LETTERS

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April 24, 2019

The Reform Manifesto

A robbery of a student last Monday, a series of 11 burglaries in March, a lock-down in February. Why do these events go under-reported to the student community?

A nontransparent policing budget, a “faulty” preemptive threat of an LGBTQ+ garty, a student shot. And this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the UCPD. Yet our present challenges go beyond that.

Racial epithets at the Law School, donor favoritism at Career Advancement, legal conflicts between the administration and graduate student workers. Why does this list keep going on?

Student Government’s leadership during the past couple of years has been inactive on the issues referenced above as well as many other pressing matters pertaining to student life. As a result, we, the student body, have become used to the image of Student Government as apathetic, siloed, and unimpactful.

This reality deeply impacts the students with unmet needs who, without effective Student Government legislation to support them, are left to face the administration on their own.

Above all, the past Student Government leadership’s betrayal of the interests of the student community is evidenced by the closed-door passing of the Executive Leadership Remuneration Act, which allocated $9,000 of potential RSO and student initiative funding to pay the executives of Student Government.

And yet, the student body should not mistake ineffectiveness and selfishness for institutional inability. With the right leadership, Student Government has the power to enact impactful change and renew its promise to our student body. We should not be intimidated by the roadblocks ahead. We are a great university and while the challenges we face are many, they are well within our capacity to solve.

As the Reform slate, we combine a proactive mentality with a commitment to seeking input from both the students and the broader Hyde Park community to transform the Student Government into a united, effective, and responsive agent of change.

Our team, comprising first-year David Liang, second-year Kyle Shishkin, and first-year Anya Wang, combines Student Government experience and a deep-seated commitment to fundamental reform at our university.

The Reform slate takes a firmly progressive stance on UCPD transparency and graduate student unionization, proposes common-sense initiatives toward promoting student mental health and improving campus Greek life climate, and advocates for more equitable RSO funding and Student Government fiscal responsibility, among other key issues.

While this is only the beginning of the reform we seek, the following briefly outlines just three of our policy proposals.

We stand firmly with our students and the local community in addressing the issues concerning the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD).

Ensuring the safety alerts are sent out in a way consistent with present danger, rather than after the danger has passed, is critical to providing a safe environment for our students. That is why we aim to revisit the UCPD’s approach and guidance in communicating with the student body and the Hyde Park community.

The policing experiences of the students and the Hyde Park community need to be heard and in concert with the UCPD and University administration, hearings must be held to heed those grievances.

In the interest of trust and transparency, the UCPD should release its annual budget and the General Orders of the UCPD, like the Chicago Police Department already does. That is why we are committed to working with the UCPD and student groups to ensure and advise this change in their service.

Most importantly, we plan to give back the right to nominate three members of the UCPD Independent Review Committee to Student Government, ensuring that the students are selected for the job by their fellow students, and not by the administration.

With the notoriously stressful environment at the University of Chicago, most of us can name a friend, roommate, or classmate whose academic future has been hampered by mental health struggles, and unfortunately, those struggles are far from disappearing from our community.

In the past, we have had “mental health days,” but we know that mental health needs more than just a day of “breakout sessions and workshops” to be improved. It is a day-to-day battle, one that needs continuous assistance in order to be won.

A pervasive campus-wide issue with lasting consequences demands a more organized response. This is precisely why we support the creation of a standing Committee on Campus Mental Health with $20,000 in annual funds, similar to the Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Committee that currently exists. With funding and legislative support, the committee would be empowered to generate more effective student-made solutions through partnerships with RSOs and larger-scale initiatives like “mental health month.”

We stand by the student body’s right to transparency—to know firstly, what exactly their student representatives are doing, and secondly, how their student life fees are spent. The passage of the Freedom of Information Act, established by a member of our slate, demonstrates our commitment to this principle, and yet more remains to be done.

Student Government oversees the distribution of over $1 million to RSOs, the very backbone of our University experience. Unless we can ensure that such money is equitably and transparently divvied out, we are failing every student that contributes to that fund. This is why we are committed to enacting the Fiscal Accountability, Integrity, and Responsibility Act, in direct response to this ongoing problem.

Also pertinent to our finances is the question of whether or not Student Government executives should be paid—the legislation regarding which was repealed last spring by an overwhelming majority of students through a referendum.

That is not a question that should be answered by Student Government alone, lest we see a repeat of last year—our Student Government, in the closed-door last meeting of the year, voting to pay themselves without student approval or even an announcement.

That wasn’t the first time, but if we are elected, it will be the last time. That is why we propose an amendment to the Student Government constitution, mandating that any legislation involving executive salary will not take effect unless approved by a student referendum.

Lastly, we believe it to be inappropriate that the student community remains uninformed and uninvolved in critical legislative discussions, and we seek to make the Student Government minutes more accessible to the student body.

Much more remains to be done and talked about, particularly graduate student unionization and how administrative relations with Greek life are handled. The full platform of the Reform slate can be found on our website: uc-reformers.org.

Reform is here.

Thank you,

The Reform Slate

uc-reformers.org

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