The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) at the University of Connecticut swore in new members and celebrated outgoing seniors at their “first and last” senate meeting.
USG president Irma Valverde was sworn in and gave a teary speech expressing her desire to make the organization more diverse and welcoming.
“When I wanted to join USG, my RA told me that it was a predominantly white organization and that I would never be able to grow in it because I was Latina woman,” Valverde said.
Valverde expressed support for next year’s senate and said she hopes she can set an example.
“I’ll be there to support every single one of you and I want to prove that… when you genuinely care about students that you also deserve an opportunity like this and that your race and your gender does not matter,” Valverde said, to enthusiastic applause.
Outgoing USG president Dan Byrd and Valverde hugged at the end of her speech, both in tears.
Other outgoing USG members, including comptroller Rishita Jani, chief of staff Erika Elechicon and speaker George Wang, got standing ovations from senate after delivering their final reports.
Outgoing funding board and new vice president Lysette Johnson expressed excitement over next year’s senate.
“Every single person here should be so proud of themselves because I’ve never seen a group of people accomplish more and I’m so excited to watch everyone and see what they do next year,” Johnson said.
Outgoing academic affairs chair Ven Gopal said he felt his committee wasn’t appreciated for the work they’ve done, including implementing open source textbooks, and encouraged them to continue pushing forward.
“I really hope the [negativity concerning the committee] doesn’t stifle your spirit and your enthusiasm. I want you all to know your work is appreciated by the students that reap its benefits,” Gopal said.
Sen. Nandan Tumu (Buckley/Shippee) and Sen. Richa Jain (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) were elected as next year’s speaker and parliamentarian, respectively.
Tumu said he wants to improve the organization’s transparency and accessibility, including posting legislation online and ensuring it is easily accessible and mandating office hours for senate leadership and USG’s executive board.
Tumu said a stronger connection between senators and their constituents would strengthen USG.
“The student body has incredible ideas and all we need to do is provide a forum for them to be able to express those ideas,” Tumu said.
Jain said she wants the organization to feel more inclusive and welcoming, particularly to new members.
“Too many times I’ve seen in this past senate that new senators feel out of place or uncomfortable or not entirely welcome… and this absolutely needs to be amended,” Jain said.
Schae Beaudoin is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.