New USG ex-officio representative position for veterans

UConn veterans and other veterans pose for a photo in the 2015 Hartford Veterans Day Parade. (Samuel Surowitz)

The undergraduate student body approved a new position for an ex-officio senator to represent veterans in the University of Connecticut’s Undergraduate Student Government yesterday.

An ex-officio senator is one that can speak at USG, but does not hold a voting position. They are also appointed by the undergraduate student president, instead of elected by the student body. This new position joins the other ex-officio representatives from the five cultural centers.

Samuel Surowitz, a commuter senator, wrote the legislation to create this new position. The amendment passed the senate unanimously, according to George Wang, the speaker of the senate.

The student body approved the referendum with a 96 percent approval rate. A majority vote is necessary for a new constitutional amendment.

“Veterans are historically underrepresented in USG and in student groups in general,” fifth-semester political science and computer science major Wang said. “I think that this is a great way for us to get input on issues from veterans and integrate with them in general.”

Wang said that the USG Senate passed two amendments to the USG Constitution last semester. The first amendment mandated that one of the student president’s ten ex-officio nominees to the senate must be from the Veteran’s Center. The second amendment added a seat to the Judiciary.

Although the two amendments should have gone to referendum during the USG elections, a delay caused the two questions to be placed on the homecoming ballot, a fact considered odd by some, including Surowitz, an eighth-semester history student.  

The Veteran’s Affairs and Military Programs encompasses nearly 1,500 students, staff and faculty. Their cultural center, the Veterans Oasis, is located in the Student Union Room 224.

The ex-officio position will be filled shortly. Wang said that Alyssa Kelleher, director of the Office of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs recommended Surowitz. Wang expects President Byrd to accept this recommendation, given Surowitz’s qualifications. Along with the commuter senator position, Surowitz holds the position of Veteran Student Organization President and Veterans Program Coordinator.

Surowitz hopes to be the interim senator until the position is permanently filled, because he’s graduating in December. Surowitz said that other people have not expressed interest in the position.

The Board of Trustees must now approve the position. When approved, the amendment will be immediately enacted, according to Surowitz.  

For those interested in the position, they could either contact the USG, the Veterans Affairs and Military Programs, or Surowitz directly, he said.

“Most veterans are non-traditional students. These students have served in order to gain benefits and they deserve to gain a seat in their student government,” Surowitz said.

Claire Galvin is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at