The HR 610 bill is “a little scary”: an interview with UMass Professor Sireci

By Phillip Bishop

The HR 610 is one of the bills introduced to Congress that would change the way it distributes funds to elementary and secondary schools. The bill would also lower nutritional standards.

“It’s a little scary repealing the Elementary and Secondary Act, which goes back to Lyndon Johnson’s administration in 1965. It was really designed to protect civil rights and to try and making education equitable across racial and socioeconomic barriers,” says Stephen Sireci, a professor in the Psychometrics program at the University Massachusetts Amherst.

Federal funds for schools would be distributed in the form of vouchers for eligible students. Sireci says there isn’t enough research on the program.

“When you hear about it first, you think, yeah that might be a good thing. And that’s kind of where the conversation is. We want to give parents more choices, of course. We want to make sure that the child goes to a school they want to go to. However, this is an under researched idea. The research that has been done on charter schools, for example, is equivocal,” Sireci says.

“If you ask me, Steve, what’s the most pressing problems in education today. Charter schools and vouchers wouldn’t even be in my top 100. It’s a little disappointing that’s where the focus is,” Sireci says.


The Curious Case of the Ash Tree

By: NohJun Park

Spring is just around the corner. The gloomy looking trees will start to put on their green coats again — while we shed our winter coats. But there’s an alarming problem for one species of trees — and that’s the ash tree.

In 2002, an exotic type of beetle was found in Detroit. The emerald ash borer beetle feasts on the foliage of ash trees — which isn’t the problem. It’s that it lays its larvae on the trees.

emerald ash borer larvae
Larvae of emerald ash borer beetle.

“Our trees are just not suited to deal with this particular insect. And whenever there’s an infestation, the tree is essentially killed,” says Richard Harper, the extension assistant professor at UMass Amherst.

UMass Extension Agriculture and Landscape teamed up with the Massachusetts Agricultural of Resource to track down these beetles. Eight towns in the Berkshire County have already detected some of them since 2012.

emerald ash borer
“We’re talking about an insect that wipes the tree out.”

“We’re talking about an insect that wipes the tree out,” Harper says. “When you lose a tree species, it’s essentially lost or degraded in terms of its presence in the environment in a very drastic manner.”

A way to stop invasive species is to literally fight back. According to the USDA, millions of tiny parasitic wasps have been released to counter to borer. The wasps lay eggs inside of the larvae of the borer to prevent them from hatching on the ash trees. You can report findings of borer beetles at


Find your NYC roommate through a matchmaking service: Perfect Strangers of NYC

Finding a place to live in New York city after graduating is hard enough. But finding a roommate? That might be even harder. Sarah Beth Hill is the founder and CEO of Perfect Strangers of NYC.

After graduating from UMass Amherst in 2010, Hill was offered a real estate job. She was required to move to New York City within a weekend.

“I literally had to find a place to stay in a weekend and I used Craigslist as the only resource I knew available,” Hill recalls. “And in the process of having to go on Craigslist and meeting this individuals at their apartments for the first time — I realized how sketchy that was. And being entrepreneurial myself, I realized that I could probably make a difference and create a service to help people move [to New York City].”

Hill started off by blogging and that eventually transformed into a “full blown service” in 2012. The service, Perfect Strangers of NYC, asks clients to fill out a questionnaire to help match them with the perfect roommate.

Sarah Beth Hill (center) with Jaclyn (left) and Bianca (right) at the UMass Women of Isenberg Conference March 3, 2017. Photography by Mayank Mishra.

Most of the clients want to have their own personal lives, but to be friendly with their roommates, says Hill.

Perfect Strangers of NYC is “tech enabled human verified,” which means that Hill and her colleagues meet the clients in person before pairing them up with their roommate.

“Even though we have them fill out this very detailed questionnaire, we essentially verify it by an in-person meeting. And once we’re able to verify the perfect apartment for them, we’re then able to match them with the best roommates,” says Hill.

There’s also a Perfect Strangers of NYC internship right here on the UMass campus. The brand ambassadors’ main task is to bring Hill back to UMass and educate students about moving to New York.

