Councils set year’s top issues

By Hassan S. Ali

Improved security, transportation, and communication were some of the goals outlined by members of Student Government’s College and Graduate Councils on Saturday during SG’s first full Assembly meeting of the school year.

Apart from formal introductions of the Assembly’s newly elected members, the meeting at Ida Noyes Hall included student suggestions of realistic and attainable goals for the upcoming year.

Council members pointed to a need for increasing student involvement in campus activities, making the campus more environmentally friendly, and countering the perception that funding bodies like the Student Government Finance Committee spend money frivolously, among other ideas.

Vice President for Student Affairs and fourth-year David Courchaine said he would like “ to rely on Student Government.”

Fourth-year Donny Copeland, SG vice president for administration, said he would like to see plans for a passenger shelter at the Garfield CTA Red Line stop.

SG members also cited improving communication as a major goal.

“Definitely, communication is a big one,” Copeland said. “If there’s not communication, you can’t know what the student body’s thinking.”

To improve communication, Council members suggested setting up a blog that would bring the campus community up to date on SG issues, as well as facilitating interactions among SG, the University administration, and RSOs.

SG President Ian Muhlhauser, a Divinity School graduate student, and Sharlene Holly, SG advisor, associate dean of students in the University and director of ORCSA, guided the meeting’s agenda, which included a review of changes made to the Student Activities Fee (SAF) at the end of the ’05–’06 academic year.

Every year, both graduate and undergraduate students pay this fee to the University, which in turn channels the money through student funding committees to support student-run activities and organizations.

In her presentation, Holly reviewed the Board of Trustees’ approval of a 5.3 percent increase in the SAF for ’06–’07. The increase put the College Student Fee at $62 per quarter (up from $59 per quarter in ’05–’06) and the Graduate Student Fee at $43 per quarter (up from $41 per quarter in ’05–’06), according to Holly.

The University expects to collect a total of $1,604,264 in student activities fees for the ’06–’07 academic year.

“Most portions were increased more or less proportionally,” Copeland said in an e-mail interview about the SAF. He added that a greater percentage of money will go to the graduate divisions instead of the University-wide SAF pool.

This year’s SAF budget also includes a $20,000 allocation of funds for “new initiatives,” which Holly and Bill Michel, assistant vice president for student life and associate dean of the College, soon plan to discuss with students, according to Holly.

First-year and College Council member Adama Wiltshire was a vocal part of the brainstorming process, suggesting improvements in transparency among RSOs, along with better security and transportation.

“Today I had to walk here ,” she said, explaining she had expected to take the CTA #171 bus to campus but that it did not arrive.

On the issue of security, Wiltshire said she and her friends were stunned to hear about the sexual assault of a woman at 5:20 p.m. on October 17, in an alley near East 42nd Street between Ellis and Berkeley Avenues.

“That freaked me out,” she said, adding that SG should work to improve the overall security of students.

An international student from Trinidad and Tobago, Wiltshire said SG should foster more cultural awareness across the student population.