Transition complete: USG to take the helm

Jenna Staul

New student government to hold first meeting today

The new Undergraduate Student Government will come to fruition this afternoon, completing its nearly year-long transition from the existing Undergraduate Student Senate, with the induction of its 25 new positions.

The most comprehensive change to the current student government is the expansion of the group from nine senatorial positions to 25 directorial and senatorial positions. The switch was made in an effort to provide the student body with a more representative, effective student government.

Within USG, directorial positions will function in the same way that the former USS senators did. The people in the new senatorial positions, however, will attend every other USG meeting and can vote on legislation but cannot enact it.

Many of the new members, however, have yet to define what their job will be during this milestone year for student government.

“We’re just really getting into it, so right now I just plan to work with the other senators and directors and just be a voice for off-campus and commuter students, especially the commuter students,” said Andrew Fontanarosa, newly appointed senator for off-campus and commuter students. “As far as specifics, I couldn’t tell you yet.”

Much of the next year will be uncharted territory for those who hold the 16 newly established senatorial positions of USG, whose job has been loosely defined as representing the students of their respective college or constituency.

“It’s kind of like a goal of mine to set the example for the person who has this position next year,” said Shelly Wilkes, new senator for the College of the Arts. Wilkes said while she has not yet met with administrators from within her college, she is open to suggestions from her constituency on what her job should be.

“I’ve been talking to students from within the college about what they think I should be doing over the next year,” Wilkes said.

Neal Konesky, new senator for the College of Technology, said despite winning his position on USG nearly one month ago, he has not determined what his duties within the governing body will actually be.

“Honestly, I can’t answer that at this time,” Konesky said. “I don’t know.”

Konesky said he is eager to spend the coming months learning the student government ropes.

“Since I’m new at this I’m looking forward to figuring it out and working on it over the summer,” Konesky said, adding he looks to open up lines of communication for students within his college, but he has not yet determined how to do so.

Nikole Keslar, director of finance, said she looks to continue on the path established by her predecessor in the position, Andrew Ljubi, adding she has no major plans in mind for her position or the allocations process.

“I feel like they’ve done a really good job this year,” said Keslar, who served on the allocation committee this year. “They would find ways to be improve the program, not just fund it.”

Jonathan Bey, newly elected executive director, said he will expect the senators to meet at least bi-monthly with administrators within their college and regularly create verbal or written reports for USG.

Bey said he is not concerned that the addition of new members within USG will create miscommunication within the group at meetings.

“I’m willing to stay (at meetings) as long as possible in order to make sure everyone’s voice is heard,” Bey said.

For his part, Bey, who served on USS this year, looks to establish a bike transit program on campus. The program would include 15 to 20 bicycles available on campus for students to ride from one end of campus to the next.

“Over the summer I’ll probably go to different stores, bike shops or stores like Target, and attempt to solicit donations for that,” Bey said.

Other future plans for USG in the coming year are converting the Student Center’s Kent Credit Union into a student-operating marketing agency and establishing a DVD/video game rental business in the Music Listening Center.

Adam Smithberger, director of communication, said despite the sweeping changes, the challenges that will likely face USG in the coming year are not unique.

“I think we’ll face the same problems that other student organizations on this campus have been facing for the last couple of years, which is students really aren’t that interested.”

Smithberger said he looks forward most to the expanded membership USG offers.

“I think with the number of people it could get really hectic (at meetings),” Smithberger said. “But I can’t wait to work with all of those people and hear all of those different opinions at meetings. It’s going to be interesting.”

Contact student politics reporter Jenna Staul at [email protected].