Vrinda Deshpande resigned from her position as Student Government Association president on Jan. 26, leaving the role to her Executive Vice President Frances Watson. Her decision was due in part of a desire to focus more on her schoolwork and upcoming medical school applications, as well as increased family obligations.
Deshpande, who is a senior at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County studying biology, spent her junior year as Executive Vice President to SGA President Collin Sullivan before running unopposed for SGA president in the spring of 2019.
She noted that as she looked towards the current spring semester, she felt she “either had to take a step back or … resign.” Taking a step back, however, felt “so gross” after the SGA had fought for stipend increases during the last fiscal year’s budget request.
What comforted Deshpande as she made the decision to resign was the stability of the internal structure she created within her executive branch and the strength of the students who occupy those positions.
“We’ve really created this structure where it’s not dependent on me,” Deshpande said. “If I leave, people are still going to do their work.”
Deshpande says she will miss the position, especially since, as president, “you end up in a lot of spaces where you’re the only student … [and have to] represent a lot of people.” However, she acknowledges the shortcomings of this model and said that SGA “can’t represent everybody and we don’t represent everybody.”
“I think it’s about administrators and staff taking more time to say ‘Is this room really inclusive of students or is it just student leaders in SGA’ because it’s easy to pick on the same people for everything and you see the same people kind of pop up because those are the people that staff know,” Deshpande said.
She hopes that this problem will change with time to be more inclusive of a larger group of students, especially within spaces concerning accessibility, which she calls a “huge problem” at UMBC. Though SGA senators often speak with Student Disability Services, Deshpande is unsure if the office meets with other student representatives.
These problems culminate in what Deshpande calls the issue of “student labor versus student voice,” a concept she was introduced to through Collegetown Underground, a four-day civic engagement program in Baltimore.
Administrators and staff often substitute student labor for student voice, calling on them to perform the work of full-time, paid staff, Deshpande said.
“It’s a tough balance to find,” Deshpande said. “I think maybe we’re tipping too far into the labor part as an institution.”
While she believes there is progress to be made in SGA and across the university, Deshpande does not want people to think that SGA is an “impossible thing.”
“It was just impossible for me to continue at this particular time,” Deshpande said. “If you really care about it, and you’re able to set aside the time, then it’s worth it.”
Patrick Reid, who previously served as an SGA senator, is set to be confirmed as the new Executive Vice President at the SGA Senate Meeting on Monday, Feb. 10. The SGA is also currently accepting applications for an open senatorial position because Olubunmi Ayodele resigned from her position as senator over winter break.