The Seven Deadly Sins of IUSAby Matthew S. Fourman
Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Matt Fourman, a December 97 alumnus of Indiana University. I was the College Republican Public Relations Director under Jim Holden's chairmanship during the 94-95 school year. From June of 1994 to June of 1997 I was actively involved in the I.U. Student Association (IUSA) as the Eigenmann Senator. As a concerned alumnus and former student leader, I feel it is my duty to allow students on this campus to well-informed on some of the critical issues facing the student body for the upcoming IUSA elections on March 31st and April 1st.
The I.U. Student Association, contrary to the feelings of many, is one of the most important organizations on campus. Not only does IUSA allocate and spend money on a litany of academic and campus activities, but it also can provide a critical forum for a wide array of student concerns on the Bloomington campus.
Make no mistake about it, the getting involved in the I.U. Student Association can be a challenging endeavor. Based on personal experience, I can say that I had my positive and negative moments representing on the campus level a myriad of graduate, undergraduate, and international student concerns in Eigenmann Hall. However, there is no excuse on some the recent developments in the IUSA. Let's review my seven deadly sins of IUSA.
Thou shalt be holier than the I.U. Student Body: Not surprisingly, the I.U. Student Association continues to live up the stereotypical image of an elitist, snobby, and out-of-touch student government. The I.U. Student Association failed to abide by its own Constitution which calls for IUSA to "represent" students both inside and outside of the classroom on the IU-Bloomington campus. One only has to look at the current IUSA administration to look at the endless meanderings of self-indulgence to get an idea of how bad things really are. First, the wounds of the infamous Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) incident, which badly divided the campus, have yet to heal. Instead of seizing the initiative to bring resolution to a rather embarrassing and humiliating experience for the IU student body, the current IUSA administration, including IUSA Student Body President Dave Orensten, decided not to play a leadership role and perhaps mediate a more positive outcome to a rather negative racial incident.
Thou shall indulge in frivolous spending: What is even more amazing is how the current IUSA administration ran on a platform urging greater accountability, student activism, and a cooperative relationship between IUSA and the campus community. What should disgust students even more is the amount of self-aggrandizement and chest-beating the IUSA does by spending money on advertising in the IDS. Hardly a week goes by when you do not see an advertisement for IUSA Safety Escort, Spring Break Airport Shuttle Services, and on and on and on... My personal favorite piece is the full-page advertisement IUSA ran in the March 2 edition of Lux Magazine. I am absolutely sure that Dave Orensten, the current IUSA President running for reelection, did not have re-election on his mind when his administration spent IUSA money on trying to boost his credibility! NOT! If IUSA truly desires to educate students and publicize IUSA services, why not advertise the IUSA homepage? How difficult is it to put in one column inch saying "Check out the IUSA homepage at http://www.indiana.edu/~iusa!"
Thou shalt not be held accountable: What leaves me aghast is how the current IUSA administration continues to make "pledges" towards making IUSA and the university more accountable to the students at large. Amazingly enough, public information such as IU Student Congress resolutions, bills, student congress voting and attendance records, are not conveniently accessible to the students at large. A great step towards accountability would be to aggressively advertise the IUSA website (which is www.indiana.edu/~iusa). It is amazing how a little advertising on such public information can go a long way towards improving IUSA's credibility with the student population as the legitimate campus student government.
Speaking of accountability, I think campaign and IUSA election reforms are in order. As an IUSA veteran, I was amazed how Dave Orensten picked the election coordinator and the elections commissions knowing full well that he was going to run for re-election. Of course, some current IUSA execs will say that Dave was not in conflict of interest because he "delegated" his constitutional authority to Steve Chiagouris, Dave's Vice-President of the Student Body Congress. As you may have seen in the recent March 4th Indiana Daily Student article "Validity of IUSA committee questioned", disturbing questions arose on conflicts of interests that are taking place as IUSA elections fast approach March 31st and April 1st. In the article, Dave Orensten admitted that he asked Steve Chiagouris to ask Shana Brodnax, the current VPA candidate for TDBJ, to run with Orensten. In the article, Brandy Runyan, a current IUSA Off-campus Senator, correctly pointed out that "a biased person can no longer run the Elections Commission. It's in poor taste; it's not fair."
Quite frankly, I think students should voice their outrage that such a conflict of interest has been allowed to continue unabated.. Dave Orensten and Steve Chiagouris are not fooling anybody about the way they poorly handled the IUSA Elections Commission. In the end, such conflicts of interests hurt the credibility of IUSA and hurt the ability of IUSA to represent student interests.
