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UISG: Our mid-year update

BY GUEST OPINION | DECEMBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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More than halfway through our term in office, the University of Iowa Student Government administration has seen both challenges and success. Last year, the Action Party ran on an ambitious, five-point platform focusing on the U-Bill system, student safety, transparency, sustainability, and landlord-tenant relations. After taking office in April, we have worked diligently to accomplish many specific goals in these general areas.

In some instances, we have encountered challenges. In our 2011 campaign, the Action Party advocated for changes to the current U-Bill system, specifically to allow UI students to charge off-campus purchases to their U-Bills. In working toward that goal, we came to understand that the university would have to switch entirely from the current charging system to a debit-only system, both on campus and off, to make this a reality. After conducting student focus groups, we found that students strongly prefer the ability to charge items. Furthermore, students suggested that using the Iowa One Card off-campus was not advantageous because most carry other types of cards.

In light of this information, we have shifted our strategy to advocate for expansion of chargeable costs on campus, specifically at parking ramps, UI Quickcare, and for student-organization fees.

While we have faced roadblocks to some of the initial platform goals, we have also seen success. We have made great inroads into establishing a safer campus environment. In October, UISG sponsored the first annual Safety Awareness Fair. Thirteen safety-focused organizations provided educational information to more than 100 UI students attending the fair. In conjunction with this event, we launched the Wingman campaign, a proactive marketing strategy that advocates looking out for your fellow Hawkeyes through bystander intervention and Red Watch Band training.

We have also had success in increasing the transparency of UISG. We created a new website that is more easily navigable. Every other week, UISG executives write op-eds for The Daily Iowan, such as this one. Aside from these tangible projects, we have worked to create a more responsive atmosphere in the government. Organizations are encouraged to attend our general Senate sessions, as well as contact us via email or at our office, 260B IMU.

Moving forward, we will continue to work to realize the Action Party platform goals. For our goal of increasing sustainability on campus, we have embarked on several promising projects. In conjunction with the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students and Take Back the Tap, we have worked with the Office of Sustainability, Facilities Management, and IMU building administration to purchase improvements in the IMU's drinking-water equipment. Next semester, the IMU will boast two brand-new hydration stations that dispense filtered water, as well as retrofitted water fountains. These projects will serve to promote water-bottle use at the expense of bottled water, resulting in less waste and greater sustainability.

Last, and certainly not least, UISG will continue to work on improving the many Iowa City tenants who have suffered a long history of abuse at the hands of unscrupulous landlords. Because students are new to the pitfalls of renting property, at times, they are exploited, especially with regard to exorbitant fees and security deposits. As a means to correct this injustice, UISG is working to create a website on which students can access pertinent legal information about their rights, as well as write reviews of specific rental properties and landlords. Our goal is that this website will make UI students better-informed renters.

As we continue to work on our goals, always remember that we exist to empower students. If you ever have a concern, question, or idea, do not hesitate to contact us so that we may advocate on your behalf.

Elliot Higgins is a University of Iowa senior and current president of the UI Student Government.


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