Thursday, Apr. 1, the College of William and Mary will conduct the election for the 2021-22 Student Assembly senate. Meghana Boojala ’22 and Zenobia Goodman ’22 will run together on an uncontested ticket for SA president and vice president.
Boojala first joined SA as a class of 2022 senator her freshman year, and she later served as senate finance chair in 2019-20 and as chair of the senate in the 2020-21 academic year. Goodman has no prior experience in SA, but instead possesses leadership experience from her role as a resident assistant and through volunteer work that she has completed in the community. Despite their varied levels of SA experience, the two candidates present a unified platform based on inclusivity, transparency and accountability.
Their platform covers a range of initiatives — from Fraternity and Sorority Life reform to post-pandemic assimilation plans to funding for recognized student organizations, as SA allocates approximately $700,000 in an annual budget to over 125 student organizations on campus.
“As finance chair my sophomore year, I learned that the process has not been reformed in over 25 years,” Boojala said. “This was a point where they were literally writing down the budget on a paper and quite literally editing it. Our school has changed drastically since then, in not only our technology and our data tracking abilities, but also our demographics.”
Tuesday, Mar. 23, SA passed the Quarterly Budget System Act, sponsored by Boojala. The bill will switch SA’s financial system from an annual to quarterly process and will also introduce a Finance Appropriations Committee, composed of the Finance Committee and students appointed by the Department of Finance, to replace the Executive Appropriations Committee.
The pair also plans to help the senate better understand the budget process by eliminating confusion based on funding allocation. Boojala’s proposed plan will simplify the current 33-page funding document so that it is more concise and straightforward. There are currently three planned procedures for increasing understanding of the process.
“One, we need to make it more accessible. I think making a simple quarterly system that we operate under will make it easier,” Boojala said. “The second is the committee now has senators in it, so they’re able to literally engage in the process that the senate was actually cut out from all these years. The third thing is making financial training mandatory. I think SA thinks of ourselves as a lot of advocacy work. A lot of times we ignore the fact that, oh, we also allocate $700,000 every year.”
In addition to finance reform, Boojala and Goodman proposed multiple protocols for increasing campus safety. They plan to address concerns regarding hate crimes, gun violence and the COVID-19 guidelines for the 2021-22 academic year by increasing effective communication with the College’s administration and the greater Williamsburg community. Boojala and Goodman agree that creating a safer campus requires close evaluation and understanding of College policy and student rights.
“In terms of gun violence, it’s going to be having a larger and more strong relationship with WMPD and maybe even with WPD, but partnering with Williamsburg, figuring out what justifies the use of force on campus and off campus,” Boojala said. “And how do students know what the situation means, and how do you avoid those situations? How can WMPD approach situations with more empathy for the fact that these are college kids? So, it’s kind of having those discussions with Chief Cheesebro and making sure that she is able to have her interface with the students, because I do believe they have our best interests in mind.”
Following the recent passing of the Stop AAPI Hate Resolution, the candidates have further outlined a diversity and inclusion section in their platform.
“I think the biggest thing for us is to understand is that we are not experts,” Goodman said. “There’s a lot of student leaders, who I’ve gotten a chance to work with, and some people I even consider their friends who are part of this community and know a lot more than I do and are willing to present ideas and help. I think as an administration, we need to listen to them. We need to be very intentional with our words and we need to actually do what we say we are going to do.”
While addressing next fall’s COVID-19 guidelines, Boojala and Goodman proposed ideas that they hope will rebuild a sense of community in student life. Their ideas included partnering with campus and community organizations to find safer ways to gather, finding ways to alleviate financial hardships exasperated by the pandemic and increasing mental health resources.
“Just hang in there,” Goodman said while discussing the rest of the semester. “I was reflecting on my response to how I would feel Thursday evening and realized we’re kind of in this go, go, go mentality. Like once one week is done, how do you prepare for the next week? I have a midterm this week, oh wait, midterm season is the entire semester. I just want to tell students, ‘hang in there, it’s going to get better, you know, take those breaks.’ I found a lot of strength in community this past year… emphasizing we’re students too, we’re feeling all of the same things.”
Mental health is yet another important topic addressed in the duo’s platform. Boojala and Goodman agree that there is a lack of education on what resources the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center can offer students.
“They actually have a lot of resources, but they don’t have an online appointment-based signup system,” Boojala said. “Their website does not have up-to-date infographics and students just don’t know what’s happening. Whenever we talk to students, they’re like, ‘I wish they had more clinicians.’ They just hired two new ones. So, it’s having a greater accessibility to information and I developed three tangible ways to do that.”
Boojala’s plan is to first improve the Center’s web pages and graphics. Then, she wants to create an online system for appointment management that protects confidentiality, so that students no longer have to call the facility to arrange an appointment. Finally, Boojala hopes to have more clinicians that are trained in LGBTQ+ and minority student treatment. If having another full-time expert is not possible, she hopes that the center can at least bring in experts to provide specialized services.
Boojala and Goodman have opposing attitudes toward Fraternity and Sorority Life, but agree on the necessity of reform. Approximately 30% of the College’s student body participates in Fraternity and Sorority Life, and many use it as an avenue to make connections with other organizations on campus. However, addressing microaggressions and the dangers of off-campus events hosted during the pandemic is just the beginning of a long list of reform demands for fraternities and sororities.
“That’s actually an issue that I think is incredibly pertinent right now as we confront the systems of racial inequality and white supremacy in the country, and as we confront off-campus COVID events, to be really honest” Boojala said. “I think that’s why it’s one of the reasons why Zenobia and I decided to work together, because we have two very opposing views on Greek life, but also we agree that it needs reform.”
Boojala supports the idea of implementing mandatory training, such as diversity and inclusion tests, and potentially implicit bias tests as well.
“The first time I took an implicit bias test was actually before my sophomore year of recruitment for my sorority,” Boojala said. “I actually was able to figure out that I actually had implicit biases, like me being a woman and a person of color did not exclude me from that conversation. That’s an approach I have, to partner with them to be able to increase awareness within them, but also hold them more accountable.”
Despite their different leadership styles, the two are able to meet in the middle to optimize their effectiveness as leaders. Goodman regards herself as more talkative and outgoing while Boojala finds herself to be more introverted and analytical. They both plan to continue researching and educating themselves on how to build a better, safer community while increasing transparency and continuing to apply pressure to change.