CU’s student government has a lot on its plate this semester as it attempts to balance finances with implementing new measures and staying true to the platform it was elected for last spring.
In the span of the next four months, CUSG will mainly focus on improving safety on campus and the Hill, working with the newly-reformed student fee regulations and the Student Group Funding Board, and generally emphasizing on-campus student involvement.
A CUSG legislative budget meeting last spring. (CU Independent File/Robert R. Denton)
The executive and legislative staffs will work alongside university administrators and city council all semester, but the students will remain the most important group of people on campus, said CUSG Student Body President Brittni Hernandez.
“We’re all happy to return to school and work for our population, the students, and really be reminded of our purpose,” Hernandez said. “At this point, we’re seeing what will work and what won’t work, and thinking, ‘What’s the best way to go about this issue?’ We’re going to be addressing issues as best as possible.”
Hernandez, along with many other current staff members, ran on the Pulse ticket during the record-breaking spring election. The Pulse’s platform centered around student safety and comfort, the lowering of student fees, and overall transparency.
“We’re going to continue with the same values and spirit of collaboration,” Hernandez said. “It’s difficult because there are measures already in place [from the previous student government], but our dedication to the students and to our larger goals will help us move forward.”
Two pieces of legislature from last year’s CUSG and beyond have already seen changes. Over the summer, CUSG reformed the Student Group Funding Board, as well as student fee regulations.
SGFB allocates money from CUSG to various campus groups and clubs that receive funds for traveling and hosting events. Funding decisions are aided by the student fee regulations bill, which details “fiscal rules for all University of Colorado Student Government areas and student groups funded by mandatory or optional student fees,” according to the official document.
“Come 2013, there will be two big changes effective,” Colin Sorensen, the president of legislative council, said. “Number one, student payroll is now allowed for student groups. And we are also going to start allowing 5 percent of operational budgets to go towards food for these group functions and meetings. Previously, we’ve been a lot more conservative.”
Student groups can request up to a maximum of 10 percent of their entire operating budget (which differs from group to group and is determined by CUSG) to go towards payroll. Sorensen said the decision stems from improving upon a past mindset of “cutting budgets just for the sake of cutting.”
“The focus is going to be coming up with logical and useful budgets,” Sorensen said. “We need to make sure we have good conversations regarding each and every budget, useful conversations that allow us to make the best decisions for students.”
Another important element of the Pulse platform is safety. Hernandez said CUSG has been tossing around several ideas and that this semester will “get the ball rolling on a lot of projects.” The appointment of Chris Schaefbauer, who previously served on the Wardenburg board, as the new director of health and safety was one of the first major steps taken.
Schaefbauer and other staff members have been working with CUPD on a project that they hope will lead to the installation of lights on campus and the Hill to try to increase the comfort of students who walk in those areas after dark.
Additionally, CUSG has been speaking with administrators regarding overall campus climate. Through surveys with the student population and conversations with members of the diversity board, Hernandez said the goal is to find out what students consider “safe vs. unsafe” and how factors like race, gender and sexual orientation factor into that.
But arguably the hottest topic in terms of student interest is 4/20. Hernandez and Vice President of External Affairs Tyler Quick both said that it hasn’t been discussed in detail yet, but conversations with the administration are expected to begin later on in the semester.
“There are concerns on both sides, and I understand them all,” Quick said. “I’d just like to see some kind of resolution come from the bottom up, not the top down.”
“It’s definitely something that we’ll address, and the students will be aware of the decision-making,” Hernandez said.
Though the current CUSG has yet to establish a clear relationship with the student body, some students already have an idea of what to expect.
“I’m not entirely sure where all of the money is going,” Ian White, a 20-year-old junior communications major, said. “I’d like it more laid out, where all of it is going, exactly.”
“I expect efficiency, managing finances in a proper way,” Summer Vaughn, a 23-year-old junior philosophy major and recent transfer, said. “To make sure our money is going towards a good purpose.”
Maria Gersick, a 21-year-old junior accounting major, simply wants a connection.
“I want them to hear more of what we want, and for them to inform us more,” she said.
If CUSG sticks to their plan, Gersick should be pleased.
“We want to set a foundation in place for students to advocate for themselves, for students to have the power,” Tyler Quick said. “In the past, when CUSG was elected, they had all the power. All we really want is to be a conduit for student voices and make educated decisions based on them.”
“The big thing for us is empowering students to affect the process themselves,” Quick said.
Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Annie Melton at Anne.email@example.com.
With contributions by Alison Noon
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