Student government introduces public initiative tracker

After its launch last spring, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) initiative tracker is finally up and running, giving students an online platform to follow the progress of various USG projects. The objective of the tracker, according to the USG Public Relations Committee, is to facilitate greater communication between USG representatives and students.

The initiative tracker came in addition to last year’s concern box, which was designed to give students a platform to directly contact USG representatives about their on-campus concerns. Various technical issues prevented the tracker from functioning properly, but those problems were sorted out over the past six months by second-year student Harper Case, third-year students Koko Etokebe and Alexis Balog and Student Affairs Web Platform Administrator Annah Mueller.

“The initiative tracker is unique because no other AAU (Association of American Universities) university with a student government has an equivalent tool,” Etokebe said. “Although there are not many models to learn from, we are excited for the future of this tracker.”

USG representatives plan to update the tracker on a weekly basis, posting an outline of the initiative and information regarding the actions which have been taken in response. This information ranges anywhere from administrators who have been contacted to policies that have been drafted relative to the initiatives. Users can also view an online archive of every previous update made to the initiative postings, since the forum is updated frequently.

The topics currently published on the initiative tracker range from Mental Health Awareness & Promotion to the Online Textbook Repository, and postings range from January to December 2017. While only two initiatives have been posted since the end of last semester, according to the tracker, 14 initiatives are “In Progress,” 12 “Planning,” one “On Hold” and one “Completed.”

“The initiative tracker is a similar mechanism [to the concern box], but now, students can not only submit feedback, but see the progress of various initiatives,” said USG Vice President of Public Relations third-year Timothy Nicholas, the returning head of the Public Relations Committee that spearheaded the system.

The first “Completed” initiative was posted on Jan. 21, 2017, and addressed the Disability Audit; this fell under the Diversity and Inclusion category, and according to the tracker’s website, the initiative was transferred to the campus-wide Disability Task Force.

Another initiative under the Diversity and Inclusion category which is labelled “In Progress”
is a Transgender Healthcare and Bathroom Access Bill, which Nicholas said pertains to all bathrooms on campus—not just those which are gender neutral. The tracker’s Progress Notes explain that currently, legislation is being drafted regarding the matter.

“I can’t speak for the logistics on everything [published on the tracker], and that’s essentially its purpose,” Nicholas said. “Starting next week, representatives will sign their initiatives so students will know who is tracking which initiative and then those representatives can easily be contacted.”

Etokebe believes that in regards to student participation, the tracker is also an excellent way for students to make considerations during USG elections.

She said, “It is a way for students to inform themselves about USG’s current initiatives, and it is our hope that they will contact representatives responsible for these initiatives if they see a problem or lack of action.”

Giving issues like these an online presence is what the Public Relations Committee thinks will be the best way for USG to maintain transparency and accountability.

“It really revolutionizes the way USG communicates with the student body,” Nicholas said. “I think so many students want to see a stronger USG presence online to know exactly what we’re doing, not just giving us feedback, and this is a really good way to do that.”

The Public Relations Committee is hopeful the initiative tracker will broaden communication between USG and the student body, while also fostering confidence in their efforts to respond to student concerns.

“Not only will students now see what USG representatives are doing, but they’ll see that USG representatives are incredibly passionate about what they’re doing,” he said. “I hope that people will look at the initiative tracker’s effectiveness and realize that representatives are capable of taking feedback and producing results.”

Lyndsey Cole, News Editor, and Kushagra Gupta, Director of Print, contributed reporting.