EDITORIALS

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April 21, 2009

Student government endorsements

The Maroon endorses YouChicago for Executive Slate and Greg Nance for Student Liaison to the Board of Trustees

Executive SlateThis year’s election for the Student Government (SG) executive slate features three options, each of which brings a unique approach to the position. Given the choice among United Progress, the Moose Party, and YouChicago, the decision is not even close. The Maroon enthusiastically endorse YouChicago for the executive slate.YouChicago, consisting of third-year presidential candidate Jarrod Wolf, first-year vice president of administration candidate May Yeung, and third-year vice president of student affairs candidate Chris Williams, has presented a series of tangible solutions to a host of student concerns. The track record of the slate’s candidates, and the seriousness with which they’ve approached the election, give us the confidence that they can lend much-needed direction to an organization that too often seems mired in its own bureaucracy. On transportation, for example, the slate has demonstrated a strong grasp of the issues at hand, and has devised logical proposals to tackle these issues. As a College Council (CC) representative, Wolf spearheaded the effort to introduce the X173 bus with service to the North Side. Williams has managed the popular end-of-quarter airport shuttle service. The slate’s plan to provide transportation for students all 24 hours of the day by simply starting the SafeRide service one hour later during Daylight Savings is a no-brainer, as is their promise to add more bike racks around campus. Both these proposals demonstrate a real understanding of SG’s mission—to bring about the often small-scale improvements that would immediately have an impact on many students. Likewise, a proposal to allow Flex dollars to be spent at campus coffee shops is worth pursuing, even if it’s more of a long shot.YouChicago represents a refreshing break from SG politics as usual. Wolf was responsible for ending CC’s secret voting policy, and has stated a desire to end CC’s outrageous practice of using money from the student activities fee to fund SG dinners three times a quarter. Williams has an impressive understanding of the RSO funding process, and has shown a willingness to substantially improve upon the reforms SG recently passed. For YouChicago to fulfill its considerable promise, however, it must show restraint on the more idealistic elements of its platform. The slate has proposed asking the University to provide a detailed budget of how tuition dollars are spent and pressuring the administration to push for more financial aid for international students. SG has the ability to influence funding decisions on a small scale, but on sweeping budgetary issues, the executive slate’s ideas don’t carry much weight. SG’s greatest strength lies in its ability to push through pragmatic fixes to campus issues. United Progress, by contrast, offers little more than a caricature of the least desirable features of SG. While presidential candidate second-year Julian Quintanilla, first-year vice president for administration candidate Sohrab Kohli, and second-year vice president for student affairs candidate Allen Linton are no doubt sincere in their desire to improve student life, they offer nothing that resembles a plan to do so. In a meeting with the Maroon, slate candidates failed to identify a single concrete improvement they would bring to campus. Instead, they’ve proposed a seemingly endless series of new committees to study campus and community problems. (Taking the caricature to its logical conclusion, United Progress has even proposed forming a committee to study the results of a previous CC committee on bringing greater retail options to Hyde Park.) Perhaps United Progress could benefit from listening more closely to the Moose Party, Delta Upsilon’s perennial entry, which bucked recent history by fielding an entertaining, thoughtful, and (we think) sober trio of candidates. By toning down its antics, the Moose Party succeeded this year in its goal of livening up the process, while also drawing attention to the frustrations many students have with Student Government. Student Liaison to the Board of TrusteesThough each candidate for undergraduate liaison to the Board of Trustees displays clear strengths, the Maroon believes second-year Greg Nance is the best choice for the position. Nance would bring to the position a pragmatic approach and a clear understanding of the relationship between the liaison and the rest of the student body. He aims to make his role a reactive one, responding to the needs and wishes of students as they arise, rather than imposing his personal views. To this end, his proposal to organize public forums on controversial issues would help him faithfully relay student opinion to the board. Moreover, while the Board’s confidentiality issues will likely prevent Nance from posting minutes from meetings as he has proposed, publicizing the results of his quarterly meetings with the Board would be an effective way to raise awareness of the Board’s activities among students. However, Nance should abandon his idea for direct tuition subsidies from alumni to individual students. Such a program would be both strange and unwieldy, and its purpose is best left to the Financial Aid Office. Third-year Kara Elliott-Ortega has a strong understanding of the Board and a long-term vision for increasing student involvement. However, she seems too eager to use her position as a platform to advance her social justice-oriented politics, which runs the risk of alienating the Board and belies the mission of the liaison as a voice for all students. The final candidate, first-year David Akinin shows a commitment to representing student opinions. His plan to keep weekly office hours is well-intentioned, but met with little success when undertaken by past liaisons. In addition, Akinin’s concern with connecting students and Student Government seems out of line with the liaison’s role. The Maroon adds one caveat to Nance’s endorsement. Nance has applied to a winter quarter study abroad program; if elected, he says he will only consider attending the program if past undergraduate liaisons believe it possible to carry out his duties from abroad. Going to the quarterly meeting with the Board is the liaison’s chief duty, and all the more important as it will be the only undergraduate voice the Board hears on a regular basis. The Maroon urges Nance to remain in Chicago for the year if he is elected, regardless of the counsel of his predecessors.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and two additional Editorial Board members.