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The Statesman

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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

Newsletter

    Is USG Just a Piggybank?

    Oh USG, where have you gone. It seems as of late that we have more critics than we’ve ever had, yet most of these critics offer no solutions of their own. It seems as if the student body in general thinks of USG as more of a piggy bank than an actual student advocacy group. The first month of the fall semester has been consumed by club leaders infuriated by our off-campus policy. While I believe that there are credible arguments on both sides of the debate, the burning fact remains that all we’re seen is as a piggy bank. One club president went so far as to say that that was our primary job, to disperse the student activity fee. I beg to differ. Our current constitution has absolutely nothing in the preamble that even remotely talks about the dispersion of the activity fee. Yes it mentions “to create programs and services for the benefit of the all of the members of the campus community.”, but does that mean with money? I could quote the whole preamble or other parts of the constitution or laws, as some of USG’s former senators love to do, but we’ll just leave it at that.

    The new constitution that is being presented is a way in which the student government can be begin to work more efficiently as a student advocacy group. For those of you out there chastising us and “leaving a bitter taste in your mouth”, do you actually know what we do? Do you know that the President is part of the Executive Committee of the University Senate? Did you know that he, along with a resident and a commuter sit on the FSA board of directors? Do you know that a student life council was created to address student issues? To coordinate University senate committee appointments and have meetings, that your beat reporters were invited to on numerous occasions and not show up, to discuss student life issues. I know that we’ve been critical of your paper and your reporting in the past, but that was over journalistic integrity, not of actual reporting, or lately, the lack thereof. I haven’t seen a reporter from the statesman in the past two weeks. Both of those meetings were spent trying to figure out how to solve this off-campus policy issue.

    I want the reader to get both sides of the story here. Not just from a former senator with a vendetta, or from an editor who, in my mind, is still a little angry with USG because we challenged the validity of his journalistic abilities. By the way, I wish to commend Suraj for taking that bullet and promising to remedy the situation. I give you a lot of credit sir. But, I am still left wanting more. I want to talk to reporters about the good USG is doing, whether it be coming to Senate meetings to talk to senators, or actually coming to talk to me and find out what I have been doing to improve student life on campus. What about the great job the student activities board has putting on activities that have recorded record turnout? I have spoken with the Independent and the Press, but no Statesman.

    During the last SUNY assembly I attended, oh yea we do that too, I took part in a workshop entitled “Why do student governments fail.” This is precisely why they fail. Our priorities are not in the right place. Instead of advocating for the student, we are lambasted for “transparency issues” when it comes to our Budget process. Granted, we’re not perfect, and I will never assert that we are, but don’t you think it’s time to start looking at larger issues? The University Senate is still considering a proposed smoking ban, albeit not as radical as last years incarnation. The Undergraduate Council is weighing their options as to the advantages of adding another DEC requirement. Our meal plan contract is up this year and we will be reviewing proposals that will last this campus the next half decade or more. Why are these issues not front and center? I know that there have been articles in the past regarding the smoking ban, but why are we not talking about other issues? Instead, we want to know if Nathan Shapiro broke the law.

    I will not defend nor condone Nathan’s acts. It is up to him to decide how he wants to handle the situation and it’s up to the senate if they wish to exact punishment on him, not Robert Romano. As for his call for the punishment of Nathan and Kyle, in my opinion, Rob is a hypocrite. Recalling last years impeachment of a former President, he may have been forthcoming when speaking to University officials, but decidedly tight lipped when it came to speaking before the senate and then he has the audacity to defend a man he knew for a fact was guilty. No sir, you may not call for Nathan’s punishment, you have no right, and especially not under the auspices of “former senator”. It seems as if Mr. Romano has some separation anxiety and thinks that he still has a role in how the Student Government operates as a former official. It’s clear, through his various pieces from “Shapiro and Grogan should be punished” to “USG senate tramples over clubs rights”, Mr. Romano feels that is his duty to insight instability in the Government. I’m quite certain that I will undoubtedly get a response from him, although I sincerely hope, for his sake, that he can put this behind him and move on.

    I had wished for my first op-ed piece in the Statesman to be a positive one. I wanted to highlight many of the accomplishments that we had accomplished over the summer and what we will continue to do for this year. Unfortunately, due to my schedule and my work load, I was unable to do so. There have also been issues that have arisen that I can no longer keep quiet about and have derailed some of our goals. I do not wish to say that this year is lost, but I believe we need to find a way to move past some of these lingering issues and to continue to fight for students rights and to continue to represent the students the best way we know how. I invite comment to my article, I invite discussion, I even invite criticism. I will continue to do my job, but I can only do so much. I have done just about everything in my power to ask for student input. I have spoken at RHA meetings, CSA meetings, senate meetings, SAB meetings, created facebook groups, and I now have the student interest form on the USG website at my disposal to reach out to students. I don’t know what else I can do. I work more than the required 15 hours a week for an executive council member, even though I don’t get paid for it. I answer e-mails 7 days a week, even from my cell phone. I wish I could do more, but there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

    The only way that USG will get better is to stop thinking of USG as a piggy bank, and start thinking of us as student leaders, here to serve the students that elected us. We have eleven council positions, each charged with improving the student experience. So now, it’s up to you, dear readers, to seek out your student representatives if you have an issue. It is up to you to decide if you want to make your voice heard. Don’t believe all the bad things you read in the paper, not all of them are true.

    Jonathan Hirst

    VP for Student Life, Programming and Activities

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