Last year, Eric Weissmann’s election platform for the Students’ Association presidency contained three basic tenets ‘enhancing student life, energizing the campus community and connecting students to student government.”
However, Weissmann’s year-in-review on Friday in the Gowen Room was not that simplistic.
In keeping with a 27-year tradition, the SA President and senior gave a full account of the ‘State of the SA” summarizing his administration’s and various student government branches’ accomplishments, as well as providing his advice and vision for the SA’s future.
‘I am pleased to formally declare that the State of the SA is extraordinarily strong.”
The former senator and co-chair of the SA Projects and Services Committee spoke at length about the SA’s functions over the year, both old and new.
Apart from its annual services, the Projects and Services Committee expanded its support of postseason club and sport activities. Over the year, the committee helped send competitive teams to nationals as well as organized buses for UR fans to cheer on men’s squash and women’s basketball.
‘This is one area where we’re thrilled to spend money,” Weissmann said. ‘We want to encourage their continued success by lending our support.”
The Committee also focused on providing students with a revamped discount taxi program (which should launch in the fall), creating a list of priorities for where to expand wireless access, and sponsoring the first ‘Walk for Facilities.”
Meanwhile, the Policy and Review Committee worked to address a concern raised in the past few years that student organizations are growing too large in number and are straining faculty and financial resources.
Last year, a total of four SA Recognized groups were added in the school year, while the 08-09 year saw 14.
Another point on the Weissmann/Crowley platform last year was to focus on increasing sustainability within the SA and without. This included the addition of a SA Sustainability Coordinator, junior Megan DeWitt, and a proposal currently under review to encourage cheaper double-sided printing.
Finding the students’ pulse
In both his platform last year and speech on Friday, Weissmann distinguished one goal from the rest the importance of better communication.
The new SA Web site, called the Hive, launched on August 30, 2009. Weissmann cited that over 14,000 unique visitors have accessed it since. In the spring the SA added the final piece of the puzzle, the Campus Club Connection, finishing its task to create a more dynamic, user-driven Web site model.
Weissmann and Crowley’s unique initiative, which they ran on last year, was to allow students easy means to contact and learn about student government. For example, ‘Rocky’s Report” was a brand-new monthly e-newsletter. Weissmann used ‘Rocky’s Report” as evidence against notion that students are apathetic, explaining they only need the correct channel.
Fireside Chats, another initiative, were meant to replace poorly attended Town Hall meetings. However, these chats saw similar sporadic attendance. Weissmann said the feedback gathered at these meetings were still worthwhile to consider in SA priorities.
Raising the bar
Inherent in many of Weissmann’s goals and strategies for the SA was to raise the profile of student government. He sought to accomplish that with better communication, but he also stressed the importance of establishing relationships with the UR administration in his Friday speech.
‘Student Government needs the support of administrators to accomplish our goals, and administrators need the support of student government to ensure decisions positively impact the student body,” he said. ‘I urge my successor and all future SA Government leaders to build on this trust and treat administrators as allies, not as enemies.”
It was a belief echoed throughout Weissmann’s speech, from praising Director of Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations Cameron Schauf for running a student-driven program, to his reflection that the lesson learned from the controversial alcohol policy change in the fall was the need to work more closely together with the Dean of Students Office.
For a more detailed look at the SA’s self review, see the first-ever Annual Report, available on the Hive. This document, and online supplementary material, document its growth in 2009-10.