Thou shalt be out of touch: Current IUSA administration folks will undoubtedly point out and say "look at all the great things we did this year", and not surprisingly most students will react and say "huh?". The fact that IUSA's budgetary behemoth of $400,000 plus (most of it coming from the student mandatory activity fee you pay), congressional voting and attendance records, as well as IUSA resolutions, bills, and memos dealing with IUSA and student issues not being made easily accessible to students, would rightfully lead many students to believe that the current administration has a lot to hide. IUSA cannot expect to be credible to the IU student population when it does not go out of its way to readily easy access to public information regarding their student government and its activities. Current IUSA executives will argue "well that's unfair to expect easy access to public information like that". The IU Student Association needs to be held accountable and students should be allowed to know what their student government is doing, or not doing.
Thou shall serve myself and not the students: I was aghast to learn from Dave Orensten himself that he was "thinking" of running for re-election..... back in AUGUST of last year. Early last fall I worked as a identification reader at Kilroy's on Kirkwood, and Dave and his entourage of friends came into drink one week for classes started in the fall semester. I said " Hi Dave, what's going on in your life?" Dave responded "nothing much." I then asked Dave "so how is IUSA?" Dave responded "Nothing much. Same as always... I am thinking about running for re-election for president." I replied "are you f--king kidding?" Dave shook his head and replied "I am really thinking about running for re-election." As a veteran IUSA Senator, I thought he was really joking. As can be expected, I was aghast at why someone would consider re-election to a job that has been known to burnout people, put 15 pounds on outgoing IUSA executives, and sink their GPAs into the eternal abyss. Needless to say, I was flabbergasted. Never in recent memory has an current IUSA executive successfully run for re-election.
Thou shall seek more power and replicate thyself: As you may have heard, Dave Orensten is seeking re-election as President of IUSA. The name of his ticket is ORAS (one could let the imagination have fun with that acronym) standing for Dave Orensten for President; Joe Roman for Vice-President of Congress; Jamie Abrams for Vice-President of Administration; and Kate Schroder for Treasurer. The claim they are going to LIGHT the way. They said in the March 9th edition of the Indiana Daily Student, that LIGHT stood for: Learning, Improvements, Guidance, and Health and Safety. Let's take a point for point look at the ORAS platform:
First, ORAS proposes to offer MCAT/GRE/GMAT/LSAT preparation courses at I.U. for credit as well as profiles of tenured faculty and an advisor review system. As a former member of the College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Committee to COAS Dean Morton Lowengrub, I can tell you that those proposals would be challenged by a lot of questions and concerns. Furthermore, seeking to implement profiles of tenured faculty on campus would definitely be scrutinized by the Bloomington Faculty Council. Last but not least, an advisor review system, in reality would take years to set up, implement, and to evaluate its effectiveness on campus. Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind is how much is it going to cost to implement preparation courses, tenured faculty profiles, and an advisor review system on campus?
ORAS never really goes into specific details on how much these programs and ideas would cost the university and the students. In addition, implementing such programs on campus would take time and effort that make it very unlikely for the current IUSA administration to full-fill its campaign promises. ORAS makes its proposals sound as easy to enact as baking chocolate chip cookies. Again, they are long on ideas and programs and short on specifics on how the programs work and the costs involved.
Second, During the ORAS press conference, Dave Orensten, the IUSA President seeking re-election, talked about capping book costs and placing more books and course packets on reserve as well as lobbying the Board of Trustees and state legislators to put a ceiling on book prices I have an even better idea, improve the current IUSA services that have been greatly neglected during the current IUSA administration. Never heard of the IUSA Text-Book Co-op? Well, that is probably because you have to search thick and thin to find this service on-line at the IUSA webpage. I fail to comprehend how I.U. students will benefit from more IUSA programs and services when many of the current IUSA services, such as the IUSA text-book co-op, never received priority or adequate publicity (remember my comment about advertising the IUSA webpage).
Third, ORAS proposed a "sliding scale fee system" on services provided by the Office of the Bursar or the Office of the Registrar, the drop/add fee and the trasncript fee being good examples. Joe Roman, Vice President of Congress candidate was quoted saying "... students who use these services will pay slightly increased rates with increasing usage, while those who only need to use the system on occasion either receive the service free or at a nominal charge." Translation, the more students use services the more they will pay for already-expensive University services. I wonder how students feel if they use the convenient "Schedule of Classes" drop and add feature only to find out that the more they change their class schedules the more they pay?
In addition, if this ORAS proposal is indicative on how they feel about fees then students should be very concerned about a potential ORAS administration going into another bi-annual Mandatory Activity Fee Review Board (MAFRB)session. IUSA has great influence on how the mandatory activity fee is allocated and how much it is (you will find this $47.50 charge on your fall bursar bill). Every other year, the IUSA President selects a hand full of students from an open application and interview process to sit on the MAFRB. If ORAS feels so strongly about sliding scales, one can only wonder what would be ahead in MAFRB.
