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Sit in With the Senate Looks to Bring Change

Nadine Peart, creator of the petitioning group Students for Change, went before the Undergraduate Student Government, or USG, Senate on Dec. 2 to find a resolution for the problems she’s seen with the roles of members and the lack of event planning this past semester.

What she found instead was the beginning push to a domino effect for the future, which will include an improved Student Activities Board and their planned billboard events, according to USG officials.

“I think the biggest problem here was a miscommunication of several groups,” said Undergraduate Student Government Executive Vice President Alexander Dimitriyadi, adding that Students for Change did not come to them prior to sending out an email to clubs and organizations on campus. The email included a brief description of the purpose of the group, along with emails Peart exchanged with USG Director of Event Programming Moiz Khan.

“[They] are attempting to control and corrupt the entire system,” she wrote in her email about Khan and Dimitriyadi. “They have done so by pressuring students who disagree with their views by disjointedly threatening impeachment and removal, and have attempted to keep a majority of the decision making about money and where it is spent under their control.”

The problem first arose when the Senior Weeks Committee, which Peart was a member of, was dismantled by Khan due to a lack of diversity. Peart and fellow Students for Change members claimed this was unfair and the proper way to handle the situation would have been to talk to them about it to find a solution.

“As far as I know, race is an outdated way of defining diversity,” Peart said. “It’s not the color of your skin that makes you diverse; it’s what you bring to the table, your experiences in life. You as a student.”

According to the email, Khan was unaware of his responsibilities for this committee, which include appointing its event coordinator. Therefore, he made himself chairperson and began the process of finding members to make the committee more diverse. He is currently undergoing the process and has found about six individuals who have yet to be notified. Dexter Daniels, the former chairperson of the committee, was relieved of his duties as an official.

Daniels would not comment.

“He can dismantle any event planning committee,” said David Mazza, vice president of communications and public relations. “Abusive power? I guess you can say it is because it wasn’t a nice thing to do … but at the end of the day, it’s his job.”

The power for him to do so was created during a Senate meeting on April 20, 2010 that established the Student Life Act. The details of his position can be found in the September 2010 USG Code, which states that the Student Programming Agency, also known as SPA, is a sub-agency of the six-member Students Activities Board and that the director, appointed by the President and Vice President of Student Life, Programming and Activities, hires the Event Planners and supervises.

The new SAB includes President Peter Molloy, Secretary David Mazza, Treasurer Michael Spinelli, Residence Hall Association Representative Anay Thodge, Commuter Student Association Representative Amy Pomeroy and Khan.

Dimitriyadi was also scrutinized for having too much power. But his position, he said, is to be in charge of USG, the Executive Council and the Senate.

“I think of myself as the president of USG,” he said. “I’m in charge of the every day-to-day things.”

But his position is different than Matt Graham’s position as president of USG.

“It’s basically like two presidents,” Dimitriyadi said, adding that Graham is more like the president of the student body, whose duties include meeting with administration, along with a “wide variety of things.”

“Ultimately, the president does have a larger job responsibility,” he said.

Another problem the students had was the lack of promotion for the events they held during the fall semester.

“I think we do advertising at a similar level of other organizations,” Mazza said. “I wouldn’t say we’re not advertising enough, I just agree we could do better.”

The suggestion of holding smaller events was not agreed upon, however, because it is something that any club can do. The spending target for USG is $12 to $15 per student, which was based on the $300,000 budget. If the target is reached, every student should be able to see more than one event, Mazza said.

Mazza said that small events could be positive, such as the MaMa Art Show that had 150 to 250 people walking in and out of the gallery all night with light refreshments and cost approximately $7.50 per person. But it could also be negative, such as a hypothetical $5,000 dinner and dance for 200 students which would cost $25 per student.

This weekend’s past Mocktail party for seniors was a well-designed event, but cost over the $15 mark.

Doing larger events, such as concerts that no other club can host, “is more fiscally responsible to do those than smaller events,” Mazza said.

More of those events will be held in the spring, including an unannounced event that will take place at the beginning of the semester in the Staller center, a feat that has not been done in more than 10 years.

“The idea that USG is corrupt is simply not true,” said Senator Tahir Ahmad. “People feel that we are corrupt because they don’t understand how the student government works. We hope to eradicate the belief that USG is a corrupt organization from campus soon, and this can be best done by making ourselves more visible and well-known to the campus community.”

Update:

Daniels has been given responsibility in appointing members of the Senior Committee.

“I will be taking more of an active stand in recruiting interested members for the committee that would like to volunteer their services and input for future Senior related events,” he said.

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    AJDec 29, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    University Administration shut down the entire undergrad environmental college at Southampton and eliminated some of its programs, is considering eliminating other arts & humanities programs at the main campus, has capped undergrad admissions for next fall, is doing who-knows-what-else with our money but the USG’s main focus is planning events for seniors. Wonderful.

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