SG election 2011: UNITED Students Alliance

UNITED is running on a campaign of experience, being the only slate to have all three members active in SG, and a long list of ambitious platform proposals.

By Harunobu Coryne

Whether it’s the coffee students are drinking, the funds RSOs are getting, or the medical care local Hyde Parkers are receiving, the UNITED Students Alliance aims to improve all areas of student and campus life.

UNITED, which is composed of third-year presidential candidate David Akinin, second-year College Council Chair Neil Shah, and first-year Class of 2014 Representative Ben Yu, seeks to use already existing resources and avoid clogging up the pipes with what Yu called “new, random things.”

“We’re creating opportunities for people in student government to actually work efficiently,” Akinin said.

Mostly, that translates to communicating and optimizing, rather than building–United wants to restructure ORCSA’s web content, help RSOs and students navigate different sources of funding, provide stronger support for entrepreneurship and philanthropy, and bring closer together the graduate and college communities through RSO advertising.

United has prioritized its technological overhaul of SG and ORCSA resources.

“We don’t launch fall quarter without our whole technology revamped,” Akinin said. United hopes to streamline ORCSA’s RSO database and develop a more interactive site that would encourage browsing. “We need students coming into campus before they’re here for orientation saying, ‘Oh my god, I’m so excited this RSO exists,’ or, ‘Wow, this is what student government is.’”

The idea is part of a larger proposed initiative to reorganize the hundreds of RSOs on campus, many of which are either inactive or practically unknown. Akinin, who is chairman of the Committee of Recognized Student Organizations (CORSO), said that many of the RSO applications he denies are turned away because another organization like it already exists.

Part of the problem, Shah said, is that ORCSA’s approach is “reactionary,” where it should be more proactive, taking the initiative when engaging with RSOs and making an effort to bridge connections between like-minded organizations.

Though UNITED has scores of campaign promises, they don’t envision cutting any of their plans. “We’re running as a structured slate,” Akinin said. “We’re not going to cut something here because we’re too busy there.”

Still, Yu admitted that certain projects, like the installation of voice-over IP systems in graduate residencies, depend more on administrative bureaucracy and might be more difficult to implement.

“It’s going to be an ongoing dialogue,” Yu said.

Five Proposals:

1. Tech Overhaul: Consolidate websites for RSOs and student groups. Work with Google to get free apps for campus.

2. 24/7 Coffee Shop: Work with new café on the first floor of the Regenstein this fall to make it an all-night study space.

3. Issues: Support advocacy groups working on larger University issues, like the creation of a trauma center at the UCMC.

4. Greek Life: More support for fraternity and sorority philanthropic causes.

5. Entrepreneurship: Create a formal program that includes a Chicago Careers in Entrepreneurship CAPS team.