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Hello Drew!

 

Welcome back to our home in the forest.  I would like to begin by thanking the Acorn for giving Michelle and I the opportunity to speak to you all regarding a few of the initiatives Student Government will be pursuing this upcoming semester.  Just recently, Dean Merckx, alongside  Student Government, scored quite a win for the student body when he finalized the Meal Plan Equivalency that is now offered in the EC during lunch hours.

We’ve heard nothing but positive feedback regarding the change, but we would very much appreciate it if any concerns or issues would be brought to our attention so that we can continue our discussions with dining services.  However, even with this step forward, Michelle and I plan to continue working to improve the experience here at Drew.

 

As some of you may be aware, there used to be two arms of Student Government that were tasked with assisting club leaders: the Student Organization Advisory Board (S.O.A.B.) and the Budgets and Appropriations Board (B&A).  Starting this year, the two board have been combined to remove some of the bureaucracy for club leaders and to simplify semesterly club reviews. The new Budget and Organizations Board (B.O.B.), chaired by Chief Financial Officer David Njoroge, will continue to be our top priority for the upcoming weeks as we will be looking to improve the club leader process and gin up Drew Pride through the various event held weekly.

Many of you might not be aware, but within the past two years, club leaders have been being charged for room rental and usage of common areas such as The Space and Crawford Hall in the EC.  Thankfully, former President Hetika Shah (’15)  and Vice President Dylan Jones (’15) placed the burden of payment on the back of SG.  They fought against the chargebacks throughout most of their administration, as will Michelle and I.  Until chargebacks are eliminated, Student Government will continue to pay for room rental charges for most of the spaces available.

In addition to B.O.B., Student Government is going to be going through constitutional revision.  Run by Attorney General Aaron Arias, a committee of senators will be in place to practice a bit of self-reflection and revision to alter Student Government in such a way that will make it more open and receptive to the issues facing the campus.

 

The ideas currently on the table include increasing the representation from each class, altering the position of executive secretary to better keep the campus informed and up to date and creating a cabinet position specifically concerned with the trials and tribulations of INTO and commuter students.  It will be a long process with many revisions, but these revisions will be coming to the student population for a vote likely sometime in early April.

 

Alongside these rather large undertakings, the two of us have made it our mission to continue to advocate for the awareness and prevention of sexual assault.   While “Not Anymore” was a step in the right direction for Drew, Michelle and I plan to work on taking it a step further.  We live in a time where sexual assault and sexual harassment should not exist, yet they do, and we want to continue finding ways to educate the campus and make Drew a safer, more enlightened place.  It won’t be a simple job, but I think by improving upon what is already present, such as increasing the number of clearly distinguishable blue lights placed around campus and offering more seminars on the topic, not unlike the one available to the first-year class during the 2014 Orientation, would be a great way to unite the campus against this issue.

 

As always, feel free to reach out to your class senators with any questions, comments, or concerns.  Senators will be sending out class wide emails through Drew Today with their information so please keep an eye out for that.  As always you can email me at sgpresident@drew.edu if you would like to bring anything to my attention.

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By The Drew Acorn Editorial Board

We were happy to see a large turnout and student interest in the recent Student Government presidential election. This year’s SG general election was one of the most contested we’ve seen in several years. As Frank Merckx, Dean of Campus Life and Student Affairs, said, election complaints are not uncommon in such highly contended elections. As an organization that must observe students and campus happenings, we at The Drew Acorn are ecstatic that passion for democracy is being revived.

However, with that being said, we are concerned about the controversy which began immediately after the election and has only just been resolved. The conflict surrounds numerous complaints made by different candidates on several violations of the SG election statutes, including a violation of vote by proxy. We understand that in any given election passions may flare. We do not mean to target anyone specifically, and we have been glad to see incredible passion in this election, but the issue of proxy voting in this SG election is by far the most persistent issue that came out of this controversy.

Article V.E.4. of the SG election statutes states that any candidate or person who supports a candidate cannot “loiter and/or persistently attempt to influence voters at a polling station.” Physical polling stations were located at the Commons and Brothers College. However, Moodle, an online website, is also a polling station, albeit a non-physical one. The recent SG controversy begs the question, what happens when a SG candidate or supporter of a candidate influences voters, knowingly or unknowingly, through the use of technological gadgets like a tablet. To carry a tablet and physically solicit votes from students,, by opening the Moodle web page on the tablet ,could very well influence the voting decisions of students. Yet, the election statutes make no mention of the conduct of candidates and their supporters concerning the Moodle election web page and its designation as a “polling location.”

As college students whose worlds are often consumed by the use of technology, we should know more than most the increasing significance of technology. This election showed us all that technology is a significant part of the SG election process and is increasingly so. But without a clear statute that recognizes the importance of technology in the voting process and addresses certain issues that may arise because of it, SG candidates and their supporters can technically operate in a gray area that may keep them being held accountable for any potential conduct violations concerning online voting. It is imperative that SG address this and set a precedent for future SG elections if it is to maintain its legitimacy and respect among the student body.

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Student Government members negotiated with Drew’s Vice President of Finance and Business Affairs Howard Buxbaum to change the policies regarding replacing student ID cards and how much money a group can spend on food for an event.

Under the new policy, students will still have to pay the $25 fee for lost ID cards. However, worn-out or defective ID cards will be replaced free of cost at the Business Office. “We are now replacing damaged cards at no cost. We had a meeting several weeks ago with Student Government and they made a strong case that worn out [and] damaged cards should be a university responsibility,” Buxbaum said.

“For as long as I can remember, members of the Drew community were upset with the $25 replacement fee. Student Government heard numerous complaints about this issue in recent weeks and resolved to remedy it in any way possible,” Student Government President Frank Barbosa (’12) said.

