My student government can kick your student government’s ass

Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star Reporter
June 13, 2011

For those who haven’t read my column, or who don’t interact with me on a regular basis, you should know that I can be a pretty political dude. As such, I always have ideas as to how to make the system better – whichever system that happens to be. In this case, the “system” in question is the student government.

Now, before you read on, know this: I am not writing to torpedo any individual or organization. I’m writing this column to share ideas that have occurred to me during my time at UAF. As it happens, I’m the Sun Star’s go-to guy for reporting on the student government. I attended almost every senate meeting during the spring semester. I wrote a weekly column whose primary focus was politics at the university-level and penned an update on ASUAF that gave highlights from their latest meetings. I know every student representative (both legislative and executive) and can find common ground with all of them.

So, to the point of the matter: if I were involved with the student government what would I do?

  • Revitalize the image – Many students either don’t like or don’t care about their student government, which is a shame. Our tuition goes to it, which means it’s our responsibility to make sure it flourishes. There is a project underway in the summer committee to get the word out about ASUAF via cool swag for students. It is the perfect start to revitalizing the organizations image. The ideas presented below are where I would go next.
  • Make it a council… – There are 20 seats in the senate. During the 2010-11 term there were never 20 senators. Fewer senators (like 5-7) in a council would, in theory, be easier to schedule with. You’re juggling 5-7 schedules versus upwards of 20. Having fewer senators means you can actually pay them for their services, which leads me to my next idea.
  • and pay ’em – You may not know this, but the only paid positions in the legislative branch of ASUAF are the senate clerk and senate chair. That’s it. The other dozen-and-a-half-or-so senators (it fluctuates constantly) are not paid. Moreover, this gives more incentive to students to vote if they actually control a senator’s job status. If anything, it gives senators a reason to be productive since it’s a) a job for which they’re paid and b) the student population controls their employment status.
  • Free food! Free food is one of the simplest ways a student government can give back to it’s constituent in an obvious and helpful way. The food doesn’t always have to be an outdoors BBQ event ala-Spring Fest, but even just free donuts or fruit every month in the Wood Center would be nice. Yes, ASUAF provides hot water and coffee to students in their offices. In the back of the Wood Center, where most students don’t go. Why not move it up to a table near the lower entrance? I know I’d stop by for a hot cuppa in January. Plus, you’d have to find someone to man it which means paying someone which means more money in student pockets.
  • Sponsor more events – The best example of this was during Fall 2010. The public relations committee sponsored a debate between senate contenders Scott McAdams and Joe Miller. It was a huge success. It was awesome. However, I would never limit the student government to just sponsoring political debates. Why not underwrite a solid (and famous) speaker to come up once a semester or once a term? Then, there’s always the Concert Board. I know from personal experience that some of the best events put on at UAF are concerts. It works and people love it, therefore we should do it more.
  • Establish student work programs – Seriously. Think an ASUAF version of FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) of the 1930’s. Just a few ideas? Pay students to take part in a campus beautification project, pay poll workers during student election season (the budget already allots money for this), or commission students to create a new work of art for somewhere on campus. If there is one thing that shows “we care” its underwriting student-interest projects that will leave an impact on UAF long after said students have left and graduated. It develops a sense of community. My parent/friend helped make _____ , how cool is that?
  • Fund student projectsASUAF’s current Student Travel Grants ($22,000 for FY11-12) are the perfect example. Why not a few more for, say, academic achievement? It wouldn’t have to be for thousands of dollars. As a student who has earned and spoken to students who have earned scholarships or grants, even $500 helps. It pays for a class. A months worth of food or part of your rent. This is to say nothing of the club council allotment, which will be $33,400 for FY11-12. Don’t forget the numerous student organizations that go to regional or national competitions every year. A couple clubs I would help sponsor more? Phi Alpha Theta and the Society of Automotive Engineers, for starters.

Some might say that giving so much space and attention to the student government is ridiculous. Well, it isn’t, and let me tell you why. There is a common complaint among students that ASUAF doesn’t care about students. Well, how can we expect them to care if we don’t? I know that several former and current senators and members of the executive branch had/have a genuine interest in the well-being of their fellow students. They are hard-working people who deserve our support just as much we deserve theirs. We’re all students and it’s our collective dime that is spent or not spent. I know I want to see where it goes…won’t you help ensure our student government can kick ass come fall?

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