USS reflects on the year

Jackie Valley

A blue Post-It note hangs on the wall of Ross Miltner’s office as the executive director of the Undergraduate Student Senate – on it, the platform goals he formed last spring.

Miltner said the tiny memo acted as a “constant reminder” of his commitment to the undergraduate students at Kent State.

Now, nearly a year later, Miltner and the eight other senators are preparing to step down as the newly elected senate takes office next week.

“I hope students look back at this term as when the student senate started to look at the bigger picture,” he said.

In doing so, Miltner said his focus shifted slightly to accommodate a larger task that was not initially part of his platform goals – restructuring and expanding the student government.

“Sometimes things fall on your lap that you don’t plan on and turn out to be the best,” he said.

In the March election, students approved the charter changes to create a Programming Board and expand USS to form the new Undergraduate Student Government, a two-body governing system consisting of an executive cabinet and a senate.

If the Board of Trustees approves the plan, the new USG will go into effect in the 2008-2009 academic year.

But the road to change was not without its bumps.

Donna Carlton, USS adviser, said differences of opinion among students concerning the changes posed as USS’s largest challenge.

“Anytime someone puts forth a major change in structure, you are going to have a lot of people who disagree,” she said.

Miltner said the process was a constant balance of “trying to work toward the goals we wanted to see accomplished while not arguing with people who disagreed.”

Sean Groves, senator for business and finance, faced a similar challenge in the Allocations Committee when he proposed eliminating the permanent seats held by the All Campus Programming Board, Black United Students and the Inter-Greek Programming Board.

Despite public criticism about the proposal which USS will vote on today, Groves said he continued to stand by his decision because he firmly believed it was an issue of “fairness and equality” in the committee.

“I tried to reform things that will benefit students down the road in terms of programming,” he said.

In addition to internal changes, Carlton said this year’s USS focused on addressing external problems.

Justin Jeffery, senator for community affairs, said he tweaked his platform goals to focus on revamping the Community Task Force to ease tensions between students and the city – especially in the wake of the new noise ordinances.

“As far as the students, I think there is always tension,” he said. “But I think Senate is moving in the right direction with the city.

“Only time will tell how much that ordinance will come into play.”

In the end, however, Carlton said not all platform goals can be accomplished because many are on-going processes.

Christen Coppola, senator for student relations, said unexpected needs inevitably force some platform goals to be pushed aside.

“It’s hard to gauge what you’re capable of and foresee what’s going to come up,” she said. “Even though I didn’t complete all my platform goals, I always tried to stay busy and put in the time committed to in the beginning of the year.”

Preston Mitchum, senator for academic affairs, said small improvements in USS were made, but more are needed.

“Every year should be major improvements,” he said, adding he would like to see next year’s senators become more involved with the student body.

Carlton said change is necessary for every USS term.

“The needs change every year,” she said. “You have to be astute to what’s going on around you at the time and yet still hold on to your traditions.”

Contact student politics reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].