O-Issue 2011: A politician in your first year

Lessons on representing your class, from a student who spent two years doing just that

By Frank Alarcon

At some point during this hectic, sleepless, yet hopefully exciting week, a member of our Student Government (SG) might approach you with an almost suspiciously wide grin, shake your hand with the firm grip of an aspiring politician, and pitch you on the many opportunities that SG offers the student body. You may politely nod or uncomfortably look at the ground as this enthusiastic upperclassman tells you about student organization funding, sustainability initiatives, and the upcoming Class of 2015 elections, or you may listen with genuine interest, surprised to learn that SG in college is different than in high school, with bigger issues to tackle than prom themes and pep rally logistics.

In fact, SG deals with many—if not all—student life issues. Administrators frequently draw on SG for advice on matters such as dining, transportation, and security, to name a few. SG also pursues initiatives of its own to improve the student experience here at the U of C. For example, SG runs free shuttles to both Chicago airports at the end of every quarter, and some SG members recently took vocal roles in a multi-year student movement to pressure the University to establish ethical standards for University investments. There’s a niche in SG for a person with almost any interest and a need for innovative people with unique skills and passions.

And persistence.

Change happens slowly here, and sometimes a shocking amount of obstacles obstruct progress on even simple matters related to student life. That’s why the student body needs elected leaders willing to put in the time to take on those obstacles.

Your first opportunity to get involved in SG is quickly approaching. Elections for the Class of 2015’s four College Council seats will be held Tuesday through Thursday of third week, and petitions are due Monday of second week (visit sg.uchicago.edu for details). The campaign is sure to be hard-fought, and unless you’re an unblushing extrovert, you’ll have to step out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to enough of your classmates to make the top four. Two years into college, the best advice I can give a new first year is just that: step out of your comfort zone. Whether you win or lose the election, you’ll learn and grow as a result.

Frank Alarcon was a Class of 2013 representative in ’09-’10 and undergraduate liaison to the Board of Trustees in ’10-’11. He will be writing a blog covering Student Government for the Maroon this year.