one of the biggest cultural celebrations on campus and has accumulated more popularity over the years, regularly hosting a crowd of around 400 people. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year the event will be a hybrid of 75 people in person and the rest will join virtually.

In-person attendees can join the celebration Oct. 14 in the Grand Maple Ballroom starting at 5:30 p.m. 

The Indian Student Association is a non-profit organization consisting of primarily students from India and Indian subcontinents that aim to cultivate non-academic activities to recognize diverse cultures on UVM’s campus and attempt to accentuate international presence on campus. 

The organization works on social networks with all kinds of people including faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students. 

“We try to create an atmosphere for international students to feel as at home as possible,” Baruta said. 

In previous years, ISA has held other activities such as their annual road trip in August and a barbecue in September, both of which were canceled this year.