I had no idea what to expect when I started at the Daily Campus in January 2013. As a transfer from the University of Vermont, I expected the experience to be similar to my time at the student newspaper paper there, a weekly publication called the Vermont Cynic.
Instead, I found a professional, dedicated and competent staff and a place where I learned to become a better writer.
The hours are long and often sporadic, but in working at The Daily Campus, I went from a cub reporter who could barely type out a lede graph to the associate news editor. Most of those long hours come from covering the Undergraduate Student Government beat, which I have held almost my entire time on staff.
USG does a lot of good on campus; they distribute much-needed funds for student organizations and they advocate to the university for student interests, but often the thing that hinders it the most is not its lack of visibility, or hindrance from the university, but getting in its own way on issues that matter.
About $1 million is allocated each year to student organizations, but that comes at the price of hours of debate on emergency funding. Representatives of Tier II groups often sat in the Student Union ballroom for an hour before hearing a verdict.
Even more contention comes from Statements of Position, which amounts to USG urging the administration or state government to take a certain stand on an issue it believes is important for students, which senators “all know work and make a big difference,” one member said sarcastically at the final Senate, Wednesday.
This was meant as a joke, but there is a bit of truth to it. These statements could hold a lot of weight. UConn has a student body of almost 20,000 undergraduates, so legislation speaking with all of their voices would be something legislators should listen to. However, the student body is rarely consulted on these pieces of legislation, and most have no idea these fellow students are advocating this way on these issues. However, I have not heard of any of these statements influencing much policy at the university or state level.
As far as I know, most students are only aware that USG allocates funds and sometimes gives away free T-shirts. If they did know this, I think more than 10 percent of the student body would vote in senatorial elections.
USG could be a very effective organization. It has a lot of bright, passionate people within its offices in the Student Union, but too many of them are caught up in the “government” part of the name. Three of the last five student elections have ended with punitive actions taken against a candidate, a former speaker motioned for a vote of no confidence against himself, and, this year, a constitutional issue led to a senator being impeached.
Unfortunately, these stories usually take precedence in print over whatever else happens on Wednesday nights, so this is all students see about their representatives.
To the people who I’ve spent hours each week sitting behind typing everything you say; please fix this. I know, probably better than anyone whose name isn’t on your roster, the good you do. Get rid of the politicking, stop trying to tackle issues that are not directly aimed at UConn students and work for the goals of the people that elect you, not just to have your name on legislation.
It’s been a great learning experience covering USG, and I wish them, and The Daily Campus news staff, the best of luck in the years to come.
Nicholas Shigo is associate news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.