As a candidate for the University of Connecticut’s Undergraduate Student Government president, Chief Justice Andrew Stern wants to build a stronger bridge between students, administration and Mansfield.
If elected president, Stern wants to improve university relations with Mansfield and hold the administration accountable, something he said can be done if better lines of communication are established.
“My theme here is building relationships,” Stern said.
Stern is a junior political science major with a minor in public policy. This is his third year in USG. He serves on the External Affairs and Academic Affairs committees in addition to being chief justice. He’s also a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and judges for UConn Moot Court’s competition.
As president, Stern said, he would want to establish weekly meetings with both Mansfield officials and administration.
Stern said administration can be held accountable by student government if a stronger relationship between the two is established.
“The administration misspent 50 million dollars of your tax-paying money… and there’s really nothing that has been done about it besides an apology from the university saying, ‘This won’t happen again.’ That’s ridiculous,” Stern said.
Stern said by holding regular meetings and establishing relationships between students and administrators, USG can be more in tune with the administration and work to prevent misspending from happening again.
“It’s the student government’s duty to ensure this does not happen again and ensure that there is an open dialogue with the administration and to have the courage to tell the administration, ‘We feel like you are doing this wrong,’” Stern said.
While student government having a say in the administration’s decisions might seem unrealistic, Stern says the effort needs to happen on USG’s part.
“The student government’s duty is to do the best for the students. Even when it seems like it’s unfeasible, its [duty is] to try,” Stern said.
In the case of Mansfield, Stern said weekly meetings would help keep an open conversation with residents who are unhappy with students living in residential neighborhoods.
“The relationships could be stronger, and an easy way to do this is to start having regular meetings with the town, inviting town leaders to come to student government offices and have a consistent dialogue,” Stern said. “That way, when a serious issue does arise… it’s much easier to hear each other out because we’ve already established this relationship.”
In addition to building stronger relationships in Mansfield and with administration, Stern also wants to create a safer campus environment, make textbooks more affordable and ensure student fee money is used more efficiently.
While many clubs and athletic teams are required to complete sexual assault prevention training, UConn’s fraternities are not. Stern said he wants to put a requirement in place.
“Sexual assault is still a major problem on this campus and I want to make sure it’s at the forefront of our initiatives next year,” Stern said.
Stern also said areas on campus like Mirror Lake and North Garage require better lighting, in order to help students feel safer on campus.
Stern’s pick for USG vice president, Ven Gopal, is the current chair of USG’s Academic Affairs committee. Gopal spent time working on the current open-source textbook initiative this year, an issue Stern wants to continue pursuing with Gopal’s help.
“That’s something Ven has been working on for a while now and he’s the perfect person to know how to continue the push for open-source textbooks, which is already saving students hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Stern said.
Additionally, Stern said he wants to improve USG’s Funding Board, which approves and dispenses money to all Tier II organizations at UConn. Stern said stronger communication is needed between the Funding Board and Tier II clubs to make sure students’ fees are being used to their advantage.
“This is your student fee money. You should be getting this funding and you should be getting it in an efficient and effective way and it begins with communication,” Stern said.
Stern said he’s most proud of his work to get student representation on UConn’s Community Standards. While the project is ongoing, he said it’s important to have students involved in the disciplinary hearings of their peers. Many public universities, including the University of New Hampshire, University of Virginia and University of Rhode Island all have student representation on their disciplinary boards, something Stern said the university needs to catch up on.
Stern said the role of president should ultimately be a voice and resource for students. He said students should be able to walk into the USG president’s office and bring them any concerns they have.
“There needs to be an openness with the president. There has to be approachability, which I don’t think in the past has really been the case,” Stern said.
Stern said students should vote for him because he has extensive experience working outside the university, whether it’s testifying at the state Capitol on UConn’s behalf or working with Mansfield officials to improve university relations.
“I’ve been to the state Capitol every year. I’ve spoken with state representatives… I’ve worked with town officials,” Stern said. “These things are very, very important and… I’m confident that I’m the best person for the job because we are the only ticket that has this experience.”
Schae Beaudoin is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.