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Candidates for USG presidency debate, tackle key university issues

The president of Case Western Reserve University’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) is one of the most demanding positions a student can hold. This job influences the lives of over 4000 undergraduates and 150 student organizations. At 8 p.m. on March 21, 2012, CWRU students entered the Spot to enjoy some free food as the two candidates for the position, James Hale and Navein Arugumasaamy, met to debate and discuss plans, ideas, and issues concerning CWRU and the role of USG president.

Directing the debate was current vice president of Academic Affairs Steven Cummins. The candidates were first asked about their involvement on campus, as well as their desires for the general direction in which they would like to take USG. Both had prolific and involved experiences with their respective organizations, which gave them unique perspectives.

In terms of goals, Hale and Arugumasaamy agreed that reforming the USG funding process would be extremely important, as financial support is the main way in which USG supports its student organizations. The funding process needs to be more flexible. Hale mentioned that USG also provides development support and leadership guidance for organizations, and these areas have much room for improvement. The relationship between USG and its organizations, Hale said, could also benefit from reformation of CollegiateLink and the USG website.

In terms of Student Life policy, the candidates agreed that smoking on campus is an important issue that needs to be assessed further. Both were pleased with the performance of the COMPASS, Student Sustainability Council, and USG Diversity and Inclusion Ad-Hoc Committees. Arugumasaamy stated that he thinks the new student center’s small size will hinder its usefulness on its own; however, in combination with Nord Hall and similar spaces where students gather, it will better serve the student community. Hale commented that the main issue concerning the student center will be using the soon-to-be-vacant spaces in Thwing for student organization purposes.

In the sphere of Academic Affairs, Arugumasaamy and Hale were both enthusiastic about peer-to-peer advising. Arugumusaamy discussed the issue of lack of advising resources for student endeavors such as graduate school. The candidates reached the consensus that majors besides pre-health and pre-law receive little instruction and proper advising. In addition, students have trouble just finding an advisor who will help them adequately, so the process should be revised from the first year up.

When asked about improvements for the SAGES program, Hale responded with a call for greater relevance of courses to student interests, and increased oversight of professor performance. Arugumasaamy proposed a larger change: instead of focusing SAGES around the natural, social, and symbolic worlds, the courses should focus on the academic departments and separate colleges.

Cummins then challenged the candidates with the question of academic policies that have been deemed too liberal – specifically, the policy of restoring the GPA of a once-separated student by erasing courses below a B grade and allowing students to re-take a class to replace their old grade. Hale and Arugumasaamy admitted that the issue had not been brought to their attention, but that it does merit looking into, considering the age of the policy.

Arugumasaamy stressed the importance of student involvement and collaboration with faculty in the process, as he believes it will achieve the right balance between rigor and allowances for students who have hit a rough patch in their scholarly journey.

When asked about their ability to commit their time to USG, Arugumasaamy said his strategy was to balance his current activities and commitments with the president position. Hale will move his focus to USG, making it his main priority in terms of extracurricular activities. Undergraduate students can submit their votes for all elected USG positions until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, March 23 via the USG website.

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