USG:Should we reform or begin anew?

By Gus Bode

Some Undergraduate Student Government senators say the debate over whether USG should replace its current system with a new government is being hijacked by the extreme viewpoints of clashing sides.

Several senators said they believe USG can be reformed within its existing structure without its leaders resigning or establishing a new governing body.

Vice President Nate Brown proposed doing away with the current system of student government earlier this week. Brown detailed plans to limit the number of senators to 18, as well as a new system of funding to take the burden off of the senate.

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After Brown announced his plans during a Monday meeting, senators asked for his resignation.

However, six senators, led by senator TyJuan Cratic, believe the majority of the senate wants a change from within. This group of senators claims to be expressing the majority opinion of a divided senate.

In a meeting with the Daily Egyptian, Cratic revealed more details about Brown’s plan, including a proposal to have the 18 senators elected by deans across the campus.

“We need to try and address the problem to make senators more accountable and make the executives more accountable, so we can get back in touch with our constituency,” Cratic said.

Their solution to the senate’s problems – senator apathy, poor attendance and unfilled seats – is to change USG’s operating procedures. Yet, even among these senators viewpoints differ over whether senators take their jobs seriously.

For the eight months that Brown has been in office, the organization has never had a full senate and is operating with 33 of its 58 seats fill.

Over the past week, Brown has expressed frustrations with the senate’s inability to pass resolutions and address internal amendments while senators countered that the executive branch has not coached the fledgling senate enough.

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Cratic is proposing a series of amendments to help USG function more efficiently in its present form. Cratic said a bridge must be built between the executive branch and the legislative branch.

He said it should start with executives presenting weekly briefings on campus issues. As it is now, the president and vice president present similar briefings during the last 10 minutes of the senate’s biweekly meetings.

Samuel Myler, an academic affairs senator, believes Brown is trying to fix USG, but the problem is deeper than senator apathy. Myler said students should approach senators more often because without public participation, a senate is ineffective and misguided.

“I personally do not have any problems on campus right now,” Myler said. ” I have nothing to resolve. I have nothing to write a resolution about. It might be a fault of my own, but students need to realize they can come to me.”

Myler was not voted into office by the student body. He petitioned the senate, like many of the members of USG do after an election cycle, and then was sworn in at a USG meeting last semester. Myler said Brown’s plan is robbing students of their voice.

“It’s taking away the vote of the students,” he said.

Dana Sims, a second-year senator, said Brown’s proposal is a tourniquet on a paper cut. She said Brown’s proposal is a quick fix. Sims thinks the issues the plan has raised are legitimate, but there are other methods to solving USG’s problems.

“We have a lot of senators who do not understand their place and they do not know what is going on,” Sims said. “They didn’t transition onto the senate, they just took an oath and took a seat.”

Grant Mullen, a first-year senator, said some of the blame should fall on the students. Mullen said the student body is confused over the positions it wants to take.

“The students don’t even really know the problems,” Mullen said. ” Which generates the problem in the senate, because then we don’t know what to write the resolutions about.”

Joe Moore, a member of the finance committee, said changing USG is a good idea, but the means by which Brown has gone about his pursuit for reform have been suspicious. Moore said calling for his resignation was a step in the wrong direction.

“Making a martyr out of Nate won’t do anything,” Moore said. “That idea needs to be shot down.”

Moore supports limiting the number of senators on USG. He proposed a resolution at the last USG meeting to reduce the number of senate seats to 40, but not the 18 members Brown has proposed. The resolution was tabled. Moore thinks 18 is too small.

Ed Ford, the student trustee for the Board of Trustees, said Brown’s plan would not address senators’ behavior since it would focus on structural issues.

“People are not going to change,” Ford said. “So, those are the problems that a new structure will not solve.”

Cratic, along with the other senators, said changing the funding process will not necessarily reduce the level of involvement the senate has with funding issues. And, they said, taking funding out of their hands would leave them almost powerless.

USG gives more than $463,000 a year in student activity fees to Resident Student Organizations. Last semester, the senate distributed more than $180,570 – or 39 percent – to the Student Programming Council, which coordinates campus entertainment events.

Brown will have to receive 5,000 signatures to have his plan on the ballot during the USG elections in April. Then, if the student body approves the measure by a two-thirds majority, the chancellor will decide if the resolution should prompt a new government.

Cratic said something needs to be done between now and the elections or issues surrounding USG will swing out of control.

“Right now, the problem is that we don’t know what’s happening until it’s already happened,” Cratic said. “There is definitely enough blame to go around and I wouldn’t blame one branch whether it be the executive or legislative.”

Reporter Moustafa Ayad can be reached at [email protected]

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