What would be your first priority, if elected?
Josh: I think what we hope to do is truly hit the ground running. By the Monday or sometime that week after, we’d like to have some application with some sort of tenement structure as we start working with the Senate and the Finance Board, because we’re in an odd state this year in which the election is at the same time, but the semester ends really late, so… We have a month between the results of the election and the end of the semester, so we can use that month to get what we need to get done started. Things don’t turn over until May 15, so we can talk to current Senators, current Finance Board representatives, and then talk to the ones that are incoming and try to see what really want to accomplish as an organization next year. So this semester has given us a little bit of time to actually hash those things out, more than in a regular election.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned during the time in SGA, and how would you apply it in your administration?
Josh: I think learning the things that are unique to the SGA and as it relates to students, is that it’s difficult to reach every single student, and being that voice for every student, and I thing SGA has struggled with that in the past. I think that we need to be focusing on things in general; I think the SGA has done a lot of good work at trying to gauge the student interest, but I think we need to actively keep seeking that out.
You have said that the SGA must be more action-oriented? What do you mean by that, and what strategies would you use in order to move the SGA in that direction?
Markya: Yes. I don’t want to say that it is wrong to think — that’s fantastic. We need people with good ideas.
Josh: Think and discuss.
Markya: Right. But, if you’re only discussing your ideas and you’re not implementing them, then what’s the use, what’s the point? We need people… We need a balance of people who are innovative and have these great ideas and people who can actually execute said ideas. We’re lacking the action-oriented part as it stands now. And I think that one way — there are many ways we could try to figure this out — I think it requires many conversations with lots of people, but one way we have talked about in the past is like, when looking at the directors and at the system directors in departments, I think we focus a lot on picking experts in that field versus picking people who know how to organize and mobilize people to do a certain task.
Another big point in your platform is the offer of free hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays. How would you deal with the potential logistical issues that come with this proposal?
Josh: A lot of this has to deal with the Registrar, right? So when classes are scheduled, they are essentially scheduled all through the Registrar. Like, when departments want to put up classes at a certain time, certain rooms, and things like that, all of that happens through the Registrar, for the main Fall and Spring semesters. Working with both the Registrar and some key departments that offer like the bulk of classes during that time, and the faculty Senate, is something that we will very well prioritize over the summer, because then… Class registration starts in October. So then by September, halfway through September is when departments are saying when they want to offer their classes. With this, we hope to in June say “hey, we want this to happen, and we’re willing to put whatever we need to do to make this happen and we are very interested in making this happen,” making sure we hold those conversations over the summer and are persistent about said conversations as well.
Have you pitched your new free hour idea to the school’s administration? Have you polled the student body and faculty? If yes, what was the reception?
Josh: We’ve had several individual conversations with some groups. The SGA Department of Academic Affairs is working especially on the free hour project, because there were some talks about it maybe going away from Monday, Wednesday, and Friday even. So we, from those conversations, have been talking to various administration members, trying to work things out, like how would this look for rooms through event and conference services in the Commons, or how would this look for the LRC, and how is tutoring offered, and like, how will this work with those offices? And then, also, looking at the parking struggle on campus. Parking is something students, including myself, always find frustrating; it’s a very challenging issue. I will say that the Police are very in favor of some kind of rescheduling of classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I personally spoke with [Deputy Chief] Paul Dillon about this, and the police, the people who run parking, obviously, say that the most congested time for students is Tuesday and Thursday 11am to 3pm. So… we hope that trying to move around class schedules to be smarter and schedule things farther apart… We don’t have to build a new garage, changing class schedules is really easy and costs significantly less money than building a new garage. So… just trying to work through that with those various campus stake holders… and we’ve talked to some administration members and we’re making our rounds.
How would you reach out to commuting students, and how would you help them be more integrated on campus life?
Markya: I think the first step to that would probably be to talk to Admissions and Orientation, because that is something that they do, and when they do it well they do it very well. So I’ve been an Orientation Peer Advisor for two years, and it seemed like with the transfer sessions they did a decent job because they had transfer students telling their stories, but I think that we can elaborate on that, and we can really strategize about how we can get transfer and commuting students integrated to the campus. I think it’s a matter of where do you find these resources? It’s that, but it’s also what Josh said about like, good marketing. You can’t really have one without the other. We need to figure out ways to better market student organizations and events, while simultaneously prepping students as they come in.
How important are library hours to you? Why, unlike other tickets, have you not proposed a 24/7 opening schedule for the library?
