USG addresses forum concerns

Student concerns committee meets following forum

Written By Jordyn Hronec, Co-News Editor

On Tuesday, March 5, the United Student Government (USG) held its forum for the Spring 2019 semester. Forum was promoted to the student body as a chance for students to express their concerns to senators.

During the event, students could write concerns on cards provided by USG and place them into a labeled box, as well as discuss their concerns in person with the senators and executive cabinet members who were present. The event also included music and free pizza for constituents who submitted concerns.

According to Recording Secretary Sophie Burkholder, who also serves as chair of the student concerns committee, it is estimated that over 50 concerns were received during forum. However, Burkholder did have some concerns regarding how forum was

These concerns were brought up in the legislative body meeting on Monday, March 11, as well as the student concerns committee meeting on Tuesday, March 12.

“I think it [forum] was a successful event,” Burkholder said while addressing the committee. “But I think just in the future when you attend other events that are USG sponsored or created, there’s a level of professionalism that needs to be conducted in those settings.”

Burkholder cited her statements made at the previous evening’s legislative body meeting. During the meeting, Burkholder discussed her displeasure with the conduct of senators present at forum. According to Burkholder, the event was treated more as a social event where senators congregated and talked amongst themselves rather than a chance to discuss student concerns.

During the student concerns committee meeting, Burkholder recognized that she herself did not take action to correct the issue during forum. She was assured by the committee members – Senator Dennis McDermott, Senator Kelly Saal, Senator Cole D’Alicandro, Senator Brighid Shanahan and President Pro-Tempore Megan Ortego – that it was the responsibility of all senators present to have demonstrated proper conduct.

“In terms of senators and USG conduct, senators need to be more aware of surroundings and what it [forum] is,” Burkholder said when asked about future changes to forum. “Dennis [McDermott] suggested having a more inclusive setting to make people more comfortable.”

McDermott’s suggestion involved using “standing tables” for senators to lean on rather than having senators sit at tables and potentially “hide” behind them.

Before reading and organizing the concerns received during forum, the committee conducted a brief discussion on how to better organize individual senators’ projects.

This was in response to a concern brought up by McDermott regarding verbal senator reports given during legislative body meetings.

“On a lot of senator reports people are more comfortable saying what they’re doing every week, even if it’s a very similar thing,” McDermott said. “I don’t like saying the same thing when I haven’t made much progress and I’m just like ‘Oh, hey everyone, haven’t made any progress on that thing I said I was working on last week,’ so that’s why a lot of people don’t speak up during that.”

In response to McDermott’s concerns, the committee discussed possible solutions, such as a large whiteboard in the USG office or an online spreadsheet for senators to record their progress in a way that is apparent to curious constituents.

Vice President Brittany Arp, who was present in the room, also gave a suggestion.

“I personally thought it would be cool if we had, almost like a work order system, where you can see the progress,” Arp said. “So we would enter the concern and the student would be able to constantly see and follow up and have updates. I don’t know how feasible it is, but it’s something we can look at in the future.”

The committee ultimately decided that they first would adopt a progress recording system, and test out its efficiency in holding senators accountable. During the discussion, a large to-do board was presented to the committee by Parliamentarian Matthew Spadaccia with which to record individual committee members’ progress on their chosen projects.

“It’s a slight pressure, people will see if you’re writing nothing on it,” Ortego said, discussing the importance of accountability.

The meeting then shifted to the task of reading and organizing the concerns submitted by students.

Submitted concerns included topics such as shuttle times, on-campus food options, commuter resources and the cleanliness of areas such as bathrooms and laundry rooms. The committee took turns reading aloud each submitted concern before organizing them into topics, such as student life, physical plant and clubs/organizations.

As concerns were read, the committee held a brief discussion, which in some cases, produced a course of action.

One specific concern expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of advertising that COPA Playhouse shows receive on campus. Senators discussed including Playhouse shows in the “Social Scoop” email blast sent out by the office of SAIL every Monday. Ortego, who writes and compiles the “Social Scoop” every week, stated that she does not currently include Playhouse shows, but that it could be a future addition to the email. Burkholder also suggested that Communications Director Shelby Fink announce the addition via USG’s social media.

Spadaccia then spoke on the influence of the “Social Scoop” emails.

“Through research by an unnamed organization that I may or may not have been a part of, the “Social Scoop” actually accounts for over 30% of student engagement,” Spadaccia said.

Another concern addressed was the lack of security in Lawrence Hall during certain hours, allowing anyone to enter the building at any time by following students in, with or without an ID. Burkholder stated that she has contacted Chief of Police Jeff Besong about the issue.

At the conclusion of the meeting after all concerns were discussed and sorted, committee members discussed which concerns they would work on for the remainder of the semester.

McDermott plans to work on integrating radio into the elevators, per a student concern. Saal plans to work on improving parking and commuter resources. D’Alicandro plans to contact the office of SAIL to encourage clubs and organizations to increase creativity when fundraising. (The Office of SAIL has since Tweeted out an infographic for clubs titled “Fun Ways to Fundraise That are Not a Bake Sale.”) Shanahan plans to look into the amount of time it takes for the counseling center to schedule appointments for students.

According to Burkholder, as the current semester’s end approaches, the majority of the concerns received will be addressed during future semesters.

“We still have some [concerns] from last forum that haven’t been addressed yet because there were so many,” Burkholder said. “There’s a lot of concerns that we also got last semester. I will suggest in my turnover report for the next Recording Secretary that these concerns be looked at and I will tell them where the concerns are so they can locate them so they can be solved.”

Burkholder also stated that while duplicate concerns are not more important than other concerns, they may require more urgency in the order that they are addressed.

There is not a date selected yet for next semester’s forum, but according to Burkholder, forum must be held every semester in accordance with the constitution’s bylaws.