Web Poll Lets Students Weigh In On NU Spending

By Dan Fletcher and Paul TakahashiThe Daily Northwestern

The Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee began polling students last Thursday to evaluate which issues students want presented to university administration in early February.

Students can choose between 16 potential initiatives – including expanded wireless connectivity, intercampus shuttle improvements and greater environmental consciousness on campus – in a HereAndNow poll open until Thursday.

“This really is students’ voice in the budget process,” said Whitney Gretz, chairwoman of UBPC. “This is as close as most students get to (University President Henry) Bienen and the administration.”

The Weinberg senior said students taking the survey have 16 points to divide among the proposed issues. They may distribute these points however they choose.

ASG President and UBPC board member Jay Schumacher said the committee is a unique privilege for students.

“Most schools don’t have a committee like UBPC,” he said. “That gives us a lot of power.”

In past years, UBPC has been responsible for the creation of the Multicultural Center, a satellite career resources office in the library and improvements to Norris University Center.

Gretz said the committee has no preset budget. They research the estimated cost of each initiative and include it with their report.

“The funding comes out of the university budget,” Gretz said. “Of course, as that is limited, our funding is somewhat limited, too. But the university has given us some expensive requests in the past, like building the Multicultural House.”

According to Gretz, UBPC goes through an extensive process to find out what issues are important to students. The group solicits open feedback from students and holds a forum in the fall, meets with administrators to discuss what is feasible and travels each year to a nearby college campus on a fact-finding trip.

This year, UBPC visited the University of Notre Dame to gather ideas that could be implemented at NU.

Schumacher, a Communication senior, said he was impressed with Notre Dame, noting that their entire campus recently became wireless.

“It took them just one year,” he said. “It’s proof that it can happen, and it will happen if the administration puts their backs behind it.”

Gretz said she was encouraged by some new ideas that appeared on the poll this year, calling the environmental issue a “new, progressive idea.”

“It is just really exciting to see students start to care more about Northwestern’s environment and to be more responsible for it,” she said.

Students said they shared her excitement with some of the issues on the poll.

Among the issues on the poll, the U-Pass initiative, which ASG struck down four years ago, piqued Weinberg senior Brynn Rubinstein’s interest the most.

“It saves money and encourages students to get into Chicago,” said Rubinstein, who said she was also interested in the 24-hour study areas and increased diversity on campus, both items on the poll.

SESP senior Anna Torricelli said she was interested in other ideas posed by the polling committee.

“I think better cell phone coverage would be great,” Torricelli said. “I get no service at Norris and in a lot of the buildings on campus.”

Reach Dan Fletcher at [email protected] and Paul Takahashi at [email protected]