October 29, 2010

NextGen report card: Slate on track to meet most platform promises

When running for executive slate last quarter, Next Generation (NextGen) set 30 goals for its year in office. Most have met or are scheduled to meet their deadlines, though the slate dropped two—a legal clinic for students and new outlets in Hutch.

Others, like late-night dining and the UChicago Apartments website, have been successfully implemented, and many other projects on their original timeline are currently underway.

Its officers—fourth-year Greg Nance, third-year David Chen, and second-year Patrick Ip—determine which campaign goals can be implemented and which programs will see expansion this year.

A free legal clinic—one of NextGen’s goals for fall quarter—was abandoned after they judged the program to be too expensive. Student Government (SG) initially considered partnering with the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, a program run by the Law School as a community resource, but the Mandel Clinic decided it would compromise its mission to open the service to students.

Nance noted that peer institutions do offer such services.

Instead, SG worked with Campus and Student Life to release an online legal resources guide for students.

Nance views the online guide as a “strong intermediate step” in SG’s overall goal of releasing legal resources to the student body. “It’s a good first step,” Nance said, and he did not rule out the possibility of pursuing the clinic in the future.

SG will also abandon the goal of placing new electrical outlets throughout Hutch and the Reynolds Club. SG’s executive slate named the new outlets as a goal last year—a step they hoped would create more functional study spaces for students.

SG received $5,000 in funding for a facilities-related project and had planned to use those funds for the outlets. But after meeting with administrators in the spring, NextGen learned it would cost an additional $7,000. The main expenditure for the project would be ensuring there would be enough energy for the outlets.

SG is not currently moving forward on the project, but is still seeking out additional funding.

At the same time, SG is now seeking out an alternative project. “We’re actively facilitating opinions by students on a new facilitises-related project,” Nance said. He hopes to fund a project that will similarly benefit students.

While some goals slated for completion in NextGen’s first 30 days in office are not yet complete—passenger vans for students to rent are not yet available, and the UAchieve website is under construction—SG is moving forward on projects scheduled for completion later in the year.

The slate is working on getting an ATM in Midway Market, a project on its list of winter goals. Ip, vice president for student affairs, said the logistics of hiring security for the ATM have delayed the process.

While some goals have been abandoned, other programs not part of the original platform have been implemented as well. The Collegiate Readership Program—an initiative by SG and USA Today to place free newspapers campus-wide—may continue past the initially projected end date of November 12.

Nance plans to meet with The New York Times and Gannett Publishing to discuss the costs of continuing the pilot program. “We hope that we’ll have the level of readership meriting the investment,” Nance said. SG has not yet assessed the popularity of the program, but will do so in the coming weeks.

Additionally, NextGen has formed the new SG Arts Council, in which student arts leaders and TAPS will meet with SG to discuss strengthening arts involvement on campus.

The students have begun informal meetings and plan to expand display space for student art. SG may also name an Arts Czar to lead the group, Nance said.

Nance, Ip, and Chen praised the high level of student interest in SG. Nance offered record turnouts in voting and homecoming attendance as evidence for increased student interest this year.

Chen, vice president for administration, said the class of 2014 has been particularly active in SG. Three former candidates for class representative, despite their losses, have joined Chen in pursuing additional student discounts and increasing initiatives for school spirit such as telecasted sports events.

“We’re really thankful that the student body is really engaged this year,” Nance said. “We’re seeing people not only take notice of [SG], but take initiative.”