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USG seeks to empower voice of students with additional seat

By Jackie Wattles
On April 17, 2014

The Undergraduate Student Government passed a bill Wednesday voicing formal support for a bill currently making its way through the Connecticut General Assembly that would add another undergraduate student seat to the university's board of trustees.
Currently, there is one voting seat on the board reserved for an undergraduate member. Michael Daniels, a former USG Senate member, currently fills that seat.
USG President-Elect and Chairperson Mark Sargent, of the External Affairs Committee, pushed for the legislation and gathered support among some Connecticut house members. He said because the undergraduate student body is much larger than the graduate student body, it makes sense that undergraduate should have more representation on the university's highest-level decision-making body.
The bill passed the house on Wednesday, and the USG Senate piggybacked on the legislative momentum by passing a formal endorsement of the bill.
"Out of all of the stakeholders with representation on the Board of Trustees, students have the most vested interest in ensuring the efficiency, economy, and operational excellence of the university," the resolution reads.
The bill (H.B. 5494) is co-sponsored by Rep. Greg Haddad (D-Mansfield), whose district encompasses Storrs, as well as four other members of the Connecticut House of Representatives. The bill must still clear the senate and be signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy before it's implemented.
USG also heard an annual report from the organization's Accessibility Advisory Committee. Chairperson Romanna Romaniv said the committee-conducted surveys, interviews and research at peer institutions with the goal of gaining an "understanding of the internal perception of advocacy and accessibly of the Undergraduate Student Government in regards to membership and internal affairs."
The report outlines more than 30 recommendations aimed at addressing "what characterizes the internal environment of the organization, member expectations of the organization and if those expectations are met, and what impacts member retention rates of the organization," according to the document.
Transparency has long been a buzzword among USG officials and candidates, and the recommendations report includes a number of efforts to increase outreach to the student body. It suggests the chief of staff take on an additional public relations role in the organization, and take control of advertising and media contact.
Many of the key suggestions pertain to the organization's elections.
"The Committee has observed that members of the organization perceive the election process as cutthroat intense and prolonged," the report reads. "We recommend that a Town Hall Meeting, open to the public during the 1st semester be held on the topic of elections; featuring previous candidates with the goal of providing insight to all possible feature candidates. This public meeting will increase the organization's transparency."
The report taps the executive branch to spearhead carrying out the recommendations. Next semester, that will be Student Body President-Elect Mark Sargent and Vice President-Elect Claire Price.

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