“Many people think that New York City is just Manhattan. And that’s definitely not the case. There are many boroughs outside of Manhattan,” says Hill. “I teach students to look at other neighborhoods besides the main ones they can think about like East Village, SoHo or Tribeca.”

For more information on Perfect Strangers NYC, check out their website:

Interview by Lucy Martirosyan

Production by Lucy Martirosyan

Photo credit: Mayank Mishra


2017 SGA Debate live stream

WMUA News brings you a live stream of the SGA candidates for President, Vice President, and Student Trustee for the 2017-2018 school year. The event was hosted Sunday evening at the Commonwealth Honors College from 6-8pm.

Current President Anthony Vitale and Vice President Lily Wallace are running for reelection. Lily Wallace recently took over the Vice Presidential position when Vitale’s former VP resigned.

Two Senators from the class of 2020 are running against the incumbents.  Presidential candidate Nathalie Amazan and her running mate Timmy Sullivan serve as undersecretaries of sustainability. Amazan sits on the social justice and empowerment committee of SGA.

Lincoln Quang Duong is also running for the position of President, who currently serves as a member of the finance committee. He is a solo candidate, but has told WMUA News that his first executive priority is to appoint a Vice President.

Candidates answered questions from moderator Dan Mahoney and from the audience on the topics of diversity, sustainability, accessibility, and transparency.

The SGA elections will take place March 6, 7, and 8 through Campus Pulse. Listen to our exclusive interviews with the candidates on this site.

Photo Courtesy of Lucy Martirosyan

Engineering by Lucy Martirosyan, Katie Donegan, and Josh McCawley

Hosting by Lisa Robinson and Katie Donegan

Music by Tycho


Lincoln Quang Duong talks about building a new campus app and engaging in community service

Lincoln Quang Duong is running for president in the upcoming Student Government Association elections. But he’s a solo candidate.

Duong clarifies, “On the ballot, I’m going to be a single candidate. But I have a VP in mind, but because of the conflicting information we were provided, I will remain as a solo candidate until the campaign ends. But my first executive priority is to have the office of VP filled.

He believes the vice president’s goals are to connect SGA with different residential areas on campus. Another priority of the VP is to connect the campus with other 5 colleges around the area, Duong says.

Overall, Duong says that he doesn’t believe that the SGA has been doing enough outreach to represent the whole student body. He points to low voter turnout as an indicator of this.

“Take, for example, the student voting turn out every year is only at 15 percent. So how does it represent the whole student body if only 15 percent vote and care about SGA?” says Duong.

Not many students even know what SGA is, Duong notes.

“The first thing we’ll do is make SGA transparent to give students information about what SGA does, what project senators are doing and provide students with budget allocations on all of the clubs on campus. The other thing is to increase student engagement on campus.”

The main way Duong wants to increase student engagement is by developing a phone application. The app would alert students about events that are happening around campus, like Living at UMass, the Bus Track and UMass Dining applications.

“I think that Living at UMass is a comprehensive application, but there’s too much information on there that confuses students. I want an application that’s only for RSOs and the events that freshmen and other students can attend to,” says Duong who plans to work with student experts to develop the application.

Duong is a member of Theta Ki and believes that students should be as engaged with community service as fraternities are.

“I don’t think students on this campus are focused on community service that much. As a member of Greek Life, we do compulsory community service every week. As a Theta Ki member, we go to Amherst Survival Center every week,” he says. “As an SGA member I haven’t seen a lot of community service projects that SGA has been developing and leading as an example for other students.”



Nathalie Amazan and Timmy Sullivan want to bring sustainability and diversity to UMass

Nathalie Amazan and Timmy Sullivan are running for president and vice president in the upcoming UMass Student Government Association elections. They may be freshmen, but they’re experienced, Sullivan says.

“We don’t think that age is a requisite for leadership, especially when that leadership isn’t adequately representing the students that we know we can represent.”

The fact that Amazan and Sullivan feel that the Student Government Association isn’t a representative body of students on campus probed them to decide to run for office.

The two current undersecretaries of sustainability plan to have a zero waste campus by 2050. To start, they want to install compost bins all over residential areas and internally monitor how much energy the campus is using as a whole.

