The USG works toward increased accessibility, transparency as sessions begin

Sanjali De Silva | Senior Staff Photographer
The new Undergraduate Student Government had their first Senate session and discussed plans for the semester.

The Undergraduate Student Government is back in session this week and, according to members of the Executive Board, ready and excited to serve the Tulane community.

After the Tropical Storm Gordon scare last Tuesday, the first USG Senate session was postponed until this Tuesday.

Six members of this year’s new Executive Board, the 11 members of the Executive Cabinet appointed by the USG president Erin Blake, 16 council chairs and liaisons, five members of the Judicial Council and dozens of senators from the five schools at Tulane spent more than two hours discussing ways to serve the Tulane student body and improve life on campus.

The USG session is held every other Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Qatar Ballroom and is open to the public. For those interested in getting more directly involved, there are 10 different committees on which any student may sit without applying or running for election.

According to Executive Vice President Maya Vasishth, joining can help students in many ways.

“Getting involved in USG is an easy way to feel more connected to the university and to our fellow students,” Vasishth said. “For me, getting involved in USG really helped me tap into the resources this university offers and allowed me to work to make these resources even more impactful.”

Members of the Executive Council, however, said they want students to feel connected to the USG whether or not they are directly involved.

“We envision each individual student having the knowledge to access organizational funds, start a new club, reach out to their senators, and passing on an initiative to administration without having to search continuously through websites or have prior knowledge about USG,” USG President Erin Blake said.

According to Blake, USG is in the process of improving its transparency and accessibility through a new Canvas page, an increased social media presence and a new, more user-friendly website.

Executive Vice President of Finance Maggie Palys said she hopes to extend this new level of accessibility and transparency to student organizations during the budgeting process. She said “open communication” between herself and leaders of student organizations will make the budgeting process less contentious than in previous years.

According to Palys, the smoother budgeting process she aims to achieve will not go unnoticed by the student body.

“I think Finance Committee is unique in that it’s one of the things that USG does that always affects basically every student on campus at all times in a very real and tangible way,” Palys said.  

To achieve this goal, Palys said she plans to add more budgeting-related information to the website and to make herself readily available to speak to student organizations during her office hours, which are at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Another focus of the USG this year will be preventing sexual assault, according to Blake.

“We will also be working diligently with the administration in the revamped efforts to end sexual violence on our campus, as this is one of our most pressing issues as both an institution and a student body,” Blake said.

Though sessions have only just begun, USG has already begun implementing some of its initiatives. On Tuesday, the USG passed a resolution to bring NOLA Blue Bikes to campus, which will allow students to use a mobile app to rent a bike at a rate of $2.50 per 30 minutes.

Blake said she is excited to begin working with the members of USG on more initiatives like this one to improve Tulane.

“I feel this year is going to be one of the best for USG,” Blake said. “We have an incredibly passionate and focused Senate who is dedicated to supporting and listening to our students. My hope is to continue to foster that passion and dedication and move our USG to a more outward-facing body.”

Blake said she is available for all students during her office hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. and by email at [email protected].

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