USG makes position for military ex-officio senator

The Undergraduate Student Government USG passed legislature to add an ex-officio veteran member to the senate for representatives of the veteran and military-dependent population at the University of Connecticut. Commuter Senator Sam Serowitz speaks about the bill. (Amar Batra/Daily Campus)

Senators in the Undergraduate Student Government unanimously voted to make a position for representatives of the veteran and military-dependent population at the University of Connecticut.

Sam Serowitz, commuter senator, said the position will serve as a way for military students to find ways to get involved on campus and become more aware of what services and programs are available to them.

“When a lot of veterans get out of the military, they are older and have lost a lot of the things they’ve had in common with the people they knew in high school,” Serowitz said. “When they get here, they really have no social support structure of friends. A lot of them don’t get involved.”

The position would serve as an additional support structure for veterans, in addition to the Veterans Affairs and Military Programs Office and the Operation Academic Support for Incoming Servicemembers (OASIS), which was established in 2012.

Garrett Taylor, a seventh-semester mechanical engineering major and an Army veteran, said USG helped the veterans on campus in 2011 find support and resources after they were removed from their housing.

“They gave us a sense of ownership of the university,” he said. “Having an ex-officio senate representation would allow the student veterans to get up to date of what’s going on with you guys and find out about the benefits and resources that are available to them.”

According to results from a survey done earlier this year presented by Serowitz, only 61 percent of military students agree that they knew where to get involved with student activities and 57 percent were aware of services and programs available to veterans.

Currently there are 450 veterans or military-dependent students enrolled at UConn. Dependent students include spouses, children, survivors of veterans and active duty members.

“450 people might not sound like a huge number, but it’s significant when anyone here knows if any veterans were involved in committees or student government,” Serowitz said.

The legislation added an ex-officio seat to senate similar in function to the cultural center senators. Serowitz also said that veterans are also considered a “protected group” that is discriminated against on college campuses and having an seat to represent them would give them access to more information on support systems and programs and allow them to advocate for the community on the university level.

Many student veterans are older than the average student and live off campus, which, according to the several veterans that spoke at Senate, leads to a disconnect between them and traditional students.

Ben Nobles, a fourth-semester business management major and Air Force veteran said he experienced culture shock when a 19-year-old in one of his classes bragged about “snagging a case of Natty Ice for the weekend.”

“It really took me back in time,” he said.


Nicholas Shigo is associate news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at nicholas.shigo@uconn.edu.