September 17, 2011

O-Issue 2011: Student Government

As one of the biggest power brokers on campus, Student Government (SG) has a wide role in improving student life at the U of C.

SG is led by an executive slate, composed of a President, Vice President for Student Affairs, and a Vice President for Administration. The slate, along with the undergraduate and graduate liaison to the Board of Trustees, are elected by the entire College in April. Underneath the executive slate is the college and graduate council, consisting of four members elected by their peers each year. SG is then broken into an assembly, executive cabinet, executive committee, and other committees. The assembly allocates funding to RSOs, while the executive cabinet advises the University on issues of student concern, and the executive committee sets the agenda for assembly meeting.

Often criticized as an overly-ambitious organization that serves as resume fodder for students, recent executive slates have worked to shed that reputation and expand the authority of SG. Last year, for example, the slate worked to bring free daily copies of The New York Times and USA Today to campus, and expanded the use of the student-run uBazaar online marketplace.

Fourth-year and incoming SG President Youssef Kalad and his executive slate will try and use a pragmatic approach to continue to create a more active SG. Kalad told the Maroon that while both students and administrators have good ideas on how to improve the University, they often miscommunicate with each other, resulting in a lack of collaboration.

“The role of SG is pretty simple,” Kalad said. “The role of SG is to give students and administrators a context in which they can understand each other.”

Kalad’s slate, called LIVEChicago, is rounded out by second-year and Vice President for Administration Forrest Scofield and third-year and Vice President for Student Affairs Meher Kairon. Kalad said that Scofield will oversee the Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC)­—a committee that he served on last year as a member of the College Council. Kairon will work on improving student social life, including the creation of a restaurant crawl in Chicago for all students, modeled on the pub crawl for students over 21.

Kalad said that one of the strong points of his slate is that each member has been involved with different campus organizations. “We all have a diversity of backgrounds,” he said, adding that Kairon, who has not previously served on SG, offered a perspective that complements the SG experience he and Scofield already have. Kalad also said he hoped that having Kairon on his slate would encourage more women in the College to get involved in SG.

During SG elections last April, LIVEChicago campaigned as a pragmatic slate, emphasizing specific projects that they felt they could accomplish. These projects included streaming SG forums live through Facebook, creating a single registration interface calendars and course listings, as well as expanding the Uncommon Fund­—grants given to student projects that meet the requirements of the Uncommon Fund board for being unique and enriching­—to over $150,000, up from $40,000 in previous years.

“Get the low hanging fruit first,” Kairon said in an April interview with the Maroon.

After a record 20 members of the class of 2014 ran for SG last year, Kalad said he hoped that the class of 2015 would be just as enthusiastic about improving student life.

“I don’t want people on SG who are just looking to add something to their resume,” Kalad said. “I want people who are passionate.”