Barbosa met with Buxbaum, along with his co-workers, Bursar Kelley Parsons and Student Account Representative Steph Mazzarella, before spring break to present his case.

“At the beginning of the meeting, I mentioned that students were quite upset with the steep replacement fee, and we needed to figure out a way to lower the fee amount. I explained that some of the ID cards break or wear out very easily. After much discussion, it was decided that students should not have to pay if their ID cards are broken or worn-out. The reasoning behind this is that sometimes the cards break or wear out somewhat easily. Often, the breaking or wearing out of a card is not the fault of the student. Therefore, we settled on removing the replacement fee for broken or worn-out cards,” Barbosa said.

This policy takes effect immediately. Drewids can replace broken or worn-out cards free of charge, as long as they bring the defective card to the Business Office when they go to get a replacement.

“The negotiations were much smoother than expected. At the time I was pretty sure that no one would support removing the fee. At most I expected them to lower the fee rather than remove it completely. However, they were very receptive to the idea. They did recognize that sometimes students can’t control whether a card breaks or wears out, and for that reason students shouldn’t be punished with a steep replacement fee,” Barbosa said.

Most members of SG feel satisfied with the outcome of the negotiations.

“We have scored a great victory for the students. We’ve heard plenty of stories where students dreaded going to the Business Office to pay for a broken card because of the steep replacement fee. Now students can get their broken/worn-out cards replaced for free, and Student Government is very happy about that,” Barbosa said.

This was not the only victory SG members scored for the students.

Freshman senators Addison Del Mastro (’15) and Mark Patronella (’15) negotiated with Buxbaum about the limited food budget clubs can spend on food at events.

Student clubs were only allowed to spend up to $100 on food for events, but Del Mastro and Patronella bargained for a higher budget.

“Originally, our goal was to more broadly understand our business contract with Aramark better. We asked Howard [Buxbaum] about the $100 cap on food and where it was in the contract, and he told us it wasn’t in the contract. It was basically just an informal settlement Drew and Aramark agreed on.  Aramark does technically have exclusive catering rights on campus through an ‘exclusivity clause’ in the contract, but that limit is allowed.  When we learned that it was not in the contract, we asked if it could be raised. He said he would bring it up to Aramark later in a meeting, and the next day he e-mailed us saying that they had agreed to give us up to $150,” Del Mastro said.

Del Mastro and Patronella said that the administration seemed very willing to work with them on this issue. “It was very interesting doing this because I would say we felt like Mr. Buxbaum was really listening to us, about our questions and what some student concerns were about these issues, and we were all very reasonable. It was empowering to realize we can get these kinds of changes on campus by having a clear idea of what we want, seeking good communication and going about it professionally,” Del Mastro said.

Patronella believes that having a larger food budget will increase student interest in campus events. “This change in school policy will improve student life by increasing dietary options for Drew students. We also expect that this increased availability of outside food will increase attendance at various club events. We are happy to see that clubs have already begun to take advantage of this new cap when submitting proposals for events,” he said.

“I hope this shows students that we really have more power than we think to make positive changes on campus. We just have to take initiative. Based on how willing Aramark and Mr. Buxbaum were to raise the limit, I can’t imagine that anyone asked about this before. So I just wonder how many daily annoyances we might be able to fix if we would go and communicate with people like Mark and I did here,” Del Mastro said.

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The Student Government met on Sunday to discuss some of their upcoming events.

This meeting was more of a tutorial session for new members to the Student Government staff­—though that’s not to say that nothing got done.

At last Sunday’s meeting, the Student Government met and discussed upcoming plans (Photo by James McCourt)

Issues addressed at the meeting included the rules and regulations for Student Government officials, as well as the appropriate way to address issues on the senatorial floor.

Earlier this week in a conversation with Senator Elect Emmanuel Luis Crespo (’15), we spoke of upcoming Student Government events for Drew.  We discussed a possible proposition for increasing the Commons hours from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on weekdays.

The quality of the food at the Commons was also discussed. Because Drew was voted 15th worst college food in this year’s Princeton Review, the Student Government will be working hard to better the quality of the food this year.

The Student Government will also be working to gain access to more vegetarian-friendly foods.  Crespo also said to expect “innovating ideas coming up from the freshman class.”

Any students with questions or concerns about the school as a whole will be able to attend the bi-weekly office hours all Student Government senators will hold.  Students may use these meetings to bring up any issues they may have, or to discuss anything that they want to be brought up at the Student Government’s weekly meetings.

Crespo said, “this is vital to increase efficiency and awareness of what issues can be addressed on campus.” New members to Drew’s Student Government senatorial staff include Yanko Polanco Jr (’15), Hetika Shah (’15), Addison Del Mastro (’15), Crespo, and Frank Minio (’15).

These members will be sworn in at a special ceremony that will be held on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.  This will precede their usual 7:00 p.m. weekly meeting. Both meetings will be held in LC 28.

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Freshman Senators (Class of 2015)

Yanko Polanco Jr.

Hetika Shah

Addison Del Mastro

Emmanuel Luis Crespo

Frank Minio

Sophomore Senators (Class of 2014)

Winona Francis

Jung-Woong Yoon

Ryan Wilson

Wen Zhang

Abdulai Hussein

Junior Senators (Class of 2013)

Felipe Gomez

Jen Van Wingerden

Jessica Tedesco

*The fourth junior class senator position will be decided on Saturday in a tie-breaker vote between Storm Wyche and Timothy Barnum.

Senior Senators (Class of 2012)

Erik Gray

Abigail Dingle

Kathryn Kozma

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