Campaign Promises Fulfilled?
SA's e-board is halfway through their term and 50-50 on major election pledges.
Last March, "The Results" party, consisting of current Student Association President Christian Oliver, Vice President Joshua Korman, Treasurer Naazli Ahmed and New York State Student Assembly Delegates Jennifer Brace, Laszlo Kerekgyarto and John Haumesser, won SA's annual election in a clean sweep. As the mid-semester mark draws near, The Spectrum evaluates their ability to make campaign promises reality.
Success: Online Course Evaluations and Book Exchange
One of the main issues on "The Results" party platform was to get student course evaluation results online. Peter Gold, associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, said SA had approached the administration about the issue over the last two years. This year, said Gold, after careful review, CAS determined the information was public and agreed to comply with the student government's request.
According to Korman, evaluation results from last semester's CAS courses will be posted on SA's Web site before registration opens for the spring 2002 semester.
He said providing convenient access to evaluation results was a major priority for SA because its officials believe students have a right to know which professors their peers hold in high regard and which have received less than stellar reviews.
"I think it's a good thing and students need access to the information," said Korman. "The only way to judge is to see what students have to say."
Gold explained the evaluations are divided into three parts: written comments for the professor, specific questions about the classroom (the syllabus, classroom technology, course materials, etc.) and overall summary questions.
The summaries are the only portion of the evaluation that will be posted on the Web site because, Gold said, they contain the most "useful" information for students.
"[The summary questions] tell you plenty," said Gold. "They are predictable if you know the answers to the other questions."
Posting student evaluations was first proposed by Leejoe Pallickal, SA academic affairs director for the 1999-2000 school year.
"I'm happy that something important went through while I'm still here and I was part of this change that will benefit students," said Ahmed, who worked under Pallickal.
Around the same time, SA plans to launch the promised online book exchange, which will enable students to post advertisements for textbooks and sell, buy and exchange textbooks with other students. Korman said the system will enable students to avoid paying "ridiculous" prices at the University Bookstore.
"We don't have any loyalty to the bookstore," he said. "We're here to represent the students' best interests."
In contrast to their progress with the evaluations and the book exchange, SA's e-board has been unable to fulfill one of their more controversial promises: bringing student health services to North Campus.
According to Korman, university officials have expressed an interest in bringing such services to North Campus, but have no plans for the near future drafted.
"That doesn't help students now," Korman said. "The administration has shown no commitment to serving students in that way."
The university's position on the issue has consistently been that students are better served by keeping the medical services on South Campus where the health sciences and the medical school are located.
"The lack of more service on North is not a lack of interest, but a lack of financing to support two offices, and of proximity for the main office to other services on South," stated Provost Elizabeth Capaldi in an e-mail.
Rounding out the Results platform was a promise to seek FM radio status for UB's currently Internet- and cable-only broadcast station, WRUB.
Unfortunately, said Oliver, the plan was hampered when Sub-Board I's application to give the station FM radio status was rejected by the Federal Communications Commission.
"There weren't any frequencies open," said Oliver. "There's an overlap between the Buffalo and Ontario [Canada] region so it's really hard to get a license."
Oliver said SA will continue to seek AM radio status for WRUB with the support of Sub-Board I.
Regarding student activities and large-scale entertainment events, Oliver said SA is still working to get a big-name comedic performer for the spring semester and to continue providing students with discounts to shows such as the upcoming G-Love and Special Sauce concert on Tuesday, Oct. 16.
Oliver has said that SA is committed to promoting student involvement through the multiple club fairs, SA Days, Spirit Week and SA's participation with students enrolled in UB 101 courses.
Matthew Bova, secretary of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Alliance, said this year's officers have been supportive and visible.
"Anytime we need something we just walk across the hall and they've been around to answer our questions," said Bova.
Derrick Parson, vice president of the Caribbean Student Association, said that while he has not personally dealt with the e-board, his club's relationship with International Council Coordinator Sankeetha Selvarajha has been responsive to addressing his organization's needs.
