Senate coordinates response to PVTA budget cuts, hears reports from Be Well Steering Committee and several working groups

BY  ANNA KANE ’20

The Feb. 20 Student Government Association (SGA) senate meeting included a continuation of the discussion of proposed scheduling changes for the PVTA, a presentation by the Be Well steering committee and updates from working groups. Chair of Senate Liz Brown ’20 spoke first, encouraging senators to sign petitions supporting an increase in funding for the PVTA and the bill H.2998, which has recently been introduced to the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee. 

SGA E-board president Camille Gladieux ’18 had addressed the outcry over the PVTA’s proposed schedule changes in an email to the Mount Holyoke community on Feb. 17. “After attending several hearings and meetings, I realized that directing our concerns to the PVTA is not as effective as going to the root of the problem. PVTA does not want to make these changes or cuts,” she said. “Directing our anger towards them will not be as productive as organizing around this issue. At the moment, the PVTA and other regional transit authorities are not getting the funding they need to operate at current levels.” 

PVTA representatives will attending the Feb. 27 senate meeting to address student concerns and questions, but Gladieux explained that if the company doesn’t receive government funding, cuts will inevitably result. The cuts will have a particular impact on Five College students, the elderly, low income people and people of color, she said.

“This affects people all across Western Massachusetts. People need to get to work and can’t afford to pay $7 for a bus pass. Mount Holyoke believes in social justice,” said Brown. “We have to remember that this is much larger than just getting to UMass and Amherst on the weekends and class during the week.”

At the time of the meeting, the petition reached 1,300 signers, most of whom are Mount Holyoke students, according to Brown. The Mount Holyoke community is leading several initiatives to protect the PVTA’s funding. The SGA is collaborating with Smith College’s student government association and reaching out to area senior centers. Gladieux is writing letters to local newspapers, including the Hampshire Gazette, The Republican and The Recorder. Acting President Sonya Stevens is writing a letter to local representatives about the importance of the PVTA to the community.  Coordinating boards from all five colleges met on Feb. 21 to talk about the next steps. 

SGA Public Relations Officer Marisol Fernandez ’20 is in the process of creating a geofilter for Snapchat to spread awareness about the proposed cuts ahead of the public hearings starting Feb. 28. “We want this [Snapchat filter] to be seen and used all over Western Massachusetts,” she said.

Next was a presentation from the Be Well steering committee co-chairs Erica Weathers and Jennifer Balut. The Be Well task force was created in 2016 by the Division of Student Life in an effort to start a conversation about wellness initiatives on campus. According to Balut, the goal of Be Well is to decrease the impact of stress culture and allow students to thrive during and beyond their college years through holistic wellness initiatives and resources offered by the College.

“We want students to embrace self-care and stress management, which is as fundamental as reading, writing and arithmetic,” said Balut.

Weathers and Balut encouraged senators to provide the committee with as much feedback as possible, so they can create programming that meets a diverse set of needs. Senators raised concerns and suggestions, saying stress culture at Mount Holyoke is different than other institutions, citing pressure from professors and peers to double major. 

“This is a real initiative the school is putting forward. We know this is a problem. We’ve talked about this in the past and the school is hearing our concerns,” said Brown. 

Next were brief presentations from working groups, who addressed issues like parties, infrastructure safety, facilities management and personal safety on campus. 

The Parties and Safety working group expressed concern about the need for campus police at Chapin parties and about the safety of Mount Holyoke students on other campuses. The group had created a flowchart that explains how student concerns can be directed to the correct departments. The flowchart includes information about what departments are on-call 24/7, and how to contact mental health and emergency services.

The Infrastructure Safety working group presented on their work with Facilities Management to increase lighting on campus and create a paved pathway between Torrey Hall and Dwight Hall. They also reported that a new system for the disposal of menstrual products, consisting of containers for disposal in stalls, is being test run on the third floor of South Mandelles Hall. 

The Personal Safety working group is reaching out to campus police and Library, Information and Technology Services (LITS) to promote awareness and make campus policies more accessible to students by creating pamphlets to distribute on campus. 

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