By Ellie Yeo and Anfani Lawal
Boston University’s Undergraduate Student Government met for the first time for the 2019-2020 academic year on Monday night where they heard opening remarks from Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore and an update on BU campus development.
Elmore began the meeting by delivering his opening remarks to the Senate, emphasizing the importance of taking time to listen to one another and appreciating the impact active members of the BU community can have.
“Aggressively listen,” Elmore said. “Make sure you let people know that that’s what you’re doing.”
Senior Vice President for Operations Gary Nicksa presented a brief history of the evolution of BU’s Charles River, Fenway and Medical campuses and discussed future plans for the continued development and renewal of the university. Nicksa cited “teaching, research, student life” as the driving strategy behind campus development.
Nicksa emphasized plans for the new Center for Computing and Data Sciences building to be built across from the College of Communication. Nicksa said he wants the new building to be “remarkable” and emphasized the building’s role in BU’s commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040.
“This will be the largest building in New England heated by geothermal” Nicksa said. “It is to be fossil fuel free.”
Neha Iyer, a senior in the Questrom School of Business and the USG executive vice president, said that although she will graduate before construction is complete, she is a supporter of the new building.
“Knowing that I’m an alum of that kind of university that pioneers that is incredible for me,” Iyer said. “You’re seeing your university go through a transformation, even if it’s for the future, and that’s very important for our community.”
USG President Hafzat Akanni delivered her President’s Address, including summer updates on BU’s new guest swipe program and the establishment of a First Generation Office, an initiative spearheaded by Associate Provost Elizabeth Loizeaux meant to serve the needs and agendas of first generation students.
“No one ever has the same experiences,” Akanni said, “but the [first generation] experience will be very different because your familial life at home, no one really knows or understands what it’s like to be in college for the first time.”
Karla Leon, the senate chair of USG and sophomore in the COM, said she finds the First Generation Office promising.
“Being a first generation student myself,” Leon said, “just hearing about that made me feel like the school was actually making plans to feel like first generation students matter.”
Akanni closed her remarks with a message for the Senate to “leave your mark,” encouraging senators to draw inspiration from past accomplishments of USG to motivate this year’s student government efforts.
The senate confirmed Nada Shalash for Senate vice chair, as well as members of the cabinet and Student Elections Commission.
“We’re going to focus on a policy based cabinet instead of a solely event-based cabinet, so we’re able to make long term impact,” Iyer said. “So I’m really excited to see that and see the ball rolling.”
Questions arose in the Senate as to whether Shalash, who is already a Senator, will be able to maintain an unbiased role as both a Senator and Senate vice chair. BU Senator Aditya Jain said there have been Senate Chairs in the past who have simultaneously held Senator positions without issue.
Shalash was confirmed.
Jain closed the meeting with updates on the FEAST Committee, of which he is a co-chair. Several of the committee’s initiatives from last year can be seen around campus, including vegan milk options in dining halls and the Weigh the Waste project, a volunteer-based initiative to collect and count waste from dining halls to raise awareness about food waste on campus.
FEAST has also partnered with BU Dining on the LEAN path, a project that categorizes waste by type, allowing for data collection on BU food waste and improvements to sustainability in the dining sector.
Emma Jacobson, a sophomore in the School of Hospitality Administration, said that this was a good introduction to USG.
“I thought she was very welcoming,” Jacobson said. “It made me feel really good since this is my first meeting.”
Editor’s Note: Karla Leon is a writer for The Daily Free Press.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article referred to the Undergraduate Student Government as just “Student Government.” The name was changed this semester. Hafzat Akanni’s last name was also misspelled as “Akkani.” A quote from Karla Leon was incorrectly attributed to Jessica Zheng. The current version of this article reflects these changes.