USG successful as student voice

Try to remember back when you were an infant. When you first started making barely-audible sounds, it was because you didn’t know how to use your voice.

As we grew older, different people began to use that voice for different reasons. Some used it for criticisms – everyone will have their criticisms.

Yet I would be remiss if I did not discredit the inaccurate criticisms. This past year has been full of lots of fun and interesting experiences; not only for me personally, but for Undergraduate Student Government and for the student body.

Contrary to some individual beliefs, USG is actually the undergraduate student voice. And this past year, we were able to make that apparent in a number of ways.

This last year’s student government put together a few new ways to reach out to the students and revamped some of the old ones.

There was the redesign of the Web site and the creation of a Student Resource Page to be used to help navigate the University.

But also, we chalked, talked and walked around to ensure that people saw us throughout the year. We created the “Got Issues?” boxes that gave students the opportunity to give us their feedback and issues anonymously; these boxes produced our list of 22 issues we worked on vigorously in the second semester.

For those of you who argue that you only see us around election time, where were you throughout the rest of the academic year?

At the beginning of the year, I gave the State of the Student Body Address in the Falcon’s Nest; it was a Wednesday at 6 p.m. to make sure there were lots of people there.

I started the speech telling people this was not for any specific group of people, but that it was for everyone who was there that evening. It was broadcasted by BG24 and made front-page news the next day.

A similar, but more interactive event was done in the spring semester. This time on a Monday at the same time in the Nest, it was titled, “What are your falcon issues?” There was a good turnout, and individuals gave a lot of feedback on what they would like to see worked on.

How have we advocated for what students really want?

We did have some say in the rollover issue. Again, to clarify, we do have votes on many University committees. In fact, we have a vote on the Faculty Senate Budget Committee. When the Dining Services Budget came forward with rollover changes in mind, we voted against it, listening to the voice of the students who we represent.

We understand why UDS has to go in this direction, but we are working with them to also meet the needs and wishes of this student body.

It’s not easy to be in these positions. People often take prods at what you do and how you do it; but this year, I am proud to say that we’ve continued to be successful, despite the criticisms.

USG, our student voice, will continue to get better. I can see that in the new USG and I believe that it will continue long after I am gone. But that is not the question; I would be inattentive if I did not acknowledge the accomplishments of this year.

We have been adamantly working on the shuttle issue. We want to make sure that the shuttle meets most of the needs of the students.

We’ve also created and are working to publicize faculty evaluations and worked to extend the hours at the library. On a larger scale, we’ve begun working with our colleagues at other universities to find ways to cut down textbook costs and keep down the cost of tuition across the state.

On a personal note, I’ve enjoyed serving in my most recent capacity as president. And although I no longer serve in that position, I have decided to stay on for my last academic year to serve as a senator because of the energy and passion I personally have for this student body and the its betterment.

Some people believe I’m just here to add something to my resume, but the truth is that I’m here to make this campus better; that is what is important to me and many of the other people I have worked with.

There aren’t words to describe the end of this presidency. But I would be a horrible person if I did not publicly thank all of the people who served this year.

Above and beyond those thanks, I have to thank our former vice president, Nick Gamero. Without him, this year would not have been as productive as it has been.

Overall, don’t be so quick to listen to the critics. Often, that information is not accurate, and they carry ulterior motives.

USG is our student voice, and like when we were infants, we have to find the best way to effectively use it.

Johnnie L. Lewis is a junior majoring in liberal studies. He ended his yearlong term as USG president earlier this month.