Posts Tagged student government

Uniting the campus on all fronts

There has always been a subtle and quiet divide on the campuses of American universities between undergraduate and graduate students. Most of the time this divide is ignored and swept under the rug by all those involved in the discussion.

Undergraduates sweep this under the rug because they don’t understand what graduate students and graduate school are about. Graduate students ignore the issue because most of them do not feel that undergraduate students have much effect on their lives. Neither one of these approaches is correct.

What needs to occur is a breaking down of this undergraduate-graduate student barrier and the building of understanding. This is a difficult task: Every year there are new undergraduate students who spend the first two or three semesters of college figuring out how to navigate the campus, both in physical terms (where is the library?) and finesse terms (how do I register for classes and get the good professor?).

At the same time, there are graduate students who are so serious about studying that they refuse to take part in campus life — objecting whenever a loud party is within earshot.

I propose a two-part solution to this problem: focusing both on undergraduates and on graduate students. As a part of campus orientation, undergraduates should be given a bigger picture of what higher education is about and how it works: the administrative structure of campus and the relationship between schools and between different higher education institutions.

Incoming graduate students should receive a similar lecture and review of the higher education system — one that focuses on the role of undergraduates at the institution.

The goal of this program would be to help prevent the misunderstandings that can sometimes occur on campus as a result of ignorance and lack of caring. Take for instance the recent example of the forum held to discuss the accidental release of names and Social Security numbers by the bursar’s office.

This primarily affected graduate students, and a sprinkling of undergraduates. John Mersch, moderator of the Graduate Student Organization, led the forum, which brought University administrators together to talk to more than 300 affected students.

Mersch said the IU Student Association offered no assistance during the organization of the forum. While I will not say that the proposed courses on University structure would have driven IUSA to organize or assist in sponsoring the forum, an IUSA leadership educated about the role of graduate students on a college campus might have taken a stronger interest in an issue that was seemingly for graduate students only.

Naturally, this can work in reverse. So many graduate students are absorbed in their own studies they often forget there is a physical and social campus surrounding them. These graduate students need to take some time and understand there are issues affecting undergraduates that they might be able to assist in resolving.

This can be as simple as participating in undergraduate student organizations and events, or as complicated as helping undergraduates fight inane enforcement of alcohol policies.

The strength of attending IU as an undergraduate is the wealth of opportunities it offers. The Bloomington campus offers more artistic activities, athletic events and class choices than a smaller liberal arts college. For graduate students, the reasons for picking IU are the same: artistic activities, athletic events and class choices. This is one thing we all have in common. A little time to understand our roles in campus life will go a long way to making this a better and more understanding campus.

Universities draw their strength from the combination of undergraduates and graduate students working together with the faculty and staff. We can have institutions of higher education where there is no campus community, but the learning that goes on at those institutions is more sterile and less involving. There are places for other types of institutions, but if we’ve chosen to attend this University, we should all be involved in the campus community.

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IUSA campaign season upon us again

Starting this week, we will be assaulted by candidates in the IU Student Association elections, which will be held later this spring. As a veteran observer of people running for office in student governments (this is my ninth year of collegiate experience), I am willing to bet that, like the last eight student government elections, people are going to run on unimportant issues, nonissues and issues about which they could not make a difference if they really wanted to.

So instead of settling for somebody who pledges to lower tuition (something IUSA will never really change, but the state legislature might), or a group that promises to increase IU’s national ranking, think about issues student government can have an effect on and vote for the people who want to make a positive difference in our daily lives as students.

With that in mind, the key issue for any IUSA administration will be the infamous bus plan. I am a strong supporter of the bus plan, but from what was promised to what was implemented, it has been badly fumbled. The next leader of IUSA must be committed to getting the bus plan we were promised at a reasonable price. This isn’t rocket science. Whether you walk, ride, drive, take a bicycle or levitate across campus, the bus plan will benefit everyone once properly implemented.

