Outgoing cabinet revamped transportation, Web sites

YouChicago made transportation a priority while running and during its time in office.

By Stacey Kirkpatrick

With Student Government’s (SG) 2009–2010 term almost up, its executive cabinet can say it lived up to many of the planks of its campaign platform. Fourth-years Jarrod Wolf (SG president) and Christopher Williams (vice president for Student Affairs) and second-year May Yeung (vice president for Administration)—who ran as YouChicago—improved transportation, added online University services, and put credit cards in coffee shops.

The slate made transportation one of its priorities when it ran for office and during its tenure in office. Late-night shuttles run later and more frequently on the weekends, a new downtown shuttle now runs on weekends, and SafeRide efficiency was increased.

While the slate pushed for 24-hour transportation to and from Hyde Park during its campaign and into fall quarter, it dropped the issue after realizing there were greater inefficiencies in the system, Williams said. “We went on the shuttles and asked students what they wanted.”

Expanded dining-options ambitions, like allowing for flex in coffee shops and extending dining hours, were put on the back burner in favor of smaller, more implementable changes in the face of a community-wide dining survey being conducted by the administration, Williams said. “They’re looking at how students dine on campus and looking to improve that holistically, including all coffee shops and dining halls. We decided to be part of this dining survey to see if 24-hour dining and flex are priorities,” Williams said.

Credit cards are now accepted at Cobb Coffee Shop, the effect of a partnership between SG and the student-run coffee shops. Ex Libris and Common Knowledge also plan on accepting credit cards in the near future.

YouChicago has developed multiple online services, including the UChicago Apartments Web site, which Wolf said has had 15,000 unique visitors. Another site allows RSOs to apply for funding online, then tracks their spending to improve accountability. “There are different values for why we allocate money to certain RSOs or others. we can start examining allocations more closely and see where money is spent,” Wolf said.

A three-year project expected to debut fourth week, UBazaar, will allow students to purchase tickets for University events, including movies at Doc and a cappella performances, and may sell merchandise as well.

In response to recent funding cutbacks on all sports clubs, SG created revenue-generating services to fund its own projects and gave more money to athletic clubs.

According to Wolf, SG generated $6,000. This was achieved in part by the apartments.uchicago.edu site, which recouped the money used to fund sports and the UBazaar site.

However, efforts to expand financial aid and international aid, part of the slate’s campaign, proved beyond the scope of SG. “There was nothing we could do besides becoming fundraisers ourselves,” Williams said.

SG achieved significant milestones with the administration, Williams said, but the student body proved more fickle. “Thinking about the end of our tenure, we’ve done a good job of legitimizing ourselves in the eyes of administration, but we haven’t legitimized ourselves in the eyes of the students. We also have to work on communicating with students, something that student government systematically needs to work on,” he said.

According to Wolf, students’ apathy towards SG means they are missing out on an opportunity to gain recognition by the administration. “Student government can be a very powerful tool, if students decide to use us,” he said.