Third, in the same previously cited article, ORAS is proposing a self-generated IUSA loan service "which would offer students seven-day, interest free loans of any amount up to $40." Again, they lacked details on how exactly they were going to allocate monies for such an endeavor. Furthermore, IUSA should not be a bank. It is one thing to offer funds for social and academic programming endeavors on campus, it is another thing to offer a cheap gimmicky worth less than the $40 they propose IUSA can loan out.
Finally, the ORAS platform is long on gimmicks and short on explanations on how to pay for their gimmicks. For example, in the March 9th edition of the Indiana Daily Student, they talk about instituting a "sliding-scale" fee system for services for services provided by the Office of the Bursar and the Office of the Registrar. They cited the transcript fee and the drop and add fee. How are they going to pay for it? They do not explain in detail the nitty-gritty details on how much proposals would cost.
Again, as an IUSA veteran I am amazed that Dave Orensten, the current IUSA President running for re-election, would even consider such gimmicky and ambitious ORAS platform ideas when IUSA fails miserably in basic communication and organizational skills. IUSA does not adequately listen and represent the concerns and interests of the entire student body. IUSA needs to address its current problems with regards to its lack of accountability to students, lack of releasing public information, and responding to student needs and concerns.
Thou shall run for re-election on a mediocre record: Once students are educated and reviewed the current Dave Orensten administration's record in IUSA, I believe that students will have good reason to pick another ticket, TDBJ. TDBJ is: Khaled Taha, candidate for IUSA President; Erin Doty, candidate for IUSA Vice-President for Congress; Shana Brodnax, candidate for IUSA Vice-President of Administration, and Eddie Jenkins, candidate for IUSA Treasurer. If you are interested in finding out more about TDBJ, look at their web page at php.indiana.edu/~tdbj. After reviewing the TDBJ web page and sifting through IDS articles, I was really impressed with the TDBJ philosophy. Basically, TDBJ is focused on proactive leadership, accountability to students, and listening to student concerns. Imagine if IUSA did a better job on its communication and organizational skills!
One of the things that really struck me about TDBJ are how basic, yet important, some of its goals are. First, they propose to have a fall break, much like spring break. TDBJ, in the March 6th article "ActGenda calls for Fall Semester break", Shana Brodnax expressed optimism that a three day weekend could be created sometime in October.
In addition, I really like their proposals on having the IUSA webpage publicized to students. TDBJ is really big on having the IUSA budget on-line, which I said earlier maybe a real eye opener to students on the IUB campus. Also, imagine accountability by keeping the I.U. students informed on voting/attendance records of IUSA representatives and issues!! It is ridiculous that students do not receive more publicity regarding its website. Unfortunately the current IUSA administration flunks in that area.
Another idea that has already received a lot of positive feedback is the TDBJ proposal to create a Bursar Crisis Fund. It would allow students who suffer immediate financial setbacks, such as a medical emergency or fire, to delay payments to the Bursar. Also, they propose changes in the refund check policy to give students the option of allowing excess balance going to future charges. I really think that students would prefer a student-friendly IUSA rather than a Washington bureaucrat (and direct loans and all the hassles that come with it).
I think it also makes more sense to improve existing services on campus rather than create more bureaucracy and more student fees. For example, TDBJ wants to make extended hours at the I.U Health Center and the Main Library a reality. In addition, they also mentioned the need to accomodate students' busy schedules by making existing IU services more student-friendly. I think we can all tell stories on how the academia on this campus is second to none, but how support services quite frankly have been dismal.
I think TDBJ's goals are realistic. Their platform is simple, yet practical and not "pie in the sky."
As I said earlier, I take great pride in being an Indiana University Alumnus and a former student leader. When I was Eigenmann President and Eigenmann Sentaor, I took great pride in keeping my residents informed on what was going on in IUSA. I also worked on a litany of issues, both academic and campus-related, affecting my diverse constituency of international, graduate, and undergraduate students. I tried to set a standard for myself to do represent Eigenmann residents. To be quite frank, it is a standard that is currently lacking in IUSA.
It is refreshing to see an energetic IUSA ticket like TDBJ get involved as proactive student leaders. In researching TDBJ, I really believe the most important aspect of their ticket is that they want to represent the entire student body. To be honest, I really believe that the ZBT incident badly divide the campus. All I.U. students, regardless of their background, need to do a better job of interacting and working together on campus. Fresh leadership and accountability in IUSA would be a great plus for the students on the IUB campus. Therefore, I enthusiastically endorse and recommend the TDBJ ticket. Remember that your vote does make a difference. So when you go to the IUSA netscape websiteor on-campus paper ballot sites on March 31st and April 1st, remember that you will be participating in probably the most hotly and closely contested race ever seen on this campus. It would not surprise me if this election were to be decided by plus or minus 300 votes.