USG CANDIDATES FACE OFF DURING DEBATE
Published: Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 23:02
Candidates for President and Vice President of USG agreed that the biggest priority for USG is getting more students involved in USG affairs and ensuring that all students have a voice on campus. The candidates presented their platforms at the Presidential/Vice Presidential Debate Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Student Union North Lobby.
The candidates for USG President and Vice President are: Bryan Flanaghan and Stephanie Sala, Ozzie Gooding and Kyle Gregoire, Jordan Hegel and Daniel Massaro, and Steve Petkis and Jigish Patel.
One of the most important topics addressed at the debate were how USG can better use its student funds, and how it will cope with the greater demand for funds in the future. Asked, "Do you support the $5 fee increase for USG?" Flanaghan suggested that USG look at how it uses its current funds before implementing fee increases. The other candidates all supported the increase if it is used in a responsible manner, with Gregoire saying, "This will make for a more fair and equitable distribution of funds for everybody."
Petkis suggested that programs like the New York Times Readership program could be scaled back to prevent USG from running out of money. Flanaghan added that USG could add a fourth tier of student organization, between I and II, that receives some funds but not the full $12,000 a Tier II group receives.
USG is currently trying to reform the way student organizations are funded. In the past, groups have been given blanket funding regardless of mission, and candidates were asked if they supported moving towards a merit-based system of apportionment. "USG doesn't have enough resources to meet the demands. We need to give student groups the money they need, but also utilize a merit system," Hegel said. The funding task force headed by Senator Ed Courchaine, who is running unopposed for Comptroller, is already working on a merit system.
The inadequacy of the current recreational facilities was also an important issue in the debate. Hegel and Massaro pushed for opening up the athletic training facilities (Burton Family and Shenkman) to students when athletic teams aren't using them. "They're multi-million-dollar facilities that just sit there most of the time." Petkis and Flanaghan both addressed the importance of private donors, with the UConn 2000 funds running out.
With those funds running out, USG will need to advocate for how students think the last of the money should be spent around campus. Flanaghan mentioned that the Fine Arts complex had funding set aside for it that was spent elsewhere. "It's ridiculous that we have a huge school with thousands of students that doesn't have the facilities it needs for students to get the best education," he said.
Petkis suggested that the money instead should go to Student Health Services, saying, "the current infirmary is absolutely inadequate for a university of our size." Hegel argued for more green space around campus, and looking at renovation as well as construction of new buildings.
One series of questions addressed UConn's relationship with the Town of Mansfield, including Spring Weekend. The candidates all agreed that the Spring Weekend moratorium is harmful to the university community, although the safety concerns are legitimate. According to Flanaghan, the administration has agreed to end the moratorium next year if Spring Weekend goes well this year.
The candidates were also asked their opinion on the Storrs Center project. Gregoire called it "a great way to get the ball rolling on building a community here in Storrs." Petkis agreed that it was great for campus, saying "USG needs to lead in pushing for more of these initiatives." Flanaghan and Massaro both expressed concerns over the hiring practices of the construction companies, and outsourcing of jobs to other states.
A central part of Flanaghan and Sala's platform is bringing together USG, media outlets like The Daily Campus and WHUS, and Greek life on a committee to make a concerted effort at change on campus. The administration will be more likely to respond to students' concerns "if we approach them with a uniform front," Sala said.