USG discusses initiatives and holds special elections at spring retreat

The Undergraduate Student Government met to discuss progress on its three initiatives, add a small spring initiative and elect two special-election candidates at its spring retreat Saturday.

“A big part of this retreat was to regroup and get everyone on the same page,” said Corey Dahl, USG vice president of public relations. “We want to be more effective as USG and make the university community great.”

At the retreat, USG filled two vacancies by electing Tom Deiley as transfer student senator and Monique Volz as senior class senator.

USG members also voted on a spring initiative to improve the J-term meal plan hours at the cafeteria to accommodate students who have a late class and who then have to eat off-campus although they have a meal plan.

The retreat focused on the three initiatives set in the fall: creating a smoke-free campus, strengthening neighborhood relations and improving the transfer student orientation experience.

USG President Dwight Anderson said all three initiatives have made progress, especially the smoke-free initiative. Sophomore Class President Mike Orth is working on a report based on a survey USG conducted last semester, and students can expect another survey this semester.

USG is looking at other methods, such as enforcing the rule about smoking at least 30 feet away from building entrances and assigning designated smoking areas. USG is also researching how other universities enforce rules and transition to designated smoking areas.

USG will continue working on improving neighborhood relations and the transfer student transition, Anderson said.

“Improving neighborhood relations will be an ongoing process, but things are improving and complaints are going down,” Anderson said. “Things don’t happen in one year, so we’re trying to find a way to keep the initiatives alive from year to year in order for the university to see a change.”

In September 2009, 107 issues were reported to St. Thomas, neighborhood liaison John Hershey said. The number of reports decreased to 87 in September 2010, and has continued to decrease each month in the fall.

“The overall outlook on community relations is probably better now than in the past, but it depends where and how you look at it,” Hershey said.

In order to do this, Greg Scharine, vice president of financial affairs, said the executive board is trying to find a way to transition from year-to-year without losing their progress.

USG also discussed senior river boat, senior gift and a finance speaker series this spring, organized by Scharine and Scott Hansen, senior class senator.

The series, which is open to all students, will include sessions with several St. Thomas alumni to talk about insurance, retirement plans, how to pay off loans after college and when to start saving money for children’s college funds.

“If we can help the student body with challenges they face, then it is our job to allow USG to be an outlet to provide those opportunities,” Dahl said. “The finance series this spring will be a way for us to be an outlet and help.”

Student concerns

Although freshmen Alizabeth Candler and Ranitha Rajaratnan are impressed by the improvements made with the smoke-free initiative, they said they still think USG should work on it.

Rajaratnan said USG should come up with an initiative to promote diversity at St. Thomas because of all the obstacles she faced at the beginning of the year.

“I definitely think they should try to promote equality,” Rajaratnan said. “I might not fit everyone’s cookie-cutter description, but I’m still human like everyone else.”

Sophomore Grant Spanier thinks USG should focus on fixing some aspects of dining services.

“The cost is way too high for food here,” Spanier said. “And it doesn’t make sense why they don’t allow meals to rollover to the next semester. It’s a huge waste of money.”

Ashley Stewart can be reached at