The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) president Dan Byrd said he’s proud of the work the organization has done, looking back at the past year,
“The best part about this job was being able to see what we’ve accomplished this year,” Byrd said. “I’ve had past presidents and the bookkeepers and so many people say that USG has accomplished more this year than anyone who’s known USG can remember.”
Byrd said supporting undocumented students was one of his proudest accomplishments while serving as president.
After the election of President Donald Trump, undocumented students on campus feared his anti-immigration views would be turned into policy, leading to deportations. Students rallied, demanding protection and support from UConn administration.
“When students had this rally and they asked for support from administration, I knew USG could help with that and could kind of bridge the gap between students and administrators,” Byrd said.
Byrd co-wrote legislation that served as a statement of support to undocumented students and worked, alongside USG vice president and president-elect Irma Valverde, to gain additional support from University Senate and eventually, the administration.
Byrd said the availability of open source textbooks was another accomplishment important to him. The initiative was a major promise of Byrd’s campaign.
An open source textbook for introductory chemistry classes was introduced in fall 2016 through the combined efforts of USG, UConn PIRG, university faculty and state representatives, which Byrd said saved students a total of $600,000 this year.
“That savings is going to compound every single year and we’re only going to add more open source textbooks over time, so we’re going to save students tens of millions of dollars over the next few years,” Byrd said.
Through the celebration of accomplishments, however, there were also somber moments. Byrd said, as a representative of the student body, dealing with the loss of students Sean Sullivan and Jeffny Pally this past year was tragically unexpected.
Byrd said while he didn’t know Sullivan or Pally personally and couldn’t imagine the grief their friends and family have felt, he was faced with a challenge when asked to present Pally’s family with a gift at a vigil held in her honor.
“When you run for USG president, you can’t say ‘I’m ready to meet with families that have had tragedy strike their lives,’ and I wasn’t ready,” Byrd said. “I don’t think anyone can really be ready for that.”
Byrd said he better understands the pressure a USG president faces after being in the position for a year. Some of his decisions have been well-received, and others controversial. Particularly, Byrd said, funding decisions or cuts are rarely something everyone can agree on.
“When I make a decision, it can make people mad or it can disappoint people or it can hurt people in certain ways,” Byrd said.
With Valverde taking over as president next year, Byrd said he’s confident she will run the organization well. Byrd said Valverde’s involvement in supporting undocumented students this past year is one of many issues he’s sure she’ll continue next year.
“If she’s half as good as president as she has been a vice president, she’ll be way better than me,” Byrd said.
Byrd also said he’s proud of the growth he’s seen in senate. Many new members aren’t afraid to speak up at meetings, as they have been in the past.
Byrd said he believes he and Valverde, as well as past presidents, have worked to create an environment where new members are encouraged to be active and share their ideas. Byrd noted at a recent senate meeting three new Senators were able to sit as speaker for a portion of the meeting, as they were interested in running for the position next year.
“I’m very proud of these new members, so I know that USG is in good hands,” Byrd said.
Schae Beaudoin is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.