By Marissa Payne
Student leaders will spend the summer building bridges — metaphorical ones, of course — with the goal of helping students cross over them.
The University of Iowa Student Government leadership duo, UISG President Jacob Simpson and UISG Vice President Lilián Sánchez, are gearing up for the school year by working with other UISG members to advocate for the initiatives they championed while campaigning in March on the Bridge UI ticket.
UISG vice president Lilian Sanchez poses for a portrait in the UISG offices in the IMU on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. Sanchez and president Simpson are working to continue progress from the previous administration. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)
UISG Chief of Staff Lindsey Rayner said summer is a great time for UISG because fewer students on campus means more access to administrators and professors.
While UISG is building on the progress made under former UISG President Rachel Zuckerman’s administration, Reyner said, the Bridge UI platform addresses new topics.
“Jacob and Lilián have a larger focus on academic culture in the university, so they’re very much focused on ensuring the academic programs are where they need to be, ensuring that financial literacy services are effectively serving students,” she said.
Simpson said the transition to leading UISG has been smooth in part because of the strategic plan UISG passed during the spring 2017 semester. There have also been discussions with past presidents, including Zuckerman, to ensure continued progress as well as shared governance leaders, Simpson said.
Sánchez said the UI administration has been interested in hearing UISG’s thoughts with these conversations.
“I think all the conversations that we’ve been having are very student-success driven, and … it’s our goal this year to get as much student input as possible,” she said.
Maintaining affordability has been a top priority in these discussions, Simpson said.
UISG President Jacob Simpson poses for a portrait in the UISG offices in the IMU on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. Simpson and vice president Lilián Sanchez are working to continue progress from the previous administration. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)
“We want to make sure that whatever the university proposes to the [state] Board of Regents for a five-year [tuition] plan, we’re aware of that before it’s being proposed so that our priorities are reflected in the plan and that we can continue to have a conversation as the plan develops so we can make sure that students are being cared for in the best way possible,” he said.
Affordability is not UISG’s only concern, however; *The Daily Iowan* spoke with several other members of the organization for an overview of the initiatives they are working on over the summer.
Transparency in student organization funding
UISG Senior Financial Officer Jeremy Vogel said officials are working with the Student Assembly of Budgeting and Allocations Committee to create a funding manual explaining how student organizations — which are largely funded by the student activities fee — can request money from UISG.
Additionally, Vogel said, starting July 1, the beginning of fiscal 2018, UISG will post monthly updates about how it spends money and show funding requests, something UISG has not done before.
In regard to how organizations might be affected by the state’s cuts to victim services, Vogel said no need has surfaced to prompt UISG to address the potential impact defunding of these programs will have to campus services such as the Rape Victim Advocacy Program.
“In the past, the dean of students … wanted a pool of money that would be able to help students in a situation that was an emergency,” Vogel said, a proposal UISG has accepted, and the financial officer could see something similar happening with the victim-services cuts.
“… If it comes to us, we would probably either help fund or fully fund or partially fund a program for survivors of sexual assault, because we have a history of doing it for other things that are similar,” Vogel said.
Diversity and inclusion
Apoorva Raikwar, the UISG director of diversity and inclusion, said there is more excitement surrounding initiatives to elevate diversity and inclusion efforts in light of incidents that took place the previous school year targeting minority students.
Raikwar said UISG is working to encourage the university to support celebrations of multicultural holidays and get a statement added in the syllabus detailing the UI’s policies on the matter.
“Right now, there’s nothing [on the university website] about any [religious] holidays, and that might be kind of safe to not show any favoritism toward any religion, but we think it’d be a better idea to show support for everyone’s holidays,” she said.
She said she is also working to improve food funding for multicultural student organizations and work with IMU catering to enable the organizations to celebrate their respective holidays and traditions.
Boosting safety in the city
To ensure off-campus housing options are safe for students, Benjamin Nelson, UISG City Council liaison, said UISG is pushing for increased effectiveness of apartment locks and possibly requiring deadbolt locks, which Simpson said is something Mayor Jim Throgmorton supports and indicated could take effect be the end of the summer.
Along with the lock legislation, Nelson said UISG is looking to get background checks for property management employees.
“There have been instances in the past where you might have an employee who is a criminal of some sort … or maybe a sex offender, and we don’t feel that it’s appropriate that those sorts of employees would be able to have 24-hour access to apartment units that students live in,” he said.