New student leaders explain plans for change
On March 31, the ballots were in and the winners were clear: Rotimi Abimbola and Adam Klein for student body president (SBP) and student body vice president (SBVP), with Nara Kasbergen as student body vice president of finance (SBVPF).
This year’s elections experienced a 20 percent increase in student voters, as estimated by Elections Board data, and was described by all three candidates as a really tough race. Although only days into their offices, all candidates already have immediate plans for action.
Both Abimbola, a junior double major in political science and international relations, and Klein, a junior double major in business administration and history and policy, thanked their competitors for all their hard work.
“The competition and greater campus awareness pushed us to make sure our platform was really solid,” Abimbola said.
The pair’s biggest initiative continues to be transparency, with the intention of ensuring accountability.
They plan to continue “Ask Adam, Talk to Timi,” their biweekly video as part of Mad Minutes, a brief update on what student government is up to, which is aired on their website, www.ak2009.com.
In discussion of office hours, the two showed their uniqueness in the way they interact as a pair. While Abimbola doubted the success of the program in past years, Klein suggested simply moving the location to a very public space like the Cut.
“You can see me being jaded from student government and Adam coming in with a fresh voice,” Abimbola said.
They both commented Jared Itkowitz and Pooja Godbole for their initiation of the Football Fever program and hope to expand it even further into the Tartan Rewards program.
This progam would honor students for constant attendance with the help of corporate sponsors, the athletic department, and other departments around campus.
“As it is now, people are coming to the games for the wrong reasons,” Klein said. “We can see this in the attendance in the games before and after [the featured ones]. We want to reward them for consistently coming.”
The pair will also be continuing the new Loop shuttle service, offering late-night rides back to campus for students at stops throughout Oakland and Station Square, and expanding the roles and positions available on the cabinet.
To ensure transparency in the financial realm, they have begun talking to the CFO about preparing student literature on exactly where tuition goes.
They have started organizing a Textbook Flea Market and Yard Sale for the end of the school year or the start of next fall semester.
The two are also planning to introduce first-year students to some of the core organizations on campus — Activities Board, Student Dormitories Council, cmuTV, and The Tartan — before all the others.
They want students to see that they are part of the entire university, not just one little organization or residence.
“We want to sow a seed of pride in them that grows in their time here,” Abimbola said. For Abimbola and Klein, the campaign has not yet ended. They hope for the campaign momentum to carry on.
Like her fellow winners, Kasbergen wants to increase transparency of student government actions. As SBVPF, she hopes to allocate funding so that students can see the value of their $92 student activities fee truly affecting their lives.
While Kasbergen said that the Joint Funding Committee (JFC) could always use more money, she said it was a matter of perspective for students: “They will never see a need to raise the fee but rather, one to just use the money more efficiently.”
Kasbergen said that her biggest challenge next year will be to use the money as efficiently as possible due to increasing strains from the economy.
“A lot of organizations are used to relying on department funding, corporate sponsors, and grants, all of which are now harder to come by,” she said.
Kasbergen has a number of ideas to help increase the efficiency of the JFC in the coming year.
She hopes to expand on the auditing system begun by former SBVPF Evan Osheroff, in which organizations sat down with their JFC representatives and broke down their exact budget for the year.
Kasbergen said that the plan was met with some resistance this year due to its being viewed by some JFC representatives as micro-managing.
“Auditing might even be the wrong word,” she said. “It would just really help JFC representatives to get to know the organization before providing funding.”
Kasbergen plans to continue to reform Budget Tracker, as well as allowing religious groups to apply for JFC funding.
Kasbergen’s most immediate plan, however, will be to sit down with Osheroff to go over, as well as update, the JFC bylaws.
The three winners of the student elections will be working closely to bring their campaigns to fruition.
“I’m really excited to get to work with [Abimbola],” Kasbergen added.