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USG discusses campus concerns for upcoming semester

The Undergraduate Student Government Senate council in a meeting on Sept. 7. USG has big plans for the 2023-24 school year. STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

Stony Brook University’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) has big plans for this school year, ranging from hosting multiple student-life events to addressing the ongoing campus parking dilemma.

USG President Devin Lobosco, senior biochemistry and women’s studies double major, spoke about USG’s initiatives and the events happening on campus this semester, and addressed issues USG is facing.

In terms of club budgets, USG is being stretched to its limits. The company who assisted in creating its budgets for clubs suddenly shut down, which led to a transition to a new company. The organization is attempting to navigate this and sufficiently provide for club budgets. However, Lobosco explained that the USG budget is shrinking while it is met with increased demand for funds.

“We have been basically getting less and less money every single year because our fees haven’t been increasing. And over the past few years, we felt it more than ever and club leaders have felt that more than ever,” Lobosco said. “There’s [been] more student life at Stony Brook since the pandemic and one of our biggest challenges is just figuring out […] how to make a shrinking pool of money continue to do more.”

Yuchen Zhang, an at-large Senator for USG, added that this is leading to decreased club budgets because of the budget cap. Lobosco mentioned that the Student Activity Fee has not changed in over ten years, while the number of clubs on campus keeps increasing. He proposed a small increase to the Student Activity Fee to combat the constraints the clubs are feeling, noting that “We want to keep that fee as low as possible but still do the most for the students.”

Lobosco acknowledged that the budget cap is “something that [USG is] not really happy about, but it’s kind of a necessary thing to make sure that we’re able to fund our clubs equitably.” He added, “It’s our goal to charge students as little as possible and give back that money as effectively as possible.”

Lobosco also spoke about the parking situation on campus. Last semester, Mobility and Parking Services (MAPS) proposed charging students $100 to park in the South P Lot and up to $500 for premium parking permits. This plan was ultimately not implemented after the University failed to reach a deal with the different unions present on campus. While Lobosco is pleased with the situation, he is aware it could change rapidly. To ensure that students have a voice in the matter, he established a student committee to liaise with MAPS.

“At the end of the day, any sort of paid parking model where students are paying as much as their faculty members who get paid a salary right next to them is entirely unfair,” Lobosco said. Despite the frenzy of managing budgets and negotiating with MAPS, USG’s ultimate goal is to ensure that undergraduate students have exciting and memorable collegiate experiences.

Lobosco emphasized the fact that students are at the core of USG’s initiatives and events, and encouraged them to share their thoughts about what USG can do to enhance everyone’s experience.

“We love having students coming to our office [… and] hearing from them,” Lobosco said.

Lobosco expressed that town halls were created in an attempt to have more open communication with students, adding, “When we hear feedback from students, we act on it. Your comments don’t just go into a suggestion box and then […] collect dust. These are real students fighting for these changes.”

Lobosco said that many USG meetings are open to the student community. Senate meetings occur on Thursdays from 7-9 p.m., while executive council meetings happen on Fridays from 8-10 p.m. and Student Activity Board meetings take place on Mondays from 1-3 p.m. They all take place in the USG Suite, which is on the second floor of the Student Activities Center.

“I will always have faith that people are going to keep learning and keep implementing policies … and ideas that will keep everything running in a way that can work for everyone in the future,” said Celeste Parks, vice president of the LGBT+ Alliance and a junior psychology and health science double major.

Lobosco highlighted some USG-sanctioned events that are coming up this semester. He brought up an increased presence at Homecoming and an upcoming Halloween event called Spooky Brook.

Spooky Brook is currently set for Oct. 28. “We’re planning to do […] a huge haunted house. We’re gonna have costume contests, performances [and] music going all night,” Lobosco said.

Lobosco is especially excited about an event called Light the Brook, which will occur in November. The event involves lighting trees and lamp posts around the campus for the winter holidays and getting the campus community into the holiday spirit. There will also be hot chocolate, crafts, performances and more.

While Light the Brook occurred in the past, Lobosco said, “This year, we’re really hoping to go bigger and better than ever. Just […] getting everybody decked out in lights is really the goal, just to create a festive spirit around the time of winter.” More information about Light the Brook and other events will be released throughout the semester.

Stony Brook Vice President for Student Affairs Rick Gatteau noted that between improving attendance at sporting events and showing up at the involvement fairs, USG is continuously making an effort to reach out to students. He noticed that USG has been active and visible at a plethora of events, even ones that were not sponsored by them.

“USG’s leadership team has shown a tremendous presence on campus already,” Gatteau said. “USG effectively represents the voices and needs of undergraduate students.”

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