USG Election Guide 2017: Benjamin Tooke


Name: Benjamin Tooke

Year: Third-year

Major: Biochemistry

Running for: Vice President of Student Life

Relevant experience: I have been elected to Undergraduate Student Government (USG) for three consecutive years. For two of those years I served on the Student Life committee and championed initiatives to improve facilities and security measures on campus. This past year, I served on the Executive Committee as the Secretary of the General Assembly. In this role I was privy to the inner workings and progress of each committee on USG.


What are your plans for this position?

I want to fulfill this position with a three pronged approach: empower, delegate, and serve. One of the vice president’s primary responsibilities is committee development. Representatives elected to their positions have the same grant of power that I would have as an elected official, and members must feel appreciated and given independence. I am not interested in being a “go-it-alone” vice president. Of course, I have an idea of the direction I would like to take the committee; I’m very aware what issues are facing students on campus, but I am not approaching the position with an attitude that I know the best course of action. It is important for myself and my committee members to engage and develop concrete plans and action steps together. Representatives are the future of this organization, and overpowering them with authority will only weaken USG. This mindset distinguishes me from my candidates in that I believe I am the strongest candidate who will delegate and work with his committee to develop their leadership  and communication skills in a respectful manner that encourages independence and confidence. A committee structured in this way can be most effective when it comes to serving the students who elected them. Furthermore, I am very excited about the prospective Diversity and Inclusion Standing Committee. Having a structure devoted to Diversity and Inclusion will allow for effective collaboration when student issues with D and I arise. It furthermore allows the Student Life committee to focus on other smaller scale initiatives facing students.  


What is one initiative that you want to complete in your first semester?

Representatives spearhead and complete initiatives. These would obviously encompass issues pertaining to transportation, safety and security, diversity and inclusion programs, and many more. The role of the vice president is to help out in any way they can to ensure that administrators are following through with their promises and respecting both committee members and our constituents. Furthermore, it is difficult to classify an initiative as “complete” because there is often a great deal of follow-up and work to do after legislation is passed on a particular initiative. I have gathered feedback from many constituents regarding USG’s actions in the past year. Though they are happy that we are advocating for diversity and inclusion with many of our resolutions, many of them expressed concern that their student experience isn’t being improved by USG. Students want changes that they can see that make CWRU a more respectful and enjoyable experience. This is the goal of the Student Life Committee. I am excited to re-introduce the “One-Email Initiative” to the Student Life Committee. This program compiles small scale initiatives and other issues facing students that the committee believes could be alleviated by short exchanges with administrators without being bogged down by the legislative process. Often, these emails create quick, tangible change for students on campus, change that students can actually see. One email initiatives from the past include the addition of floating meal swipes in Tink after it opened, the addition of the Morley building to CWRU’s master plan, and the reinstitution of free towels in the Veale Athletic Center. All of these occurred my freshman year, and I am enthusiastic about bringing back the change that students are asking for.


How will you work with the President of USG to move forward with making CWRU a sanctuary campus?

Obviously, this is an important issue on campus. We recently passed a resolution that called on the university to designate itself a sanctuary campus. There have been signs of pushback from the university when it comes to using this term. We have a relationship with the administration that expects them to respect our resolutions and do their absolute best to meet our requests. It will be up to the entire USG to keep the administration on its toes, not just the President and Vice President of Student Life. To do so, I will work with the elected president to convey the importance of the term “sanctuary campus” and the actions associated with it on a personal rather than legislative level. Conveying the personal impact students would experience if the university stands behind them in solidarity by designating itself a sanctuary campus will be one of my responsibilities. If further backlash arises, then a possible student referendum on this issue may be in order, however other channels should be attempted first.


How safe do you think the CWRU campus is and what areas of improvement do you see?

Though we have seen a decrease in security alerts, there is always room for improvement. USG has always been involved with alerting the administration to issues with security on campus, and this will be a major component of the vice presidency next year. While we call for increased police presence to ensure safety, we need to make sure that minority students on campus are respected and free from harmful profiling. Utilizing the Bias Reporting System (BRS) for security officials on campus (instead of just faculty and staff) can provide USG and the university with information about how police forces are treating all students. USG has already taken action to ask the university to provide more accurate suspect descriptions so that certain students on campus aren’t profiled. There are other channels in which this could also be improved, like including security footage of incidents if possible. I am excited to see what other solutions representatives on the student life committee can formulate together regarding this issue.


How can campus transportation be improved?

This is an age old issue on campus. The Greenies and SafeRide systems have the potential to be phenomenal resources for students, but their issues make them difficult to navigate and utilize. Through BusBuzz, we have identified ways in which the Greenies can improve, specifically by keeping drivers accountable. Often, there are unscheduled breaks that causes deviations in prediction times, and drivers need to know when they are expected at locations so that students can use the resource effectively. Feedback through BusBuzz is incredibly important for USG when we approach the administration with changes we want to see, yet no such feedback system exists for SafeRide. There are significant issues with the RideCell interface and missing passengers, but real-time feedback cannot be compiled. As VP of Student Life, I would work with committee members to institute this feedback system. An overhaul of the SafeRide system would be pertinent as well. Partnering with Uber or Lyft as other universities have done to increase accessibility of safe options at night is exciting and we need to push the administration to do so in a manner that won’t exclude financially disadvantaged students. Transportation issues cannot be fixed in a day and consistent small steps must be taken to improve it continually over the coming years.