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UISG leaders: Student voices still needed after 21-only debate

BY GUEST OPINION | NOVEMBER 16, 2010 7:20 AM

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Like many students at the University of Iowa, we were disappointed with the results of the 21-ordinance vote two weeks ago. We took a stance on the issue this year, and, unfortunately, it didn't turn out as we had hoped. We also recognize, however, that with the ordinance now officially in place for at least another two years, we must — as a university and a community — move forward.

Though many students are deeply concerned with the potential results of the ordinance, we must also see this as a special opportunity. This is a crucial time for our campus and city. The conversations and meetings that will take place over these next few months regarding Iowa City's downtown will have long-term implications for both the community and the UI. Both students and community members recognize the divide that exists in the city; this is a serious challenge, but we, as student leaders, are confident we can work with all parties to help bridge this divide.

How will we do this? First and foremost, we will continue gaining valuable input and suggestions from fellow students. Your ideas and opinions are what we represent, and we look forward to presenting those ideas to all interested parties. In the near future — most likely in early December — we will also host a forum we hope many students will attend. Our intention is not to provide a space for us to lament our disappointment or vent our frustration. Rather, we hope legitimate concerns will be discussed, positive ideas will be brainstormed, and a specific plan for moving forward will be crafted.

With the ideas we've already received, as well as those we hope to get from the forum and over the next several weeks, we will actively work with UI administration officials, city councilors, and other interested parties to ensure downtown is a welcoming environment for all. The vibrant downtown culture has been a special part of our community for so long, and we want every student to be able to experience a safe and fun downtown atmosphere. We also look forward to engaging in substantive dialogue with student leaders at other regent institutions. Again, student input will be the most important part of our efforts.

Moving forward, we must also recognize that there are other pressing issues on campus that need to be addressed. For example, the declining amount of state funding we've seen over the last decade is an extremely troubling trend. If we're going to reverse this trend, we'll need a multitude of students to lend us their voices. The student energy behind the 21-issue was palpable; now, let's use that same energy and point it towards higher-education funding and other issues.

The college experience at the UI is top-notch, and we have many great credentials to boast. This year, we welcomed the largest, most diverse, and best academically prepared class in the UI's history, and we continue to stand above the rest in student community service and volunteering.

Our football team has given us another thrilling season, and the excitement that comes with our winter and spring sports programs is just around the corner. Our arts communities continue to thrive.

Despite all of this, however, there is a large group of students who now feel as if they're not welcome after the results of the Nov. 2 election. To those who may feel that way, we say emphatically: You are. Your voices are needed as we forge ahead — not only on this issue, but with all of the significant challenges we face as students.

We can move forward and continue to make the college experience at the UI a safe and satisfying one. And we know we will.

John Rigby is the president of the UI Student Government. Erica Hayes is UISG's vice president.


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