Last week, in its first meeting of the year, the University of Connecticut’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) opted to discuss senator caps, vote allocations and election board packet revisions. Though these topics are peripherally connected to the student body, they do not necessarily reflect areas of real concern for the broader UConn community.
As The Daily Campus noted last year in one USG coverage story: “The USG Senate spent an hour and forty minutes talking about themselves and internal issues. About twenty-five minutes were spent talking about UConn students at large.”
This editorial is meant to urge USG to get away from these internal, largely procedural matters, and to instead focus on students at large.
Members of USG often find themselves on the defensive side when talking about the organization, since many students have a stereotypical picture of the group, fueled by many of the controversies surrounding USG elections and campaign politics. While this is not a wholly true depiction, USG plays an essential role in allocating money for student groups and advocating on behalf of students for issues like tuition. However, it is true that, at times, its priorities are skewed.
This is brought much more into focus during the aforementioned election season. Senators who had worked together on one bill or another often turn against each other during this contentious time. During this period, student concerns seem to be cast aside, as personality politics take center stage.
The only time in recent or distant memory that someone has won the student body presidency without it being hotly contested was in 2015, when Rachel Conboy won, after running unopposed.
Of the last few election seasons, it seems as if student choices are limited by procedural drama, obscure rules and a general lack of transparency. For instance, students must be able to pick the winning candidates without the USG judiciary and involved parties playing too large of a role. While any election will bring about heated exchanges and accusations of ill will, USG elections and general business must focus primarily on student needs.
It is time for a new USG, and it looks like that might be possible. With open source textbooks, which USG and its president Dan Byrd worked extensively on, there has been positive action made with students in mind. Students will shed their preconceived understanding of USG only through the actions of the body itself. Promoting student concerns in this transformative era for UConn must be a priority for USG.