SG criticism fails to take facts into account

Student Government has done much for student life this year

By Letter to the Editor

In a recent op-ed (“A Blank Slate,” 4/21/09), Matt Barnum, a Maroon editorial board member, suggested that little had been accomplished by Student Government (SG) this past year. Asking, “what has done for us lately,” he was quick to surmise that little to nothing has been accomplished. While I share Mr. Barnum’s sense that more needs to be done to improve student life, it is clear that his conclusion is quite hasty, as it is contradicted by what can be found with just a cursory review of the Maroon’s latest articles and editorials. Indeed, SG’s efforts to improve student life have included changes to the SG Finance Committee bylaws (4/10/09; 4/14/09; 4/17/09) and the RSO funding guidelines (11/28/08). SG has also advocated for improvements to the University’s sexual assault policy (1/30/09; 2/03/09; 4/14/09) and secured the first open meetings with President Zimmer in roughly a year (2/24/09), not long after some students raised concerns regarding his marked absence on campus (1/29/09). On this last issue, it is worth noting that the next open forum with President Zimmer will be Monday, April 27 at 5:30 p.m. in the McCormick Tribune Lounge.In addition to simply working on behalf of students, this year’s SG has organized a variety of open forums to provide Mr. Barnum and other students with opportunities to directly voice their concerns to key decision makers. In particular, those of us on the Executive Slate hoped this would help us to make good on our campaign promises of improving University accountability and SG’s transparency. At each of these forums, students have voiced frustrations and worked with SG to press for change on issues as varied as the stifling of discussion on the establishment of the Milton Friedman Institute (10/24/08), making SafeRide and the CTA bus service more efficient (10/31/08), limiting the impact of budget cuts on student life (2/20/09), reforming the Advanced Residency system, ensuring teaching opportunities for graduate students, addressing layoffs and substandard care at the University of Chicago Medical Center (2/24/09), and expanding access to the Student Care Center (2/27/09). Moreover, SG has sought to ensure that students are a top administrative priority by securing a seat at the table when important decisions are being made. This includes not only continuing to place undergraduates and graduates on planning, administrative search, and, now, faculty committees, but consistently advocating for student involvement at various levels of decision making. As I mentioned earlier, there is much more that SG could be doing. But as it continues to address these and other issues, I only hope that students with concerns or questions take the time to contact us so that they can be addressed and those who report or comment on our work do so fairly, accurately, and thoroughly.Toussaint LosierVice President for Student AffairsStudent Government