"I have been able to keep in touch with Sankeetha and interaction is really good," said Parson. "I don't expect to see [the e-board members] much because they have their own duties like everyone else."
Yesenia Diaz, president of Poder: Latinos Unidos praised SA for its involvement in club activities.
"The e-board have given presentations about SA at events for prospective and actual students," she said.
Jason Montanez, executive director of the Community Action Corps, was pleased with the way this year's SA has been working with students and clubs. Last year, the CAC had difficulty working with the SA e-board, which cut the CAC budget in half.
"I know last year SA and my club was on a bad start," said Montanez. "We've been working with Chris [Oliver] to boost the Community Action Corps."
Dealing with Hardship
In light of the events on Sept. 11, Oliver felt that getting "[Fall] Fest to happen at all was a major success." The concert, originally slated for Friday, Sept. 14 was rescheduled for Monday, Oct. 1.
The cancellation of many SA events in wake of the terrorist attacks has left SA in the process of re-evaluating its budget, according to Ahmed, SA's treasurer.
"Different events bring in different revenue," said Ahmed. "We're in the process of putting money where it needs to be."
Events canceled after Sept. 11 included the beer tent at Fall Fest and a post-Fest bar party, both of which would have generated revenue for the student government.
Regarding Fall Fest, Oliver noted what he called a "ten-fold" improvement in the relationship between SA and UB's Division of Athletics. Previous SA governments have often complained of outside teams and events being given priority on reserving Alumni Arena over SA.
According to Oliver, this problem was remedied by means of improved communication with coaches and officials in addition to increased promotion of athletic endeavors, such the SA-sponsored tailgating parties at football games.
"Little things like that let [the Division of Athletics] know we need them and we can help," Oliver said.
This year's NYSSA delegates spent the summer months preparing for the school year by reviewing active legislation and developing policy stances and priorities.
"We've been really active and got a lot done," said NYSSA delegate Jennifer Brace. "There's two of us on the [NYSSA] executive board, and that's more influence than UB has had in previous years."
Part of Brace's campaign in the spring semester was a promise to run for a higher position within NYSSA, a pledge she filled last weekend when the NYSSA executive committee elected her to the position of university center representative. Brace will represent and oversee UB as well as SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Stonybrook and University at Albany.
According to Brace, her co-delegate Laszlo Kerekgyarto has been handling more of the internal UB work, while she takes responsibility for external relations. Kerekgyarto is coordinating a food and clothing drive and the ongoing effort to improve voter registration.
Brace's next initiative is to address a piece of state legislation which would allow parents paying a minimum percentage of their child's tuition unlimited access to his grades and other student records.
"That's the [legislation] I'm most interested in right now," she said. Brace said she considers the proposed legislation a "violation of privacy rights."
Brace also said UB's NYSSA delegates are opposed to legislation that would place a 15 percent cap on student fees and legislation that would force student governments to hold annual referendums on the mandatory student activity fees.
Many students have complained of a lack of administrative respect for SA due to poor leadership in previous years. During the race for presidency, Oliver vowed to "get SA's ducks in order" and urge the administration to take the student government more seriously.
"We're definitely getting more respect," said Oliver. "We met with administrators and pledged our commitment to pursuing the students' interests."
As proof of this newfound respect, Oliver cited the appointment of SA officials to positions on UB administrative committees including the Alcohol Review Board, Personal Safety Committee and the National Collegiate Athletics Association Accreditation Committee.
Kerry Grant, vice provost for academic affairs, described the SA e-board as "very clear, persistent, collegial and consistent." He said Oliver first approached him and Capaldi in the beginning of the summer and that the SA president "asserted that the voice of students needed to be more clearly heard."
"[Oliver] established a congenial but formal business relationship as president of SA with senior administrators as to specific student concerns, with the expectation that there would be a response to those concerns," said Grant.
Capaldi agreed, describing her dealings with Oliver as "wonderful" and administrative dealings with SA as "excellent."
"One of the benefits of being here is the possibility of meeting other students who come from different places and have different backgrounds," stated Capaldi. "Thus the more opportunity student government provides to facilitate student interaction, the better the education we prov