April 19, 2011

2011 Student government endorsements

The Maroon endorses LIVEChicago and the creation of a Socially Responsible Investment Committee

In recent years, SG elections have been characterized by low voter turnout, with few serious slate candidates. However, this year’s election involves three strong executive slate platforms in addition to the Moose Party’s perennial satirical campaign. While Uncommon Fun, UNITED Students Alliance, and LIVEChicago all plan to introduce interesting ideas to an institution steeped in disinterest, the Maroon feels that only one of these slates has demonstrated the sincerity to bring its projects to fruition while holding on to realistic campaign promises. For this reason, the Maroon earnestly endorses LIVEChicago for slate.

LIVEChicago, which is comprised of third-year presidential candidate Youssef Kalad, first-year vice president of administration candidate Forrest Scofield, and second-year vice president of student affairs candidate Meher Kairon, has outlined reasonable and tangible goals that would benefit the student body in the months and years to come. Their larger plans center around improving existing projects in the College that have declined over the years or have failed to reach their potential, namely uBazaar, the Uncommon Fund, and the class registration system. This can already be seen in Scofield’s work on the Uncommon Fund. As a board member this year, he helped the Fund largely do away with its arbitration and inaccessibility. Partially thanks to his work on JoinStart, the Fund saw almost 150 projects this time around—a dramatic increase compared to previous years. Scofield plans to capitalize on the Fund’s success by appealing for more funding and turning it into a yearlong process that fosters student entrepreneurship if elected.

While UNITED also advocates for increased entrepreneurship on campus, their proposals are mostly vague. The slate’s only tangible suggestions are to develop a Chicago Careers in Entrepreneurship program and have the Uncommon Fund, which Akinin worked on as a board member in 2009, support entrepreneurs–an idea that has much less flesh on it than LIVEChicago’s approachable plan of action. UNITED seemed to try to make up for its lack of specificity with volume, and their list of campaign promises seems unrealistically extensive and ambitious. However, LIVEChicago would benefit from looking at a few of UNITED’s ideas, especially those involving transportation, including selling CTA passes on campus and introducing a compromise for the UPass.

The Uncommon Fun slate also stood out with their realistic and achievable goals, which were probably fueled by their view of SG as a severely limited body. In a way, Uncommon Fun represents a sober balance between the other three parties. But they seemed too inexperienced with SG to foster any real change. If students didn’t agree with the Administration or Board of Trustees, said third-year presidential candidate Adam Hemmings, SG could bring publicity to the issue. How this slate, which had problems publicizing its own campaign—alone, for example, in not having a website—would be able to reach out to the student body and bring publicity to concerns is unclear.

However, there are gaps in LIVEChicago’s platform that should be addressed before the election’s closing on Thursday. A significant portion of LIVEChicago’s campaign promises rely on the Internet to increase accessibility, functionality, and efficiency, but none of the candidates are skilled computer programmers. Literally half of their agenda–from the renovation of uBazaar to videos of administrators with campus updates–could go down the drain if the slate can’t tap into the right people and resources. LIVEChicago should actively gain the support of the programmers they expect to work with, because otherwise much of their platform may prove to be unfeasible.

Tomorrow’s ballot will also have a referendum to create a Socially Responsible Investment Committee, which addresses a longstanding student concern that has largely gone unrecognized by the University. The University’s investments are closely tied with students, many of which are bothered by the idea that the U of C could be investing in unethical causes. If the University is investing in questionable activities, students deserve a body that will make recommendations to the Board of Trustees and bring more transparency to the University’s finances.

The Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional editorial board member. Peter Ianakiev recused himself from the slate endorsement process.