USG ready to tackle important issues
A breakdown of each of the 5 committees, what they do, their plans for this year
Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 23:09
They’re known as the “workhorses” of the Undergraduate Student Government, and this year USG committees will tackle issues ranging from the lack of food diversity at Putnam dining hall to lobbying the state legislature to continue its financial backing of UConn.
USG has five committees: Student Development, Student Services, External Affairs, Funding Board and Academic Affairs. Each committee – except funding board - is backed by $1,000 to work on its initiatives and holds weekly meeting where members hone in on their respective issues.
Elena Innes, chair of Academic Affairs, said what her committee focuses on this year will be largely up to its members, but at an institution as large as UConn, there is no drought for issues.
“We’re going to compile a list and have the student body decide what issues they want us to work on,” Innes said. “We’re open to anything of an academic nature that may come up.”
Innes said the Scholastic Standards Committee of the University Senate unanimously passed a motion recently that would cut the maximum number of credits a student can transfer into UConn from 90 to 30. The vote will hop to a few more University Senate committees before the change is made, but Innes said her committee might jump in on the issue if students are strongly opposed to that change.
Mark Sargent will chair the External Affairs Committee – a committee that rejoiced in the passage of the Next Generation UConn legislation by the Connecticut General Assembly over the summer. With that came a commitment of $1.5 billion in state bonds over the next 10 years to expand UConn’s science and engineering programs, as well as bolster infrastructure.
The External Affairs Committee lobbied for the bill’s passage last year, and committee member Kevin Alvarez said the group will continue its focus on the issue by lobbying for the continued passage of operating costs associated with Next Gen, which must be approved annually.
USG also plans to keep feet on the ground at the state capitol in new ways this year. The over $1 million budget approved by the USG Senate last week allocated $10,000 to hire a lobbyist.
Student Body President Edward Courchaine said USG is working with state Rep. Gregg Haddad of Storrs on “finding someone who is best tuned in to work in the students’ interest and keep [USG] up to date on issues we might want to focus on.”
According to Funding Board Chair Parth Rana, the Funding Board will have the same goal it always does: to smoothly and fairly dole out over $540,000 to on-campus organizations who apply for USG funds. Rana said he hopes to strengthen lines of communication with the organizations his board funds, which include all Tier-II organizations - from club sports to cultural centers.
“We need to make sure we are as efficient as possible and do our best to ensure UConn students get what they want and throw the best events on campus,” Rana said. “I want to be more in contact with [these groups] and get to know them on a personal level.”
Kailee Himes, chair of the Student Services Committee, a new committee that branched off from USG’s previous Student Affairs Committee, said Student Services will focus on issues associated with parking, dining halls and dorms.
“We also want to look into laundry,” Himes said, referring to an issue that USG took up last year. “Work on that project kind of died out over the summer, and we want to pick it back up.”
USG Senators met with UConn administrators last year about potentially switching to an “e-Laundry” system that would link washing machines with a computer program that would allow students to check their laundry’s status remotely. Himes said she is also planning meetings with Dining Services and ResLife to get her committee’s initiatives rolling.
Student Development Committee is the other arm of the prior Student Affairs Committee and will be chaired by Hailey Manfredi.
“We focus on the culture on campus and the social aspect,” Manfredi said. “This year, we want to focus on the relationship with athletics, especially after the logo change, and how to up attendance at games like field hockey and volleyball where there’s not a lot of turnout.”
All USG Senators are required to sit on a committee, but any UConn student can be a member of one. Students can join a committee by contacting USG Chief of Staff John Giardina at email@example.com.