USG makes plans for the new recreation facility, seeks help
Senators look to recruit more students, athletes to hear opinions on new gym options
Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2013 02:08
The Undergraduate Student Government Senators convened for their first meeting of the semester Wednesday night where members pointed to the recreation facility as one of the major projects the organization will focus on this year.
According to Student Body President Edward Courchaine, a senior biophysics major, discussions between senators and members of the student body last spring proved the recreation facility is an issue drawing significant interest from students.
“So we’re making it a priority,” Courcahine said. “We need to make sure there is a clearly defined and highly visible governance body primarily made up of students who will help decide what goes into the building.”
While the project was considered by the Board of Trustees at its August meeting and given a favorable response, there are not yet concrete plans for a facility or even a determination that it will happen. Courchaine said not much can happen at USG’s level until the board gives the project approval, but that may happen as early as October.
Courchaine said he wants USG to be proactive and form a student governance body that will be ready when the planning phase reaches a point where students can get involved in the planning process.
“Currently, the primary planning is happening in the [university’s] master planner’s office,” Courcaine said. “But there will be a lot of decisions to be made regarding the specifics.”
Courchaine said he wants the governance body to include students who are currently involved with the recreation facility – such as student workers – or involved with club sports who would be able to pinpoint the issues with the current recreation facility and guide the planning process of the new one.
“Everyone I’ve talked to at the recreation department has been on board, it’s something everyone in principle wants to see happen,” Courchaine said, referring to having informed individuals involved in the planning process.
Senate Speaker Shiv Gandhi added he wants USG to keep the planning process transparent and ensure that any student fees associated with the new facility are manageable.
But the senators agreed that before they can focus on swaying the university’s top-tier decision makers, they will need to recruit more students.
USG Chief of Staff John Giardina, an economics and molecular and cell biology major, said current USG members will be going door to door to encourage student to run for the senate or fill an empty committee seat.
“There are 46 open senate seats right now,” Giardina said.
“If students feel passionately about issues like the student rec facility, they should run,” Gandhi added.
According to Giardina, applications to run for senate are due September 9, and elections will run from September 11-12.
Gandhi said that the ability of students to influence the university’s decisions has been admittedly limited in the past, but the appointment of a new Vice President of Student Affairs offers an opportunity to change that.
“A new administration offers us an exciting transition period to define the expectations,” Gandhi said. “We want students to have a say in what we use to fix the problems, and we want students to continue to have a role.”
USG leaders have already met with the new VPSA, Michael Gilbert, to discuss the issues the organization plans to focus on this fall, Gandhi said. And the organization also has seats available on an array of joint faculty-student committees that will be filled over the next few weeks, including a new seat on the President’s Athletic Advisory Committee.
Former USG Senator Siad Naqvi lobbied for a USG seat on the athletic advisory committee last spring, which previously allowed only one undergraduate student – a student athlete – to sit on the committee.
“We want to put a student voice into how we handle the athletic department,” Giardina said.
USG can appoint any member of the student body to a committee seat, but all appointments must undergo a nomination and voting process for approval.
The USG Senate is also in charge of doling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to on-campus student organizations. The senate will host a caucus next Wednesday to discuss potential changes to the organization’s funding policy.