February 7, 2006

Letter to the Editor

SG mid-year review

For two weeks now, the discussion of Student Government in the Maroon has centered primarily on the recently installed LCD screen in the Reynolds Club foyer. Make no mistake, this monitor will prove invaluable in communicating to the student body information on transportation and campus events, and it is a substantial investment made with the future in mind. However, the assumption that the screen is the pinnacle of SG achievement is seriously misguided. It overlooks the real progress made by SG this year, and ignores the accomplishments of registered student organizations (RSOs) which have served as the bedrock of student activities with the help of SGFC funding.

This fall saw a number of large allocations recommended by SGFC and ultimately approved by the executive slate. These annual RSO budgets did not contain the conventional RSO events SGFC funds year in and year out, but signal a unique brand of innovation from students which SG should be doing its best to support.

Take, for example, the Chicago Debate Society, whose status as a CAT team would otherwise have precluded them from receiving funding to attend the World Universities Debating Championship in Dublin. Though the issue was controversial, SG decided that the extraordinary circumstances warranted a special use of funds, and that decision proved appropriate when they returned home having placed second in the world.

The Chicago HYPE cruise this fall was decried by some as exclusive and extravagant, but in the end was a rousing success, bringing together more than 300 students for a night of music, seamanship, and revelry. The recently funded HYPE “Night at the MCA” this spring looks to be even more successful at showing students all that Chicago has to offer.

Perhaps most importantly is the Chicago Society’s “China and the World” conference scheduled for this April, which promises to be one of the most significant on-campus events held this year. Colossal in scope, yet entirely student-run, the conference epitomizes the incredible results that RSOs can realize given the resources.

Of course each of these decisions is publicly available for viewing online at sg.uchicago.edu/finance, along with every other one which SGFC has made this year. Having campaigned on the principle of SGFC transparency last spring, the executive slate has taken student concerns about the funding process seriously, and continues to increase student access to SG funding.

To date, RSO funding requests more than double SGFC’s budget for the entire year. This indicates that students are not only aware of the money available but taking full advantage of it. I firmly believe that despite our limited resources, SGFC is doing more to encourage RSO action and innovation than ever before. I know that in the near future students will enjoy the benefits of SG’s continuing commitment to new and visible RSO events.

The SG-run website, complaints. uchicago.edu, has been fully functional for more than a year now. From any computer, students can submit their concerns and SG will deal with the issue, keep the student informed of the complaint’s progress, and follow up with administrators to ensure progress. It’s an effective, well managed resource which has thus far seen far too little use.

So if you have problems with anything on campus, whether it’s bad food, late buses, or even a malfunctioning LCD screen, please let us know—it’s our job to listen to and act upon student concerns. But I challenge you to take it a step further. Don’t stop with a complaint. Talk to your representatives on SG. Get involved. The less students allow cynicism to dominate the conversation, the more we’ll all be able to benefit from an effective Student Government.

Phil Caruso

SG Vice President of Administration