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While many of us know the acronym that is colloquially used to denote the United Student Government of Fordham, few know just how significant the behind-the-scenes work of this club is to the school at large (or at least, the potential it has to affect the school at large). Be it a fault on the part of the Fordham community dictated by a culture of apathy, on the part of USG for insufficient publicity, or a combination of the two, USG’s presence in our community at Fordham is far from palpable, especially in comparison to the other student governments on campus. Anisah Assim (FCRH ’16), current Pro-Tempore of USG and VP of Sustainability, speaks on the issue that is lack of visibility, offering that, “CAB and RHA have events throughout the year that everyone looks forward to. Their effects are immediate, and they are everywhere. While USG may be the largest student government on campus, most of what [we] do takes place in the background.”
The official Constitution states that the USG is the elected representation of the student body. “Members of USG are responsible for representing the student voice, responding to the entire student body’s concerns, opinions, and ideas, promoting student involvement in campus activities to hearten a proud campus community, enhancing student life, facilitating productive communication between students and administrators, and sustaining the registration, maintenance, and budgeting of student run organizations.”
This is why it is so important that, as a student body, we are both inquisitive and selective in our assessment of prospective candidates. The benefits of reciprocal care are manifold. If the students exercise their support by casting an informed vote, they invest themselves in a candidate. A President or VP with a large student backing is more empowered and thus more inclined to take risks. This breeds change. This breeds success. It is only with this supportive community that the USG can carry out their responsibility to affect change and improve the Fordham student experience.
According to current VP of Student Life, Peter Vergara (FCRH ’18), “USG serves as one of the most effective and active bridges between the students and the faculty; furthermore, the initiatives that USG pursues and the events we host/co-sponsor very intentionally target the needs of the student body. For USG to be most efficient, we need constant communication with all students from all areas at Fordham. This starts with voting. Informed voting enables USG to serve students even better.”
It seems to be the case that concerns among the student body are most often voiced in casual settings… grievances exchanged across tables in the cafeteria. If USG becomes formally aware of changes that need to be made, amazing things can happen. USG is the reason for everything from freshmen getting their schedules before entering campus, to the library being open until 2AM; from the McGinley Center Art Gallery exhibition, to the implementation of locks and window shades in academic buildings. The USG’s Diversity Action Coalition is in the process of responding to all of the bias incidents across campus, as well as working with the administration in both colleges to create a first year seminar for freshmen students based around the bronx and diversity. *This seminar is the first student initiative to be passed by the FCRH college council.* USG is also responsible for addressing the Fordham communities sustainability concerns – all because one day, Anisah was approached by a Fordham student wondering why there were no recycling bins around campus. Just like that, the Sustainability Committee was instated as a council of the USG, and recycling bins were placed in every classroom and dorm-room campus wide. The Sustainability Committee went on to help the school submit a grant for increased electric vehicle charging stations, a green roof, and solar panels.
The immediate reaction of USG is a mandate to act. All they are waiting for is a formal initiative on the part of the student body, so that they can work in tandem with us to breed resolution. There needs to be an equal and complementary process of feedback and implementation. Where to begin, you ask? This is the website of USG. Email anyone – beyond grievances, share suggestions. Make proposals. Report problems. They are the 311 for Fordham, if you will. Attend one of their meetings– they are all open to the public. Make your venting sessions vehicles for change.
Election Commission Chairperson, Darcy McGuire (GSB ’16), adds that in terms of communication, there is room for improvement on USG’s end as well. According to her, USG can have a “more active social media presence and require senators to interact with their own student populations on a more regular basis. If people see firsthand USG members working on anything, no matter how small, it could make a world of a difference. USG could alter its “brand” (if you will) from unapproachable and stoic to friendly and diligent with a couple of small changes.”
Fordham has put in place an organization, chosen by the students, to work for the students, to affect the change we want to see in the University. Let’s give them the opportunity to exercise the power we have given them, and let them know what we want.