SU passes two initiatives to boost student involvement, access to student government

Student Union announced two new initiatives last week aimed at increasing opportunities for students to engage in Washington University and the wider community.

The initiatives were conceived by SU Exec, senior and SU President Emma Tyler said, as a way to provide undergraduate students with greater access to their student government.

One initiative will focus on SU resolutions, allowing students to contribute more directly to the voice of the undergraduate population, while the other will largely focus on funding for side projects.

The first of the two initiatives regards individual resolutions, which are statements aimed at addressing issues on campus regarding a variety of topics and issues. Before this new rule, resolutions had to be written by a senator and presented to SU Senate. Upon passage by the Student Union Senate, the resolutions would be forwarded to the University Council, where administrators have access to any and all resolutions written.

Because the student body elects the Senate, according to Tyler, these resolutions are seen as representing the opinion of the entire undergraduate student body.

One example of a recent resolution passed through the older system called for the College of Arts & Sciences to offer course credit for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps classes. For this resolution, a group of ROTC students contacted SU Senate, which wrote a resolution. Senate then passed the resolution and sent it along to administrators. From there, the College of Arts & Sciences picked up the resolution and agreed to begin giving course credit for ROTC classes.

Now, students will be able to voice their opinion directly to SU without needing to contact a senator first. The new process allows students to submit resolutions directly to Senate, and although Senate will still have to pass any resolution, senior and VP of Administration Vivek Biswas believes that the new initiative gives students a more direct route to having their voices heard by the administration. Students can submit resolutions on the Student Union website and will subsequently be put in contact with a senator to craft a resolution.

“These statements are directly sent to high-level administrators, including the chancellor, provost and all academic deans,” Biswas said. “By allowing any Washington University student to submit a resolution to Senate, we believe that the change the student body wants to see is one step closer to becoming a reality.”

The second initiative regards the Advocacy Fund, a new allocation designed to fund student groups or individuals interested in putting on community outreach and engagement programming to advocate for particular political and social change.

SU President Emma Tyler said that before the Advocacy Fund initiative, no SU fund had ever existed specifically for such advocacy efforts.

“Student groups have always been allowed to appeal to Treasury, but Treasury just typically hasn’t funded either off campus or events that don’t directly give back to the Wash. U. community, and so we created this to kind of fill a gap and a need for funding for students and student groups,” Tyler said.

On Tuesday night, Student Union funded its first appeal through the Advocacy Fund for an event called “Reimagining Solidarity,” which will take place on Tuesday, March 3 at 7 p.m. in the Danforth University Center. The event is a vigil series honoring victims of systematic violence from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Tyler explained that the fund was constructed to be broad so that it can grow into an all-encompassing resource for activities as varied as advocacy-related programming, cultural groups, community engagement activities and volunteer experiences. The 2015-16 general budget passed Tuesday night put $10,000 in the fund for next year, and SU hopes that that number will grow throughout the upcoming years.

Despite having not previously heard of the Advocacy Fund, junior Adi Radhakrishnan noted his excitement upon learning its details.

“The Advocacy Fund sounds like an incredible way for Student Union to engage more of the general student body. Hopefully this direct connection to funding will encourage students to pursue their passions and add value to the Washington University community,” Radhakrishnan said.

All undergraduates, regardless of student group affiliation, are eligible to apply, and the appeal form can be found on the SU Finance website. The process is similar to submitting an appeal to SU Treasury, except appeals to the Advocacy Fund will be looked at by Student Union Exec instead.

Editor’s note: This article has been amended to reflect that the new initiatives were conceived by SU Exec.

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Alex SiegmanComment