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Avoid glitzy campaign issues

BY DANNY VALENTINE AND BRYCE BAUER | APRIL 13, 2009 7:30 AM

Today and Tuesday, voters will choose among three UI Student Government parties, all of which are running on platforms speckled with some flashy campaigns issues, such as freezing tuition and making more on-campus parking free.

But voters beware: Many of these striking subjects are under-researched or simply impractical.
Numerous administrators across campus said they have not been contacted by the campaigns whose issues directly affect their areas. Had student-government candidates talked to these officials, they would have known that some of their ideas are already underway, while others would require large amount of financing or are perennially panned proposals.

Among the platform issues in motion are plans to put add/drop slips online, implement an international conversation program, expand wireless coverage, expand Cambus to the East Side, install more efficient light bulbs, and dim dorm hallway lighting at night.

Add/drop slips will be online by the fall of 2011, a timeline not likely to be moved up, said Larry Lockwood, the UI registrar. An international conversation program, Global Buddies, already exists. Wireless access is in a constant state of expansion, but universitywide coverage is infeasible within a year (which the candidate proposing the idea, Mike Currie, readily admitted). Cambus already has plans to add a late-night East Side route, said Dave Ricketts, who’s in charge of parking and transportation. Facilities Management already replaces worn-out, inefficient bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, and one-third of hallway lights in Rienow and Stanley are turned off at night, as the *DI* recently reported.

Whew.

Other proposals, such as making parking free two hours earlier in the library lot on weekends, directly contradict the direction of UI policy (the university is moving away from free parking), while some, such as keeping the library open 24-hours, are issues discussed — and rejected — nearly every year.

By far the most unachievable campaign proposal is freezing tuition — something that is neither in UISG’s power nor a change likely to be implemented in a year of such economic uncertainty. Likewise, locked-in tuition may be a good idea, but it represents so large a change from current policy that it is premature to propose it as a viable idea.

In reality, student leaders can only lobby the state Board of Regents and legislators to advocate for the policy, they can’t promise it. Especially with only one year to work with. That’s why improving lobbying efforts, continually surrounding lawmakers with students, must be the first step in any discussion about tuition.

Lobbying represents one of the areas in which UISG has the most power and potential to make the greatest changes. While some campaigns have proposed to lobby more, what their platforms need to emphasize is the specific areas they will advocate.

The same is true of platforms discussing the impending IMU basement renovation. David Grady, who oversees the IMU, said the renovation will soon be in the planning phase and that students will play a role shaping the new space. This means UISG will have a say in making it more student-friendly and specifically need to state what they plan to accomplish.

Overall, every campaigns’ platforms could use more specifics and more research and we would like to see them focus on more realistic areas – such as engaging the students, and specific lobbying proposals — and less in places — such as freezing tuition — they can’t.

That said, there are large discrepancies in platform quality.

The Go Party’s proposals showed the least amount of research, with several UI administrators saying they had never been contacted by the group. Some of the ideas, like making the UI library’s lot free at 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, contradict current UI policy, while others, such as creating a partner program between U.S. and international students, already exist.

Most alarmingly, when asked, Go Party presidential candidate Mike Currie said contacting administrators about platform ideas prior to election would create unnecessary miscommunication if his party wasn’t elected.

The L Party researched some of its ideas, speaking with such top-level administrators as UI President Sally Mason and Provost Wallace Loh. It’s a good start, but, as is true with most administrators, the higher up you go, the more general the answers. Had they spoken with more departments, they might have axed a proposal to put add/drop slips online, slashed the plan for a 24-hour Main Library, and thawed the unfortunately ridiculous plan to freeze tuition.

Your Party’s platform seems the most practical: The members met with the administrators most likely to implement their proposals. For example, their presidential candidate Emily Grieves said she has spoken with Steve Fleagle, the UI’s chief information officer, on how to implement a plan to make it possible for student’s to track Cambus arrival times. She also has spoken with the Johnson County Public Health Department about allocating money to provide free on-campus HIV tests.

While Your Party’s proposal to make digital add/drop slips and install more efficient lighting are already in progress, and thus not valid campaign issues, their platform shows more research and seems more practical than either that of the Go or L Parties.


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