USG wasted fall by focusing on puppies and water fountains

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.45.39 PMA flurry of excitement and optimism ushered in Nevin Kulangara and the current USG administration last spring. Student government at Fordham was going to hit the refresh button on its soured image by flexing some muscle and opening otherwise-closed doors on behalf of the student body. (Their job, basically.)

USG was going to reclaim its role as a powerful student advocacy organization by proving that it can use its valuable resources and privileged seat at the table to make change and improve the university.

USG was entering its Age of Enlightenment — until it wasn’t.

The midyear report USG released to campus media last week is clear evidence that this administration has completely failed to live up to the expectations set for it. Despite a strong start to the fall semester, any momentum this administration once had has officially run dry.

The efforts of our student government this fall stray far from the tone Kulangara and his running mate (now vice president) Sarah Skrobala set during their highly effective campaign last spring.

Instead of following up on their promise to spotlight big-picture issues — bridging Rose Hill and the surrounding Bronx community, reevaluating the community board posting policies and bolstering USG’s presence among clubs and organizations — they have favored smaller pet projects of decidedly lesser impact.

What’s worse is that most of these projects have yet to be concretely implemented, as they sit in discussion and/or exploratory phases.

Highlights of the report:

  • “Senators Peter Vergara and Kayla Straub were concerned with the lack of water bottle refill stations around campus.” They have begun discussions with admin.
  • “Senator Katie Peachman noticed that the current smoking policy is not adequately enforced.” She will administer a survey to students to see if a policy change is needed.
  • “President Kulangara’s main initiative for this past semester” — more like, past two years — “has been the establishment of an official club at Fordham called Fordham Student Holdings.” He will hopefully launch the club next fall.
  • “Senator TJ Strazzeri, VP of Student Life Ashley Domagola and Senator Christine Phelan” — though she recently quit the job — “have begun researching the benefits of bringing licensed therapy dogs to campus.” Dogs will hopefully be on campus during this semester’s finals week. (CAB has already done this. Minus points for originality.)
  • “Based on student interest in soccer channels, Senator Vergara has begun researching pricing options for soccer [TV] channel packages.”

There are more, of course, but this is a solid representation of what your student government was doing on your behalf in the fall. Satisfied? I’m not.

USG shamelessly kowtowed to administrators when it came to Fordham SAGES, a student group that has sought to amend the university’s birth control policies and promote free speech on campus. Their silence in this area continues to disappoint.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 10.02.51 PM(Also, for the money we’re throwing at CAB, let’s hope for a little better than Cold War Kids this year…)

Having said that, there are pieces of the report that deserve credit:

  • “In response to the growing number of colleges and universities currently under investigation for the mishandling of incidents of sexual assault, harassment, and rape on their respective campuses, USG voted to create a Task Force to review and address the issue on our own campus.” The task force has hosted: Speak out/vigil event, Q&A event with administrators, workshop on Consent Culture.
  • “Harrison Pidgeon, VP of Health & Security, brought to Mr. John Carroll, Associate Vice President for Public Safety, the concern that the off-campus security shuttles do not circle the Belmont Community every half an hour, but instead wait at the Finlay Gate. Mr. Carroll has assured VP Pidgeon that this concern will be addressed.”
  • “Senators Thomas Samuelson, Thomas Roemer and Evan Swager worked tirelessly during Summer 2014 into October 2014 to push for incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Rob Astorino to debate at Fordham.”
  • “The USG Sustainability Sub-Committee is in the process of completing a “How to be Sustainable on Campus” guide for members of the Fordham community.”
  • “Working with Dean Rapaccioli and the Office of Public Safety, Kosta Demopoulos (VP of GSB) has been looking to help implement a system whereby students serve as building managers for Hughes on weekends.” (The goal is extended hours.)

It is important for class representatives (senators) to bring unique ideas and fresh perspectives to the table, but at some point Kulangara has to grab the bull by the horns. Before it’s too late, he must put his smart campaign agenda on the shoulders of USG senators and fulfill his empty promises. Progress is challenging, but making an effort really isn’t. 

We’ve got bigger problems if this administration thinks puppies and water fountains are what students want from USG.

Point of View is an opinion column.

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