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Editorial: TOGA and HOUSE parties' issues affect students

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | APRIL 04, 2013 5:00 AM

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Campaigning for the University of Iowa Student Government presidency began in earnest Monday with two sets of executive candidates and their respective parties vying for the top spot in next week’s election.

Both candidates, it seems, have chosen to capitalize on the dual meaning of the word “party,” perhaps to appeal to the sensibilities of the undergraduate population. Current UISG Speaker of the Senate Aaron Horsfield is running for president at the head of the Together Our Government Achieves (TOGA) Party along with running mate Jostna Dash, a UISG senator and the president of the Indian Student Alliance.

Their opponents are the Helping Our University and Students Engage (HOUSE) Party, led by presidential candidate and current UISG governmental-relations liaison Katherine Valde and running mate Jack Cumming, another UISG senator.

In the early going of the campaign, TOGA and HOUSE have staked out much of their policy platforms, including their major planned initiatives, their proposed relationship with student organizations, and their plans for transparency in the student government. We discuss each of these policy areas briefly below.

Arguably the most important initiative proposed in TOGA’s platform is the ICare program, which is designed to promote physical and mental-health services offered to students by the UI. Such a program was recently encouraged on this page in light of a recent poll of UI students that found that many students are unfamiliar with the campus’ mental-health services.

TOGA has also proposed the installation of an on-campus recycling machine in which students can collect their bottle and can deposits and an expansion of UISG’s Get to Know Me diversity campaign.

HOUSE offers a number of proposed initiatives, including plans to make syllabi and course evaluations available during online registration, to expand the New York Times readership program to online and mobile subscriptions for students, and to open a student food bank.

Both parties also have plans to improve financial literacy among students and establish a system of bicycle rental on campus.

HOUSE has put forward an idea to provide all official student organizations — which are funded by the student government — with free access to website creation and maintenance services. It also supports the creation of a master calendar for all cultural and student organization events at the university.

TOGA has proposed increased communication and collaboration among student organizations and UISG through the creation of student leader summits — semiannual meetings among the leaders of UI’s student organizations and the president and vice president.

HOUSE has proposed a few promising changes to improve transparency in the student government. First, the party plans to publish a quarterly update on the student government’s progress and ongoing initiatives. Second, and more importantly, HOUSE plans to update the UISG website to make meeting minutes and relevant documents accessible to the public.

TOGA’s platform does not address the issue of government transparency directly.

As the candidates hash out their positions over the next week — in tonight’s debate, online, and elsewhere — pay attention to their messages and their proposals. Obviously, becoming informed is crucial in the voting process, but such knowledge is also necessary to hold the eventual winners accountable as they attempt to put their policies in place in the coming year.


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