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The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



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Coughlin-Donoghue slate wins 2024 student government presidential election

Matthew Coughlin (left) and Cassidy Donoghue pose for separate headshots. The Coughlin-Donoghue slate was announced the winner of the 2024 student government election March 26. Photos courtesy Student Government Association.
Matthew Coughlin (left) and Cassidy Donoghue pose for separate headshots. The Coughlin-Donoghue slate was announced the winner of the 2024 student government election March 26. Photos courtesy Student Government Association.

The annual election for the Student Government Association has come to a close, with the uncontested Coughlin-Donoghue slate for student body president and executive vice president announced as the official winner March 26. Students also voted on four referendums ranging from topics including sustainability education to club budget transparency.

Over 13,600 students voted in this year’s election, but 45% chose to abstain from the Student Government Association, or SGA, direct election, the process by which the positions of president and executive vice president are elected. Excluding abstentions, about 36% of the student body participated in the direct election. 

Of the 13,673 students who cast votes, roughly 38% voted for the Coughlin-Donoghue slate, 14.26% voted no confidence and 2.06% issued write-in votes.

This year’s voter turnout was up from past years, with 25.72% of the undergraduate student body voting in 2023 and 25.95% voting in 2022

The vote guaranteed Matthew Coughlin, a third-year mechanical engineering major, the position of student body president and Cassidy Donoghue, a second-year political science and psychology combined major, the position of executive vice president.

Students also voted in support of all four referendum proposals on the ballot, which included banning plastic water bottles, adopting the MBTA’s University Pass Program, mandating transparency from the SGA Finance Board and implementing a sustainability requirement into NUPath. 

Although all four referendums passed with a majority vote, Northeastern is not required to implement the proposals. The referendum ballots serve as a reflection of the student body’s opinions and “call for the Northeastern administration to act,” according to the SGA’s election manual.

The plastic bottle ban 

A proposal that would phase out — and then ban — the use of single-use plastic water bottles on campus passed with a roughly 60% “yes” vote from voting students. 

To promote environmental sustainability on campus, the SGA and D’Amore McKim School of Business sustainability committees proposed a referendum asking students if Northeastern should prohibit the sale and distribution of plastic water bottles. If enacted, the university would begin phasing out purchasing single-use plastic water bottles and limiting their distribution on campus. 

The referendum also proposed requesting the university push for sustainable alternatives to plastic, such as aluminum, in discussions with beverage providers in the future.

The proposal pointed to the environmental impact of single-use plastics and aimed to reduce waste within the Northeastern community. It highlighted educational institutions’ role in shaping the values and behaviors of their students and community, criticizing the “culture of convenience and disposability” created by the normalization of single-use plastic bottles. 

The committees also cited the damaging effects of bottled water companies extracting water from water-scarce communities. Only 29% of single-use plastic bottles are recycled each year, the committees wrote, resulting in the majority ending up in landfills or oceans, threatening public health and nearby ecosystems

The proposal also points to several successful examples of similar policies, such as the 2023 executive order Governor Maura Healey signed prohibiting executive agencies from purchasing single-use plastic bottles under 21 fluid ounces. The referendum also commends the efforts made by Emerson College and Northeastern Oakland to reduce the use of single-use plastics, demonstrating that such initiatives are not only possible, but effective.

The referendum has garnered support from the community, with more than 200 students, faculty and staff signing to advocate for the ban of single-use plastic bottles. 

Northeastern’s ticket to ride

A proposal asking the university to give students unlimited access to the city’s MBTA subway and bus systems passed with the support of 93% of voters. 

The initiative, proposed by Sustainable Transportation @ Northeastern, or STAN, encourages Northeastern to opt into the MBTA University Pass Program, which allows students unlimited subway and bus access. This would be funded through a $50 semesterly “transit access fee,” which students on co-op or taking classes remotely would be given the choice to opt out of.

Although Northeastern currently offers an 11% student discount on four-month MBTA passes, STAN believes the University Pass Program plan more impactfully addresses sustainability issues and students’ transportation needs. The proposal argues that this initiative would not only ease the financial burden on students but also allow Northeastern to build strong partnerships with the MBTA and the city of Boston, increase public transit use, reduce road congestion, lower pollution levels and encourage community-centered economic growth.

Other universities across the United States including the University of California, Los Angeles, University of South Florida and George Washington University have begun implementing similar pass programs. STAN argues that this proposal offers Northeastern an opportunity to establish itself as a leader in transit access and sustainability in Boston. 

SGA budget transparency

The “Call for Finance Board To Be More Transparent with Budget Allocations” referendum, championed by Senator Devyani Anand, Vice President for Academic Affairs Misha Ankudovych, Vice President for Student Success Sebastian Chávez da Silva and Executive Director of Student Involvement James Chang-Davidson, passed with almost 95% of voting students’ support. 

The proposal underscored a pressing need for enhanced transparency within Northeastern’s student government. It highlights the significant financial contribution full-time undergraduate students make through the Student Activity Fee, amounting to approximately $2 million to $4 million annually. Despite this substantial investment, the referendum notes a lack of transparency regarding how the undergraduate SGA Finance Board allocates these funds to recognized student organizations.

Drawing attention to the Finance Board’s historical inconsistency in providing transparency and the absence of recent reports on budget allocation decisions, the referendum invokes precedent from peer institutions like Boston University, Cornell University, American University and Auburn University, which publicly disclose Student Activity Fund allocations. It also points out the constitutional obligation of the Finance Board to present bi-annual reports on its activities, a commitment that has not been fulfilled, as evidenced by the perpetual “Coming Soon” status that has appeared on the Finance Board’s website since September 2023, according to the proposal.

The referendum asserted the necessity of holding the Finance Board responsible for the prudent management of these finances and proposed a Resolution Guide to mandate the annual publication of a detailed report on budget allocations. 

Rethinking ticketing policies

A group of students led by the Live Music Association is seeking to overturn a new ticketing policy enacted by Northeastern events management. The policy requires all student organization events — even free ones the Student Activity Fee funds — to use ticketed entry. The sponsors argue this creates unnecessary barriers for students to attend campus events.

This proposal was not included on the school-wide referendum ballot, as the authors did not collect the required 187 signatures, SGA told The News.

The reform proposal laid out several issues with the new ticketing system. Many students decide to attend free events at the last minute based on their schedules and awareness of the events, the proposal said. Requiring advance ticketing makes this difficult. Students may also reserve tickets they ultimately don’t use, resulting in empty seats.In contrast, major university events like hockey games allow walk-in entry with a Husky Card. 

The proposal also cited technical problems the Live Music Association encountered with the ticketing website, like incorrect dates and the inability to transfer tickets. With the Student Activity Fee funding these events for all students, the bill’s sponsors felt maximizing attendance should take priority.

Proponents argue the policy creates more problems than it solves for free events intended to engage the whole community.

The reform proposed either eliminating required ticketing entirely for student organization events or implementing a student ID walk-in option similar to athletic events. 

Had it made it on the school-wide ballot, the proposed referendum question would have read: “Is the new Northeastern event ticketing system a deterrent for you in attending these events?”

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