But the rest of the details are important: rather than pledging to decrease tuition, IUSA needs to focus on real problems and offer solutions that are within grasp. So here are some simple ideas for tickets to work on:

Why do we pay $19 if we register for classes by phone? Does it really cost the Registrar more than if we trek to Franklin Hall and register in person? I’d bet it costs the Registrar less to have us register by phone, so why are we paying $19 to do this? IUSA should work on eliminating this silly fee.

The litter problem around campus needs to be addressed. More garbage cans along popular pathways and more frequent pickups of cans that overflow would be a start. Or how about working on getting the sand cleaned up after the snow has melted? During the winter, there is more than enough sand on the sidewalks around campus to fill the sandboxes of every kid in the county.

It would be nice if IUSA took the time to convince the campus physical plant to mow and water lawns at times other than lunch time. People like to sit outside and enjoy the expansive green spaces on campus, and there is no reason they should acquire a wet bottom when they sit down, or be pushed away by lawn mowers.

Another issue, and you might laugh at this one, but we do need more pencil sharpeners around campus.

We need an activist IUSA that reaches out to faculty and staff to encourage amicable relationships among everybody on campus.

IUSA needs to push for a safer campus: better lighting and snow shoveling along key pathways.

Better food options in the main library’s cafeteria and reasonable heating and air conditioning of classrooms across campus: It’s hard to learn if you’re sweating or freezing.

The election rules this year, as in previous years, seem a bit insane, so candidates probably cannot avoid violating them. Right now it is a bit early for an endorsement, because the scandals that can (and will) come about, have yet to materialize.

Some of the ideas discussed by the parties that have already declared their candidacy seem good. Of course, there are still several weeks before the election. More parties will probably appear and existing parties can (and probably will) put their feet in their mouths.

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Elections without substance

Election season is upon us, and we’re not talking about the presidential primaries. We’re talking student government.

Wait. You didn’t realize that the IU Student Association elections are here?

If so, you are not alone, because for some reason the powers that be decided to move the elections up to the last day of February and first day of March from the previous time of late March, early April. To be honest, I’m not sure if this is a good or bad development.

What I can say is the IUSA elections this year sound an awful lot like a bunch of credit card commercials; not that the four tickets have been campaigning, but three of the four have named themselves in suggestive fashions.

Take “Platinum,” for example; that name alone sounds like three-quarters of the commercials I see on television for credit cards. “Blue” also sounds like a credit card — specifically the American Express Blue Credit Card; and between the two, that will leave you “POOR,” the third ticket running for IUSA.

I would have incorporated the fourth ticket in there, but their name, “CREW” doesn’t really sound like a credit card; but it does remind me that IU started a women’s crew team last fall out on Lake Lemon.

Of course, as is tradition with student governments across the country, whether at the high school or collegiate level, the candidates are running on unimportant issues, non-issues or issues where they have no chance of making any difference whatsoever.

Blue, for example, wants a “damp” campus; something that the rains last week were able to achieve in a short period of time. Of course, what they really want is a liberalized alcohol policy — something I am sympathetic toward. Unfortunately, it’s not an issue that IUSA can really tackle, making it a non-issue. What we really need is an effort on Capitol Hill to reverse the ill-effects of MADD and other organizations that fought to raise the drinking age to 21 and thought that by preventing access to adults under 21, you could solve the world’s multiple problems.

The folks running under the POOR banner want to reduce the cost of an IU education, and they appear to be focused on this goal with a single-mindedness that would make a baby trying to nurse look like an amateur. I do have to give them credit; they have recognized that IUSA doesn’t directly control tuition costs, which means they are running on an issue where they have little chance of making a difference whatsoever.

Platinum’s goal is “to inform students and to also get feedback from the student body, as a whole.” At least they have something in common with CREW, whose pointless platform is that they are running as a team and that IU needs more leadership. In short, these two tickets don’t really appear to have any substantive goals like Blue or POOR, which means they are running on truly unimportant issues.

I believe that student governments shouldn’t waste their time on issues on which they will only have limited effects.