Another big part of Amazan and Sullivan’s platform is increase diversity on campus for students of color and queer students.

“Currently there are 896 undergraduate African Americans on campus, and that’s a statistic I am horrified to see,” Amazan says. She wants to work with Student Bridges on campus, whose main goal is to recruit and maintain students of color.

“Representation and leadership is also huge,” Sullivan adds.

“Like when you see someone who looks like you, you get inspired. You now believe that you can do that too. Seeing a Black queer woman in this position, a Black out queer woman in this position, I hope to inspire people on campus to know that they can achieve this position. And that they can trust SGA,” Amazan says.

Timmy Sullivan (SGA vice presidential candidate) and Nathalie Amazan (SGA presidential candidate). Photo courtesy by Urgyen Joshi

Another part of their platform is accessibility. Amazan and Sullivan want to increase wheel cheer accessibility at the Fine Arts Center. They also want to reform the Center for Counseling and Psychological Help (CCPH) through increasing their staff and changing their consultations. They also talked about reforming the women’s clinic by the UMass Students for Reproductive Justice (USRJ).

Amazan has a background in grassroots organizing. She has canvassed for Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center. She has a social justice fellowship with Young People for Change, where her blueprint is with mass incarceration.

Sullivan has a background in education policy and reform. He’s worked for the department of education for TedEd and Rosetta Stone.

SGA elections are taking place Monday March 6 through Wednesday March 8. Be sure to vote on

Interview by Katie Donegan
Sound engineering  by Lucy Martirosyan
Photo courtesy by Urgyen Joshi


Vitale and Wallace: SGA re-election campaign, platforms and campus renewal projects

Experience matters. That’s according to current SGA President Anthony Vitale and current Vice President Lily Wallace, who are seeking re-election for next year. The two candidates sat down with the WMUA News team to talk about their campaign before the election next week.

One of the largest goals of Vitale and Wallace is to re-open the Hatch, the former eatery in the basement of the Student Union that has been unused since the renovations of Blue Wall began in 2014.

“We see such need for student space on campus. We have students coming to us everyday asking us how they can get more space, how they can be meeting and doing all these things, and we’re just like, well, we have this large space, why are we wasting it?” says Wallace.

Opening the Hatch will double the amount of space for Registered Student Organizations, Vitale explains.

But for the Hatch to open, it has to be a retail dining service first, like Peet’s Coffee at the Integrative Learning Center.

“Something that we have agreed with Dining that eventually the Hatch will have Peet’s taken out of it and it’s going to be offered up to student businesses because for us, we think student businesses are phenomenal. We love them. We’re working really hard to give People’s dining dollars as they’ve been fighting that fight for years. We’re really excited for the Hatch to be a great space to house student businesses,” says Wallace.

Anthony Vitale was elected to the Presidential position last March. Vitale’s former Vice President Nick Rampone resigned last semester due to study abroad plans. Current Vice President Lily Wallace was elected to fill in Rampone’s role last month. She and Vitale have been working together ever since.

Vitale described his working relationship with Wallace, “We’ve been great partners within SGA, really working hard to get the job done.”

Formerly, Wallace has served as the Undersecretary of University Policy for the past two years. “We’re both coming from a lot of institutional knowledge within the SGA, as well as outside activities.”

Anthony Vitale has experience in SGA via a “financial track.” He worked with the Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for designating budgets to all Registered Student Organizations (RSOs). The SGA is given a budget of $3.1 million each year. Vitale, who later became Secretary of Finance of the SGA, along with the Ways and Means Committee, worked with RSO executive board members to fund those organizations based on perceived need and budget requests.

“We think that us having the experience leading the institution is a great benefit to the student body as a whole, as we were able to develop amazing relationships with administration.”

Vitale has over seen the enactment of early voting on campus in the 2016 Presidential election, plans to develop student spaces in the Hatch of the Student Union, and also advocating for student business success.

The Student Government Association (SGA) is holding elections beginning this Monday March 6th at 12am, through Wednesday, March 8th at 11:59pm. The SGA is generally tasked with representing the student body, and works closely with administration in governing the campus community.

Reporting and Producing: Lucy Martirosyan and Dalante Castle