During last years elections, charges of SG being secretive, unapproachable, and almost invisible to most students were voiced during the campaign and at the debates. Better Slate than Never, this years Executive Slate, pledged to begin resolving these problems and make greater inroads to the student body. This all begs the question of how well SG has accomplished its goals midway through the 2005-06 academic year.
The current executive slate has cited an efficient and visible SG as one of its most important goals. Robert Hubbard, SG president and a fourth-year in the College who has participated in SG all four years, said that in previous years, SG was disjointed and lacked an infrastructure for communicating students requests to the administration. Hubbard streamlined operations by reducing the number of SG committees from 15 to 6 this year.
Even though SG had successfully accomplished some of its projects, such as the LCD screen in the Reynolds Club for bus surveillance, it is still looking to implement other initiatives. SG hopes to extend the same money-to-card system used to pay for USITE printing to current cash-only student-run coffee shops like Uncle Joes to boost business.
Another goal is to publicize more RSO-funded events on campus through SG, such as advertising big events on the Reynolds Club LCD screen, or through Notes, an SG-published magazine that promotes RSOs and will print ads for smaller-scale events.
According to Lola Thompson, the Vice President for Student Affairs, RSOs are constantly having problems with postering for events, and these options are less wasteful ways to advertise.
SG has sought to make events more known [throughout campus], particularly through the events website [events.uchicago.edu], Thompson said. Were working with NSIT to improve the website, which will take a year to do. Were also working to make the website more decorative and more accessible to students and more readable, and eventually have a better campaign for RSOs to use it.
SG cited funding for events as a major concern for RSOs. Phil Caruso, the Vice President for Administration, said that compared to peer institutions, students in the College pay a lower student activities fee than other universities with the same tuition. SG currently has proposed increasing the activities fee by 5, 10, or 15 percent, which in the long run could increase the annual allocations throughout RSOs by $600,000.
We havent seen much innovation in RSO events because of limited capacity for SGFC to fund events, Caruso said. Any number of bigger events, like lectures or cultural shows, would allow for those RSOs to get more visibility, and show students where the fee is going. Caruso cited the recent Chicago Society debate between journalists from The Nation and the Chicago Tribune as one of the high-caliber events SG wanted to support to raise the status of the University.
Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC)
Members of SGFC agreed with Carusos appeal to raising student activities fees to increase funding for RSO events. Leah Endalkatchew, the chair of SGFC and a second-year in the College, said that in particular SGFC has less money this year than in the past two years, because more funding was given to the Annual Allocations Board to specifically fund larger annual events. This year SGFC has $166,305, about one-third less than last year. Because of the limit on funds, Endalkatchew said that RSOs planning for springtime events should submit their requests far in advance and keep up-to-date with the progress of allocations.
Given that weve had over $200,000 in requests, its fair to say that there has been some grumbling, Endalkatchew said. However, I think RSOs have been able to manage well with the money allocated by Student Government.
Diana Doty, the ORCSA adviser to SGFC, said that SGFC has strived to make the allocations process easier.
SG has streamlined the submission process by moving it online, thus saving RSOs copying expenses and also saving more than a few trees, Doty said. SG has also worked to ensure all records and funding information is readily accessible on its website.
Another committee seeking greater initiative is the College Council. The undergraduate legislative body of Student Government assembly, College Council has recently undertaken a more active mission to address the top five concerns among students in the College.
Dave Courchaine, a third-year in the College and a representative on College Council, said that the Council was working to create dialogue on its priority list of top five issues and formulate new ideas to resolving the problems. Courchaine was one of the team leaders who spearheaded a January 12 meeting with students and administrators to discuss financial aid, determined by the College Council as the top concern among students.
I believe the rest of the College Council greatly benefited by testing out the format for these kinds of discussions, Courchaine said. Other issues teams will conduct similar meeting with members of the administration in the near future.
It is ultimately up to the student body to judge whether or not SG has followed through on its goals. Hubbard said that students have only just begun to understand SGs responsibilities and the services it provides the student body. But Hubbard conceded that it made him happy to see students using SGs resources.
When I see people staring at the Reynolds Club screen, it literally makes my heart jump, Hubbard said.