New members of USG have a lot of work to do

Sean Lutzmann and Sean Lutzmann

The new members of Undergraduate Student Government will be sworn in next Monday. I hope they will enter their new positions with a sense of urgency, responding to a few key issues. The first two are matters of on-campus street conditions. I’m sure those of us who read the story about two students being hit while crossing Mercer Street were a little disturbed the authorities will wait for accidents like that to happen again before any changes are made to address the safety issue, like adding a stop sign or speed bumps. It will be up to USG to make the case to the Bowling Green City Council that it would be irresponsible to leave the Mercer crosswalk situation the way it is and just hope pedestrians do a better job looking both ways and that drivers do a better job recognizing the warning signs on this poorly-lit street. This time we were lucky no one was killed, and I don’t think anyone wants to have an easily preventable death on their conscience just because they didn’t feel like raising a little fuss at the next city council meeting. The other issue that needs to be addressed by USG next year may not be as pressing as the last one as it does not directly relate to protecting the safety of students, but it sure would make their lives a lot better when walking to and from classes – the conditions on Ridge Street. I’m sure most students are aware it can be quite an adventure during a rainy day walking to a class in Olscamp or Overman. If you’re not worried about being splashed on the sidewalk by speeding cars, you’re worrying about how to avoid the little ponds that form and cover up huge sections of sidewalk, leading you to take your chances walking through the muddy swampland that forms just outside the puddles. Of course, pedestrians can usually always find alternative (albeit longer) routes to get to their classes in order to avoid the Ridge Street ordeal, but at the very least the conditions need to be improved for the drivers who use the road and would rather not give their tires a thrashing every time they go to and from classes or other University events. Hopefully this is one of the priorities of the new President and Vice-President of the USG as one of the most prominent issues they were running on was the continued focus on campus beautification. In my mind, by fixing the sidewalks on either side of the street and the numerous potholes on Ridge itself, USG would not only be making the University look nicer, they would also be giving students one less stressful thing to worry about on their way to classes. Odds are that these two issues are not the biggest priorities on a lot of students’ minds. These are just two items that one student among thousands has recognized as something USG members should spend some time on. That is why it’s important that if any undergraduate does see something not being talked about by their student government, they make it a point to get in touch with their representatives at the weekly general assembly meetings, at their office hours or online (most members are on Facebook). Even if you do think something like road conditions on or even off campus is beyond its authority to directly address, it’s important to realize that it’s the job of USG to talk to the government officials who are directly responsible and get results. In a lot of ways, USG is the student body’s lobbying firm in the halls of power (only most of us charge no fee), so try not to sell it too short when it comes to influencing policies affecting you as a student. Having said that, there is still one thing I hope next year’s USG improves on – its availability to its constituency. It’s too easy for USG senators to ignore any of the issues faced by students outside their own circle of friends, so in order to protect against such tendencies there needs to be some serious outreach in the form of numerous town hall-style meetings. These meetings need to be held throughout campus and at varying hours of the day to fit as many schedules as possible so USG can have a better idea what kinds of issues its constituency wants its representatives to prioritize. In the end we get the kind of government we deserve. That’s true on all levels of government. In the words of Ralph Nader, ‘There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship.’ Be sure to get involved in the organization that claims to speak on your behalf.