It has been four weeks since the Central Student Government Assembly last passed an initiative not related to reforming its election process. As the current administration gears up for the winter semester, elected representatives may not accomplish as much as other assemblies have in the past, judging by the volume of legislation passed.
While Law student John Lin, a CSG representative, acknowledged that the majority of the representatives’ accomplishments were made outside of CSG, he said the lack of initiatives passed this semester is an ongoing problem for the assembly.
Lin, who is chair of the Resolutions Committee, said only one piece of legislation that dealt with “grassroots initiatives” was passed this year. All other work approved by CSG either amended the governing rules of student government or funded and sponsored campus organizations.
“That’s shocking,” Lin said. “The problem lies in what happens in a Tuesday night where it’s been overwhelmed by the rule changes — it hasn’t become that forum for ideas.”
In 2010, CSG advocated student veteran benefits and convinced University administrators to provide former service members with waived application fees and in-state tuition. The annual four-day Fall Study Break in mid-October and more Saturday night University dining options are also accomplishments of previous CSG administrations.
While the executive body of student government continued to work on its own initiatives — such as the off-campus bus route and the 24-hour café on North Campus — Lin said the assembly should be asking itself how they can be the voice of the entire student body rather than internally.
LSA junior Carly Manes, a CSG representative, realized the dearth of productive discussion that took place during the meetings when she joined the assembly in April. Manes and LSA sophomore Jacob Abudaram currently hold “Talks with Carly and Jacob” at 7 p.m. every Tuesday before CSG assembly meetings to encourage representatives to be more proactive and help them accomplish their platform goals.
“I have my fair share of criticisms for CSG and I think there are a lot of institutional issues in the way the organization runs that needs to be changed,” Manes said. “There’s no space for that kind of creativity and collaboration during assembly meetings.”
Manes said it’s a misconception that CSG’s productivity can be gauged by the volume of resolutions it has passed. She believes that resolutions are “more of a formality” and do not reflect the comprehensive, substantive work of the body.
Manes currently is working with the dean of the College of Engineering to make Race and Ethnicity classes a requirement for Engineering students, similar to the curriculum in LSA. Other ongoing projects spearheaded by representatives include institutionalizing voter registration at the University and increasing the availability and usefulness of Intergroup Relations classes.
However, these initiatives have yet to be brought through the legislative process and have not received the formal support of CSG.
Business senior Scott Christopher, former chair of CSG’s Entrepreneurship Commission, said he believes that the greatest strength of CSG leaders lies in the mentorship they can provide to the campus community.
“In my opinion, the most important role of the representative is to be the voice of the students outside of the meeting,” Christopher said. “CSG is a lot of bureaucracy, so if you want to get anything accomplished you have to be strategic.”
Christopher — who also served as the president of MPowered last year — said he believed that while formality was important to the institution, it often “bogged down” its productivity.
“It legitimizes in a lot of ways because I imagine if you were a representative, it makes you feel important and adds a sense of duty to it,” Christopher said. “But also, it makes you complacent.”