A Programmer’s Foray Into Student Government

Almost four months ago, I decided to run an exec position on the Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) Undergraduate Student Government (USG).

The current Vice President of Information Technology was stepping down for a semester long internship (also called a co-op), and the General Assembly (GA) needed to elect a replacement for the semester. On the recommendation of one of my fraternity brothers, I decided to go for it. I showed up to Adelbert on a snowy Tuesday night, delivered a three minute pitch (speech) about why the representatives should vote for me, answered a few questions, and stepped out of the room to allow the other candidates to do the same. I did not think I would win, given that the other two candidates were on the IT committee, and I knew almost nothing about the USG. After long deliberation, I was invited back into the room and welcomed with “congratulations VP Bentley”. I had won, and thus started a semester long journey into the inner workings of Case Western Reserve University.

The USG

The Undergraduate Student Government has two primary purposes: advocate to the administration on behalf of the student body, and recognize and fund student groups. The funding comes from the student activity fee (SAF), a $171 charge that is added to tuition to fund student activities. This comes out to a bit more than $800,000 per semester, of which the USG gets about 23%, or about $200,000.

The USG is composed of the General Assembly, the Executive Committee, and five other committees. The General Assembly is everyone, is chaired by the USG’s speaker, and has the authority to vote on resolutions, recognize or de-recognize student organizations, and overturn decisions by any committee. The executive committee is chaired by the president, and is made up of the student body president, the five vice presidents, the Chief Judicial Officer (CJO), the secretary, speaker, and treasurers, and is tasked with setting the direction of the USG. The five VPs each lead their respective committees: Student Life, Academic Affairs, Finance, Information Technology (IT), and Public Relations (PR). Student Life, Academic Affairs, all advocate to the administration regarding topics relevant to that committee. Finance is responsible for running the day to day business of allocating money to student organizations (and the treasurers deal with the paperwork from that). And PR works to get the word out about what USG is doing and conduct surveys of undergraduate students.

IT

In January, I was elected Vice President of IT. This means I would lead the IT committee, make sure the USG website stays mostly working, serve on the USG executive committee, and regularly meet with administrators in Information Technology Services (ITS) and in other IT roles.

I have learned and done a lot as VP of IT. Right off the bat, I had to quickly learn how to run a committee meeting and help representatives do their jobs. Additionally, I found myself setting up a monthly meeting with the university’s Vice President of IT and Chief Information Officer, as well as several other administrators. I get to carry through on work started before I joined USG, such as efforts to improve campus Wifi and update department websites. And next week, I get to meet with the Faculty Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education (FSCUE)to ask for a database dump of course evaluations.

To The Point

So why am I writing this blog post? Well, for two primary reasons, the second of which I’ll get to later. But first, it is to show to college students, particularly Computer Science students and other engineers that are inclined to remain in their own little bubble, that student government can be impactful and rewarding. It turns out that collecting student feedback, writing a resolution, and delivering both to the administration can be really effective. And the faculty, staff, and administrators actually care about what we say. As a member of the USG executive committee, I see firsthand that we receive responses within hours of sending out a resolution, set up meetings within a couple weeks, and see action the same month. I was a bit sceptical of this when I joined, but I have since seen that students come first not only for the USG, but also for most faculty, staff, and administrators.

So, if you are a student at CWRU, I would encourage you to run. Letters of intent are closed for this election cycle, but openings almost always come up as some representatives have to resign. Keep an eye on the USG newsletter for opportunities to run. And if you do not want to be a representative, you are alway welcome at GA and any committee meetings.

To The Point, part 2

The second point is to announce my candidacy for re-election to the position of VP of IT. I recognize that since I am running unopposed, I do not need to campaign, but I would like to get the word out about the elections. To CWRU students: vote on April 6th and 7th! The USG represents you, and this is your first chance to impact how we do so for the next year.

I am not going to restate my full letter of intent here; you can read that on the USG website (just scroll down a bit).

You can support me by joining my Facebook event.

Add a comment

Name:

Website (optional):

Comment: