Semester grades

With finals approaching to end the year, The Observer staff is sick of getting grades. Let’s turn the tables with the Spring 2015 edition of our semesterly tradition.

University Housing: D

While students were busy planning with who and where they would live next semester, their inboxes were stampeded with emails about filling out forms or surveys from university offices.

What they didn’t receive was an email explaining how the new residence hall wouldn’t fully open until Sept. 12. In fact, housing sat on this knowledge for two weeks, finally disseminating it on March 13 (at that point, students only had three days left to decide whether or not they wanted to live on campus next year). It’s understandable that the university was trying to find alternatives, but that was not an excuse to wait to inform upperclassmen about the development. For the 290 students displaced, this was regrettable. It’s still unclear what kind of discounts those forced to stay at nearby hotels will be receiving. For this, The Observer staff gives housing a D.

While the lack of communication was an egregious error, the administration pulled the first punch earlier in January. As the now delayed new residence hall was added to the list of student housing options, the more affordable property management apartments (PMAs) were quietly stripped out. Case Western Reserve University has a diverse student body, and this includes socioeconomic status.

The only reasons that housing passes at all is the fact that the PMAs were returned after student outrage and the university’s acceptance of transgender housing options. These were made possible by collaboration with the Residence Hall Association (RHA) and the LGBT Center, along with individual students’ advocacy. The Observer staff hopes that in the future, those making housing decisions choose to involve students in the dilemmas they face and the solutions to those problems. Simply booking another room at the Intercontinental Hotel can’t solve all obstacles.

Student leadership organizations: B-

The Observer staff is grading student organizations by how much they were able to reach out to the students they represent, particularly when choosing their representation. There were some clear disappointments here.

For the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), most positions saw multiple candidates running for the first time in several years, which was great news. Strong candidates squared off, resulting in an election that actually mattered. We were particularly impressed by the strong races for president, vice president of finance and vice president of student life.

Still, the election was poorly publicized, resulting in a voter turnout of about 28 percent of the student body. If being late about advertising the election wasn’t enough, USG originally gave candidates only a week to write their letters of intent. While candidates were later given more time, this hints at structural failure of the USG election system and its unawareness of how to fully engage the campus committee.

The problems with this election, however pale in comparison those for the Class Officer Collective (COC). Of the 15 races for COC positions, 13 were unopposed. That’s not much of an election.

Rounding out elections, RHA’s were not without flaws either. Calls for candidates were not well advertised; nor was their “Meet the candidates” event. The Observer staff does recognize RHA’s creative and new origami table-top advertisements and lawn signs, but they were too little, too late. Additionally the focus on internal ideals like “pillars” in the candidate questions instead of actual goals or campus issues does not portray them to outside students as an organization that can make change. It seems that the organization is only interested in getting their own members to vote, not engaging the outside community.

One organization that did get some points was the Student Executive Council (SEC). This council is in charge of distributing $171 from each student’s tuition. The council is made up of head representatives from the USG, RHA, University Media Board, COC, the University Program Board, the Interfraternity Congress and Panhellenic Council, as well as representatives from off-the-tops Springfest, Thwing Study Over and Senior Week.

This semester the SEC began a process of internal reforms that the Observer staff hopes will change the way it functions. We appreciate that campus leaders understand improvements are needed.

SEC addressing campus diversity issues: D

Student leaders did not give diversity representation a fair chance this semester. While the SEC got points earlier for attempting internal reforms, it doesn’t meet the same expectations for its handling of the Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative (UDC) referendum. To put it simply, they botched it.

Our main qualm is with SEC’s handling of the two emails that have been sent out at press time. While The Observer staff has provided its position on the UDC addition, it accepts that the SEC needs to remain neutral in a referendum. The SEC, however, remains responsible for ensuring a large voter turnout and explaining the issue. It failed at both.

While the first email was quick to read and had a clear link to vote, it didn’t explain what the SEC contains and currently does. The student body was not prepared to vote in an election that they largely remained uninformed about.

A second email, whose wording was chosen by the SEC together, was sent on Tuesday as well. However, it also lacked this basic information, including the fact that the zero percent allocation was merely a temporary measure for next semester. To find an explanation of the SEC, students currently have to either find the SEC website or look at the UDC’s frequently asked questions on Facebook. Voters shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get basic information.

The SEC does get points for including the UDC’s Facebook link in their second email. They also do for reaching out to the organizations that would be under a new UDC. It’s important to recognize that publicizing the referendum is a collaborative effort between the SEC and the new organization.

Still, The Observer staff believes that the SEC should have taken a more aggressive approach to publicizing the campaign.

Students addressing campus diversity issues: A

While the SEC may have failed here, three students—Nicholas Fung, Precious Amoako and Brittany Chung—stepped up, along with others who helped formulate the UDC. The very willingness to push for a structural change in how money goes to organizations related to diversity is impressive. These students’ willingness to stand up for what they believe in a great example of campus leadership coming about when those responsible fail to do so. It is this staff’s hope that students will continue to push those who have the ability to ensure diversity on campus next school year.

Business newcomers: A

The Observer staff welcomes all newcomers to Euclid. CWRU is officially a lot more fun now, after investing in the extensive Uptown development. With the varying new restaurants, students can spend an evening at the Happy Dog hotdog bar, the Asian-street food inspired Ninja City bar or the Corner Alley bowling alley, or just enjoy a good-old fashioned a sandwich at Potbelly Sandwich Shop or an extravagant waffle from the Euro Wafel Bar.

It was sad to see Chutney Rolls go, though there is now hope that a new business has the chance to move in near the South Residential Village.

It is encouraging to see to that the area around CWRU is developing. Think back to what Euclid Avenue would have looked like just five years ago. It’s hard to imagine what students did on a Friday night back then when surrounded by gravel parking lots.

At the same time, we’re happy the businesses on campus are here to stay. There is nothing like the all you can eat wings deal at the Jolly Scholar. It’s nice to see that they began delivering to the main quad earlier this semester. We’re also happy with the Einstein Bros Bagels and the Subway in Tomlinson Hall.

That’s not to say that the Subway on Euclid is a miss either. It’s important to remember that Subway, the Falafal Cafe, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Chipotle, Panera Bread, the Wrapz Pita Bar and Mitchell’s Ice Cream are all relatively new additions. The Observer staff is glad that they seem to be here to stay.