USG proposal gets mixed reactions

By Gus Bode

Senators ask for Brown’s resignation

Nate Brown, vice president of Undergraduate Student Government, presented a detailed plan Monday to the Daily Egyptian to overhaul USG by limiting the number of senators to 18 as well as changing the way it funds Registered Student Organizations.

Brown hoped to present his ideas and field suggestions from a group of students at a meeting Monday morning in the Student Center, but several senators from USG began questioning his motives.

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The hour-long meeting did not produce a clear picture of Brown’s proposal. Much of the time was spent between squabbling factions of students who either supported Brown’s incentives or demanded he acknowledge his mistakes in office that have led to an unproductive USG. Some senators asked for his resignation.

Brown said a leaner senate would be more responsive to student needs and more accountable for its actions.

His proposal to change the funding process would introduce a separate Student Organization Regulatory Board of 12 members to oversee the senate’s more than $450,000 budget, two of which are representatives from the Student Development staff. The board would relieve the senate from its duties of appropriating money.

However, both ideas are only draft proposals of his plan for a reformed governing body, and he will begin fielding suggestions from students and senators.

USG President Tequia Hicks supports Brown’s overhaul and hoped the discussion would bring the public one step closer into understanding the senate’s problems.

“Let’s air out our dirty laundry,” Hicks said. “Maybe that will make people more accountable.”

USG has been attempting to change its image across campus. Brown said the perception that student senators are apathetic, never show up to meetings and ignore formal legislative processes has left a bad mark on USG.

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For the eight months that Brown has been in power, the organization has never had a full senate and currently operates with 33 of its 58 seats full.

Senators confronted Brown about his proposal at Monday’s meeting, where he was supposed to present his ideas, and accused him of trying to make a power play.

During the tense meeting, senators became enraged after Brown said he had moved beyond the interests of USG and was now thinking of the student body.

Senators Summer Edmondson and Cody Chullen, angry at the statement, called on Brown to hand in a letter of resignation. Edmondson asked Brown how he intended to lead the organization if he had no faith in its power.

Brown said he had become fed up in recent months with the childish bickering of the senate and said now is the time for action.

“Things are so monotonous and so trite that we need a shakeup,” Brown said.

Senator Raphi Rechitsky said the problem has nothing to do with the structure of USG but senator indifference, an issue that should have been handled by the executive branch.

“I think we need to start worrying less about our PR and more about what we do,” Rechitsky said.

At one point, Brown apologized for not taking enough time in introducing new senators to the legislative process. But, he said, under the current system he could only do so much.

Also on Brown’s list of changes was the way senators are appointed to USG. Currently, senators who do not run in April on a ticket, which a majority of the members of USG did not, often only need 50 student signatures to become a senator.

Once they receive the signatures, senators then come to a USG meeting to say a short speech. The senate than asks the candidates questions, and the senators are sworn in.

Last week six senators were added to USG in this method. Brown said he open door policy of USG often does not yield the best results. He said that of the 20 senators who were elected in April, only five remain.

The USG gives more than $463,000 a year in student activity fees to RSOs. Of that amount, the senate distributed more than $180,570 – or 39 percent – to the Student Programming Council, which coordinates entertainment events.

The rest of the money is channeled through its finance committee, which then denies or approves a request for funding.

The Senate then receives a copy of the finance committee’s report on whether the funding has been approved and decides if the RSO receives the amount of money requested.

Brown said USG’s agenda is usually bogged down in whether funding should be denied or approved, leaving campus and student issues at the end of the meetings when senators are ready to go home. Meetings often last four hours or more, running sometimes until 10:30 p.m.

Brown will have to receive 5,000 signatures to have his plan on the ballot in time for April elections. Then, if the student body approves the measure by a two-thirds majority, the chancellor will decide the fate of USG.

Reporter Moustafa Ayad can be reached at [email protected]

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