No matter how much you tuned out Matriculation, it’s pretty hard to miss the Student Union. But how much do you really know about the e-board that represents the entire BU student body? In the past, our student government (and the benefits we’ve seen from them) has been patchy at best, with initiatives moving at a glacial pace and general apathy for the system among students. But this year, Student Union President Arthur Emma and his staff plan on overhauling the system. Lauren Hockenson sat down with Emma, and found out what the Student Union was, is, and could be.
The Quad: So what have you guys been up to this summer?
Arthur Emma: We’ve actually invested absurd amounts of time. We understand that at the Student Union, there were a lot of great people. I met the best last year. But we understand there has to be drastic change. Last year, they would just get some ideas and they would share them with the administration. It wasn’t like there was a united voice of the Student Union. So we’ve had to do some serious infrastructure work, and getting the best minds at the school and just brainstorm and figure out how we can change the Student Union. We’re actually writing up a new constitution right now. The old constitution was pretty ineffective. You can’t even call it a constitution, basically, so we’re completely restructuring that. We’re trying to take steps to establish a Student Union. We also moved our office because one of our platforms is to be really accessible to the students and really being there for them to voice their concerns. So we moved our office out of the SAO building and it’s actually right up the stairs in the GSU. Anytime students have any questions, any problems or concerns, we’re right there. Originally we just said we wanted a table at the GSU, but that’s kind of a joke. We’re the Student Union. Every other college, the Student Union is really strong, and ours is stepped on by everybody and not taken seriously. We really understand that we need to get an infrastructure if we want to be effective.
Last years’ Union had a rough time with the administration, and very little change was made. How are you picking up the pieces?
We were left with a Student Union that was basically just antagonizing the administration. There was such a sour relationship between the administration and the Student Union last year that we were left with a whole bunch of frustration and not many initiatives to push through. I’ve learned a lot this summer, and if the administration doesn’t take the Union seriously, where does the Union go from there? We’re making a Senate now instead of a General Assembly, and we’re making it as competitive as possible to become a voting member. And we’re basically changing the whole atmosphere of the Student Union. If you’re a voting member, now you have to do one hour in the office and you have to be on things that we call “internal” and “open” committees. The open committees are going to be open for the whole student body, and the internal committees are only going to be composed of voting members. The voting members have to be both on an open and internal committee. And what we’re gonna have is a resolution committee. If somebody sponsors or co-sponsors a piece of legislation, then we push it through the appropriate resolution committee and that’s composed of a smaller group of students. So basically, if it passes through the committee and passes through the Senate, it becomes a formal resolution. We want to be really well-rounded and diverse and representative of the student body, and we’re hoping that if we go to the administration and we hand them a resolution, they know that’s what the students want, and they’ll take it more seriously.
What are you planning to do on campus this semester?
Well, the BU BUS we’re really working on. We didn’t do this campaign on just extending the BUS, but also to make it more on time and a better program altogether. The GPS is one of the things we really wanted to put forward right away. We’re also trying to get GPS and a map on your phone and also text messages sent. So whether or not you have a smart phone, all you have to do is text a certain number and it’ll automatically tell you how far a BUS is away from a certain stop. And then there’s print quota. We talked to everybody in the administration about this, and it basically took a semester of committees and everybody to get this thing through, so basically there’s no way of going back on that. So we’re making it easier to submit papers electronically, so you don’t have to waste paper. Even though we have these initiatives that have already gone through, we understand that a lot of the problems we’re going through are simply because we didn’t have the infrastructure on campus. The whole print quota thing was in committees and debated for over a semester, and none of the students knew about it. And the reason that no one knew is because we had a terribly ineffective Student Union. So hopefully, we’re gonna have a Student Union that prevents something like that next time.
How can freshmen participate in the Student Union and help enact these changes?
That’s one of the reasons why we did the internal and open communities. For instance, we’re going to have an open spirit committee, so hopefully we can funnel hundreds of kids into that. So when the time comes, and we have a basketball game or a soccer game, we can funnel everybody in the spirit committee out there. And we would have tons of different incentives, and it would be fun. We can either move them to appropriate place they can run for to be a voting member or senator, or we can get them involved in an open committee.
What should freshmen absolutely know about the Union?
They have to know that our offices are open from 9 to 5 and any questions they have or any help they need regarding the university, they should feel free to come to us. A lot of students don’t feel comfortable going to the Dean’s Office. Or even, say you go down to the Terrier Card office and your card is messed up, and they refuse to give you a new card. This happened to someone, and they made him pay for it. And students should be able to come up to us, because we’re the Student Union and we have a little more power on our back, we should be able to talk to the appropriate people and get that addressed. They should know they can come to us whenever.
Interested in getting involved? Attend the Student Union’s first General Assembly meeting on September 13th.