Markya: Compromise. And you can’t do the same thing over and over and expect different results. Everyone says 24/7, but does the library want 24/7, have they talked to the library to see what, you know, is good for them?
Josh: If they had worked with them and seen how the library structure is, and how like… It’s developing those relationships, and also thinking like, what is feasible, right? You want to open the library 24/7 when all seven floors are unoccupied at four in the morning? Like, that’s… it’s being smart, it’s not… The 24/5 is not necessarily the entire library; it could be the first two or three floors. But what we’re doing is we’re trying to work with people, and not trying to be truly radical, but trying to do things that can actually be accomplished in a year.
During the debate, you mentioned wanting to improve UMBC’s connections and relationships to Catonsville, Arbutus, and other surrounding areas. What is the school’s current relationship with those areas, and what do you think of it?
Markya: Currently, as it stands, or as it seems, from conversations that people who are more qualified to speak on it than I, we haven’t really had any sort of relationship with Arbutus, which is interesting because as soon as you step out of the circle, you’re there.
Josh: Yeah, and so… working with that, and other businesses on developing more relationships, because if we’re putting pieces of UMBC directly in the community, then that means that they have like a point of reference for the university, and they feel… students can feel like they are part of the greater community, because … UMBC is that bubble, and you’re a student here, but you don’t feel like you’re a member of Arbutus, you don’t feel like you’re a member of Catonsville. If we are putting ourselves more directly into the community, and students can see themselves actively contributing to the community, then we can hope that students will bring a sense of ownership over the community also, beyond UMBC back to the campus.
What would you change in the student organization funding process? Is there anything that needs to be improved? How would you do it?
Markya: Let me tell you about the student organization pot of money! The way it was set up, last year anyway, $250,000 was in the pot of money that was available for student organizations. The Finance Board decides who gets how much money, that is what they do. The budget was just passed… I think yesterday?
Josh: It was passed yesterday, by a close vote.
M: And they reduced the amount of money that student orgs have by $11,000. That’s $239,000 that they [now] have. Which sounds like a lot, but I don’t understand why it was decreased. I think that if you’re going to make cuts to the budget, which was what needed to be done, the cuts need to go… elsewhere, you don’t need to cut the resources that you’re giving to student organizations, because that’s who we’re representing. It just doesn’t make any sense.
What is your opinion on the Stipend Review Committee? Is it effective? Would you do anything different to ensure the accountability of SGA members? Why do you think so many members had their stipends cut recently?
Josh: So, I think that the SRC is very effective, as someone who co-authored it I’m a little biased. I think it has been fairly effective this year. It’s shown a lot to people from different parts of the organization what it really means to be in SGA. What is SGA doing, is it making adequate progress? I think that while it is doing a great job this year, it can still be improved on.
What would you do in order to ensure and promote transparency within the SGA and between the SGA and the student body?
Josh: One of the projects that I’ve been working on is the SGA Initiative Tracker. It’s a website that is supposed to lay out all the projects that SGA is doing, the progress being made on each project, and individual tasks and who’s working on what project. And, if a student wants to get involved in our project they can join the project. It is currently up and running, however its implementation has been very slow. I think that next year… we’ve had two good years of pilots. There’s tangible progress of what needs to be done, and that can be explained very effectively.
What do you think will be your biggest challenge during your administration?
Markya: We really want to make a culture change, like a big culture change.
Josh: Both within and outside of the organization.
Markya: Right. And that’s a lot to take on for just two people, so finding people who are set on doing the same thing, and who can help us change that overall… It’s going to take a while, it’s going to take some time.
Josh: And it’s working with the other presidential tickets.The election determines who the students prefer to lead, now we’re all going to lead together. We each bring something different to the table, we all do and it’s very important that we understand that these things are complex. So, collaboration is probably our greatest strength. The challenge is, how do we best lead right after? Because a lot of people focus a lot on finals, and that’s… those are very important. But it’s the challenge of finding how we best lead, together and how do we collaborate in the most effective way? I think that is the greatest challenge that lies ahead: coordinating people. SGA people come and go. It’s a challenge. How do we get people to buy into the organization? How do we increase their own ownership over the organization? How are we thinking about that? I talked to someone that was in one of our departments last semester, and he said “Well I don’t really have the time” and so on, and I understand, because we’re doing a clerical job… It’s really trying to increase the interest in buy in and their ownership of the organization. Because it’s not the president’s organization, it’s the people’s organization.