ASG gears up for new school year at first Senate meeting

Associated+Student+Government+speaker+Ani+Ajith+%28far+left%29+addresses+senators+during+the+first+ASG+meeting+of+the+school+year.+Also+pictured+are+ASG+clerk+Carly+Blumenfeld+%28center%29+and+ASG+president+Victor+Shao+%28right%29.+

Kaitlin Svabek/Daily Senior Staffer

Associated Student Government speaker Ani Ajith (far left) addresses senators during the first ASG meeting of the school year. Also pictured are ASG clerk Carly Blumenfeld (center) and ASG president Victor Shao (right).

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern’s Associated Student Government intends to improve connections on campus this year.

Under the leadership of President Victor Shao and Vice President Brad Stewart, ASG will focus on a series of short-term and long-term projects. The first ASG Senate meeting of the year was on Wednesday.

“It’s all about bringing students together with other students, Evanston, the University administration and other student groups,” Stewart, a Medill senior, said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, legislation was passed to change the 5K Initiative, a program that allows students to submit proposals for how ASG should spend $5,000. The program brought WiFi to the Lakefill this fall following an online poll of students last spring.

The legislation proposed to increase the $5,000 to $10,000. Shao, a Weinberg senior, said the new initiative would also increase the timeline for the initiative, allowing students to spend Fall Quarter brainstorming, Winter Quarter researching and streamlining ideas and Spring Quarter implementing the proposal.

Funding for the new legislation was the subject of a heated debate at Wednesday’s meeting. Funding for the 10K Initiative this year came from the ASG budget and an agreement with Student Affairs, which matched the budgeted $5,000.

However, Student Affairs has not agreed to match ASG’s contribution in future years, and many ASG senators opposed a portion of the legislature that stated funding for the initiative would be taken from the student activities fund in future years. Senators voiced concerns that student group funding could potentially be sacrificed. The legislation eventually passed, following an amendment that struck the planned funding beyond this school year.

“It was the democratic process at work,” Stewart said. “Now we have time to explore other funding sources.”

Long-term focuses of the new ASG include plans for a new student center, a University alcohol policy and an interactive unofficial student guide.

Last year, consultants evaluated Norris University Center and gathered feedback about the center from students, Shao said. The consultants will present mock-ups and renderings of new student centers or potential renovations to existing campus buildings in November, Shao explained.

Following debate over NU’s alcohol policy during last year’s campaign, Alex Van Atta, vice president for student life, has been leading a group of students in researching alcohol policies at peer institutions and how students feel about NU’s own rules.

“A majority of the campus doesn’t even know what the alcohol policy is,” McCormick junior Van Atta said.

Van Atta and his group will publicize their report and recommendations on the policy Nov. 1.

The unofficial student guide will teach freshmen the ins and outs of NU, from how to pick classes to how to replace a WildCARD, through interactive videos, Shao said.

Shao said many of the students who will work on the guide include freshmen in ASG, but he will also seek feedback from students outside ASG.

In the next month, Shao said, ASG will launch a revamped website. He also said he is following through with his campaign promise to launch Express NU, a website that will allow students to post and like suggestions in a format similar to Reddit.

Shao and Stewart said ASG events like the activities fair during Wildcat Welcome, Big Bite Night and Deering Days have already connected the University community. Shao also noted ASG’s involvement in planning the memorial for sophomore Harsha Maddula early this year.

“Certainly this was a rough way to start the school year,” Shao said. “But it was also a powerful way to bring the community together.”