GUSA Assesses Past Semester
Published: Friday, January 18, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 18, 2013 02:01
Halfway through its term, the GUSA senate is taking stock of progress by releasing its first-ever Semester Update Report on Sunday, which chronicles its work over the past semester.
According to GUSA senate Speaker Nate Tisa (SFS ’14), the report will increase individual senators’ accountability to their respective constituencies.
“When some senators seek re-election next year, this could be a central source for students to look at,” Tisa said, “We also want to show students that you’ve put this faith in us and here is our return on that faith.”
The report highlights the senate’s accomplishments over the past semester and outlines plans and committees that will be set in motion in the spring semester.
In evaluating the senate’s work during the fall, Tisa pointed out that the student government was lucky to start off a new term with the success of the campus-wide referendum on changing the evidentiary standard from “more likely than not” to “clear and convincing.”
“When the change was made during our first weeks, especially for the younger senators, they saw how students had the need, GUSA took action on the need and it was a success. That energized us as we looked into other things we could advocate for the student body,” Tisa said.
Tisa attributed GUSA’s accomplishments in part to structural changes to the way GUSA discusses and addresses student needs.
In the past, senate bills were mostly drawn up by the Finance and Appropriations Committee and the Student Life Committee, the latter of which had a broad focus that at times made it difficult to pinpoint problems.
“Because they had such a wide purview, it was difficult for them narrow down action items,” Tisa said.
At the beginning of the fall semester, the senate created an Intellectual Life Committee that would address academic issues, while the original Student Life Committee’s focus was narrowed to student social life.
“By splitting into those groups and then having subcommittees that further split those groups into action teams, even with the same number of people, we could do a lot more work,” Tisa said.
Tisa pointed out that the requirement that senators conduct extensive background research and contact the appropriate administrators before proposing bills at senate sessions was also essential to the bills’ swift implementation.
“When a bill does come and when we pass it, there’s already an administrative process going on,” Tisa said.
Student Life Committee member Nolan DiConti (COL ’15) collaborated with Tisa to advocate for extended GOCard access to dormitories. In a campus-wide email Tuesday night, the Office of Residence Life announced that, effective Jan. 15, students now have access to all residence halls from 9 a.m. to midnight, an extension of the former 10 p.m. deadline.
According to DiConti, administrators expressed interest in further extending accessibility in the Southwest Quad, provided there is enough student interest.
DiConti’s post on IdeaScale, which proposes that residents within the Quad have full, 24-hour access to all three dorms, has so far garnered 400 votes.
“The idea has received overwhelming support and positive feedback. We’re now looking into 24-hour access in the Quad. It’s a big jump, but it’s feasible and it will enhance social life in the Quad community,” DiConti said.
Subcommittees on the arts and credit recognition have been created under the Intellectual Life Committee at the start of this semester.
According to Lizzy Oh (SFS ’15), GUSA senator and chair of the Subcommittee on Art, the fee for joining performing arts groups and the shortage of practice spaces limit opportunities for participation.
Oh specifically pointed out that during construction of the New South Student Center, two practice rooms and two dance studios will be unavailable, reducing the already limited space for the arts community.
“The school doesn’t support artists and musicians enough. We’re in the middle of talking to the administration to address such problems,” Oh said.
George Spyropoulos (COL ’14), a GUSA senator and chair of the Intellectual Life Committee, described the committee’s work to date as stepping stones for future progress.
“The committee was new, which meant we had a clean slate. It was up to us to define what the committee would do and to set precedent for future committees. And I think we’ve made tremendous progress,” Spyropoulos said.