This Fall, Student Government (SG) selected new student representatives to sit on its standing committees. Each SG committee focuses on a topic pertinent to the functioning of the University, ranging from finances to student welfare to sustainability.
This academic year’s new members, who were selected by application, bring diverse perspectives informed by their personal backgrounds, student organizing efforts, and outside research to their committees.
Fourth-year Sadie Morriss joined the Health and Wellness Committee (HAWC) where she has advocated for accommodations for disabled students. At UChicago, she has been involved with Active Minds and Students for Disability Justice, serving as a board member for the latter. Joining HAWC has given Morriss an additional opportunity to make her voice heard—one with a direct line to the University administration.
“It seemed like a great way to have an additional platform to work with a variety of organizations to try to combat policies that are detrimental to students,” Morriss said.
Morriss’s proposals include implementing a part-time status option for students with disabilities and creating a survey to gauge which academic departments could adopt more flexible stances regarding accommodations and emergency situations. She believes that HAWC’s efforts may be able to overcome the resistance she faced from administrators when she previously campaigned independently for these changes.
“What’s exciting about SG is that I could try to work with the [other] representatives to pass a resolution that [says] the student body as a whole feels a certain way, and we can use that to pressure the administration,” Morriss said.
The Committee on Campus Sustainability (CCS) is focusing this year’s efforts on building a more sustainable community. “We have this thing called the Green Fund, which is basically a program we set up which allows people in the UChicago Environmental Alliance to see people on campus who have a great idea for the environment in some way, and we can give them the capital that they need to get that idea on the ground,” said first-year CCS member Evan Cholerton.
Cholerton’s experiences in the climate activism sector include working with youth activists and groups like Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion, and the Sunrise Movement while in high school. He hopes to transfer the organizing skills he developed from participating in those national movements to the CCS’s more localized mission of pushing the administration to make greener choices.
“It’s really important for all of us to be good stewards to the place that we call home, our Mother Earth, and do whatever we can to protect it and protect each other in the process,” Cholerton said.
Like Cholerton, third-year and fellow CCS member Palash Goiporia has long felt compelled to work on environmental issues. “I’ve always been a bit of a sustainability geek,” Goiporia said. “I’m very interested in using data to develop renewable technology and sustainable practices.”
Goiporia’s experiences have primarily centered around research. Last summer he worked to produce data-visualization software for renewable-energy technologies and renewable-grid operations. This fall, he joined the committee in hopes of gaining more experience with policy-based initiatives.
Goiporia feels particularly passionate about making sustainability data more accessible. CCS has worked on gathering waste and energy usage statistics from various buildings on campus. He hopes to compile this information in an open-source format for students to view. “That way, they can know how to reduce [their energy usage] or how to be more sustainable in their day-to-day lives,” he said.
For Goiporia, persistence has been key to making good on his policy plans. “There’s a lot of red tape there,” he said about his efforts to collect data from University buildings. “You have to email the right people. You have to get the right timing. You have to keep on following up.”
In addition to its standing committees, Student Government has also introduced a number of ad hoc committees, which are temporary groups created by SG to work on relevant projects. Some ad hoc committees this academic year include the Technology Committee, the Committee on Marginalized Student Affairs, and the COVID-19 Committee.