Our student government should, instead, focus on quality of life issues on campus: more garbage cans to prevent littering, urging the people who maintain the lawns to avoid watering before or during the lunch hour, making sure that receptionists across campus are polite to students when answering the phone or greeting them at their desks or ensuring that students waiting to register for classes aren’t bored out of their gourds while waiting in line in Franklin Hall.

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New bus plan benefits all

It is rare for a group of students to put forward a proposal that actually has merit. The Universal Transportation Proposal is one of those gems. Everyone — students, faculty and staff — needs to support this proposal.

Here is the basic idea: Every student on campus will pay a fee of up to $35 fee per semester. In return, every student will be entitled to unlimited bus trips around town.

It’s not a new idea. I saw a variation of this proposal at work a few summers back when I took a class at the University of Colorado at Denver. Once I had my student ID, I had a bus pass. I used the bus a lot that summer. Not only did I save myself gas and parking money, I reduced my share of Denver’s infamous brown cloud.

The system was so simple and logical, I thought that a lot of other universities would have already worked with their local communities to expand bus service. Yet IU and the Bloomington community are just now getting around to this pollution stopper of an idea.

The situation in Bloomington seems a bit more bizarre than most other places because two different bus systems operate: the Campus Bus Service and Bloomington Transit. The Campus Bus Service offers students a bus pass when they register — at a cool $120 a semester. Unfortunately, it’s only good for the Campus Bus Service, thus limiting you to unlimited round trips out to the stadium, if you’re looking for entertainment.

Bloomington Transit, on the other hand, has been around since 1973 and is designed to serve the local community. If you only want to ride the BT system, it costs $82 a semester for the bus pass — but it’s good only on BT buses.

A third option does exist for those who want to ride both types of buses without having to think about it– you need to purchase both bus passes for only $202.

The new proposal will change the situation. For only $35 a semester, students will be able to ride both BT buses and campus buses — thus saving everyone, including the strict anti-car environmentalist, a whopping $167 a semester.

Many of you are already saying, “I’m not an environmentalist. People in Oregon have the right to be lumberjacks and to have good paying jobs.” You might be the same person who lives five blocks from campus but drives anyway.

You might also be one of those people who complain relentlessly about the lack of parking. This proposal should please you to no end because yahoos like me will stop hogging the parking spaces when we get out of bed late.

One of the key components to this mandatory fee is that it will help the bus systems purchase more buses, provide more frequent service, as well as service later into the evenings. These new features will mean that I’ll never have an excuse for tardiness. If I get out of bed too late to catch the bus I normally catch, I won’t have to wait an eternity to catch the next bus.

Faculty and staff will also be able to buy into the program. Imagine sitting next to your favorite prof the next time you ride the bus — the individualized attention you’ll receive is worth more than the $35 you paid for the entire semester. Of course, this plan will also help improve the status of our environment in the Bloomington community.

This is a win-win proposal for everybody at the University. It is also a major victory for our community. We need to remember that IU is not an island surrounded by Bloomington. IU is an integral part of the Bloomington community, and it is incumbent upon the University to help make the town better.

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First come, first serve at ASUW trough

By Adam Lederer
BI Columnist

Our student government is spending our money at an amazing rate this year with what appears to be little student input.

According to my calculations, ASUW has committed, or already spent, $929,400 of our money. Most of it appears to have come from the recently discovered Student Loan Fund that had more than $2 million.

Our decision-making process for spending the money appears to be a “first come, first serve” method of thinking — and only one of these ideas actually appears to have been any good.

I certainly appreciate ASUW funding the purchase of the new UNIX server for campus. It was much needed and will be, over time, much appreciated.

However, I do question the naming of the server. Was it absolutely necessary for ASUW to name it ASUWlink?

Before Plains came to campus, students used computers named Outlaw and Posse. Other major computers on campus have embraced the western theme.

ASUWlink breaks that tradition and glorifies an organization that does not need any more glorification.

At a cost of $253,000, I’ll overlook the egotistical nature of ASUW and say thanks.

