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UISG elections will amount to no change

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | APRIL 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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With UISG elections this week, the consequences of the impending regime change can be determined.

That is to say, nothing will change.

UI students are going to get the same results no matter which party they decide to vote for. Both the "I Party" and the "# Party" want more sustainability measures, an improvement in transparency, and safer ways to travel in Iowa City, and both have a false sense of what is possible for UISG to accomplish.

Current UISG Senate Speaker Nic Pottebaum and Senate Secretary Jessie Tobin are on the "I Party" ticket for president and vice president, while the opposing "# Party" is running Sens. Sunny Kothari and Nick Rolston as its dynamic duo.

The general theme of the debate was lofty goals and a misguided sense of what UISG can and cannot do. Though student government is an important school activity, it cannot expect to endorse real change with an elitist attitude and unrealistic goals.

In an email meant to recruit a prospective senator for the "hash-tag" ticket, Rolston explained that "on UISG, we toss around $1.8 mil to the student orgs on campus …"

Toss around. Like it's a game.

With an attitude like that, UISG shouldn't toss around anything more than a ball, let alone $1.8 million in a student-funded circus.

Each ticket has a set of lofty goals for the money it tosses around, singing the same theme of what they wish to achieve while in "power."

Unfortunately for voters, the differences between them are few and far between, as demonstrated at the presidential debate March 29. 

Take sustainability — something everyone can get on board with.

Pottebaum brought an aluminum water bottle to the debate in order to announce that UISG bought reusable water bottles for all incoming students next fall.

"How do we improve the everyday experience for students?" said Pottebaum about his governing philosophy. "[What are] the little things and the big things that can have a big impact for the 21,000 undergraduates on this campus?"

And UISGmight be able to drum up support for Kothari's solar-panel idea. But to assume it can fund the roughly $50,000 project is too optimistic, if not lunacy.

With only around 3,000 students voting in the last election, how can UISG really claim to be representing even the majority of students on campus? And with the small numbers turning out at the polls, do UI students really care about UISG?

Pottebaum wants to include a diversity campaign with next fall's "On Iowa" program to expose incoming students to campus groups and events that will happen throughout the year. He touted his efforts to create the Safe Ride taxi program as a way to keep the students safer, another money drain that failed the test of practicality last term.

Similarly, on this issue, Kothari wants to reinstate a Cambus route for the East Side, as well as installing more lighting on and around campus to deter crime.

One original idea Kothari had was his proposal to create $1,000 student-engagement scholarships for those who spend 20-30 hours a week in student organizations.

"It takes a toll on your GPA and other things in your life," he said. "So you need to be rewarded for that because you're improving the community for all those around you." A UISG panel, of course, would review the application process.

This policy would directly affect those who punch in high hours in student organizations: people such as the president of UISG or the speaker of the senate, maybe. A possible conflict of interest there? Absolutely, because the money would flow directly from the pockets of the 18,000 undergrads not represented into the top 1 percent of student organizations.

And with a potential tuition freeze, the money would be coming directly out of the classroom.

Student government over a teacher's salary? Forget about it.

Student government elections are important, but to an end. UISG can do the small things well — making recycling easier, installing water-bottle-refilling stations, funding student organizations — but the larger projects are best handled by UI administration, which has experience in "tossing around" money in the right direction.


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