However, when it comes to the $626,400 ASUW is committed for renovations to Half Acre, I’m a little bit more leery.

I’ve read a lot about the proposed renovations, but I have never seen justification for the tremendous changes that are proposed.

The proposal calls for moving the entrance of Half Acre so that it faces Prexy’s Pasture — expand the women’s locker room, add a rifle range, and move some other facilities around the place.

Realistically, I understand expanding the women’s locker room — it probably needs it. Women deserve equivalent facilities. I’d also support moving other facilities around until the improved women’s locker room fits in.

However, I don’t get why we need to move the entrance.

I don’t get why students are being asked to fund a rifle range that will be used primarily by the ROTC. Can’t ROTC fund its own facilities?

I don’t understand why we need to move stuff around. Is it necessary to move free weights to the first floor and the nautilus weight room to the second floor?

We’re also going to purchase televisions at the cost of $4,000. With cable, of course, so it’s OK.

Near as I can tell, about the only real reason being given for the renovations is because Half Acre hasn’t been renovated since 1979. I guess we haven’t been maintaining the facility.

The good news is that students are not the only ones shouldering the cost of these nifty renovations. Unexpended employee benefits totaling $175,000 will also be used. The administration is also looking for an additional $25,000 to fund its commitment of $200,000.

Of course, the money really does come from the student’s pocket, but it’s more palatable when it comes from tuition, taxes and donations.

ASUW is also spending $50,000 to fund a project yet to be determined.

I’m willing to guess that the senate is going to fund the first project that comes along. That’s what they appear to have been doing all along.

Senate should realize that the first proposed projects are not necessarily the best projects to fund.

Adam Lederer is a graduate student in political science minoring in environment and natural resources. He earned his bachelor’s from UW in 1996.

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Time to take a stand on nudity

By Adam Lederer
BI Columnist

It’s time to put a stop to all “vacation sneaks.”

The vacation sneak is a tool often used by authorities to pass legislation or change the rules while the affected constituencies are not in town.

In other words, the Laramie City Council could pass the nudity ordinance in late December or early January while students are conveniently out of town on vacation.

This is not the only time the vacation sneak has been used to change the rules around this town; but is the most current possible exercise of this tool.

The last major use of this tool came during the summer when College of Business Dean Forester decided to stop students from cutting through the business parking lot by building a fence.

If he had proposed the fence during the school year, there would have been such an uproar that any physical plant employee approaching the area with a shovel would have been shoved away by a large body of angry students.

Summer has traditionally been the time to put new and improved stupid policies in place.

It’s even happened to faculty members on occasion. They go out of town for the summer to do research and relax, only to return and discover that they too have been victims of the surprise vacation sneak.

However, the winter vacation is not used nearly as often, although it appears to be looming here in Laramie.

When city council sits down at its next meeting on Tuesday, it will decide the date for the public hearing over the nudity ordinance.

If the council picks a date after the first of January, beware, a vacation sneak may be occurring. The council members who vote for that date are only trying to ignore the students.

If it chooses a date before Thanksgiving, the council will be leaving the process open for many who would otherwise be excluded.

Additionally, ASUW needs to get involved in stopping vacation sneaks.

ASUW has not yet said a word about the nudity ordinance. The senate sits around its table on Tuesday nights deciding whether or not the Campus Toe Fungus club should get funding to attend a conference in Hawai’i.

What would be really inspiring is if ASUW got off its rocker and canceled one of its pointless meetings and went down to meet Laramie’s City Council.

In this town, the city council plays a far larger role in affecting the lives of students than ASUW could ever hope to play.

Additionally, ASUW should appoint an effective speaker to represent ASUW members’ opinions at Laramie City Council each meeting, whether school is in session or not. That would be an effective use of some student dollars.

It should be noted, vacation sneaks will always occur, even with the most effective student voices possible.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to minimize the effects.

Adam Lederer is a graduate student in political science minoring in environment and natural resources. He earned his bachelor’s from UW in 1996.

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