With the school year beginning, Student Government President Mitchell Rosenberg and Vice President Sarah Tabsh discuss their timeline, plans and priorities for their positions this year.
Q: What are we going to see change in the next month?
Mitchell Rosenberg: The biggest pushes starting right off the bat are recreation, so expanding the fitness center, the (use of declining balance) in the plaza and mental health. I would also say sustainability.
This summer, there’s been a ton of work put in to continue to bring student government to its full potential. We’re working to make student government way more transparent and active on campus, so people see us and know why we’re there. We were out there constantly during Orientation Week talking to students and letting them know that our elections are coming up in the next few weeks.
Here’s what I’m proposing:
1. No more senators’ office hours taking place in Argyros Forum 303 unless administrative work is required. We have new branding techniques and ways to have us out there and visible.
2. We will have a new feedback forum on our website so students, whether anonymously or not, can come and give feedback.
3. Everybody’s contact information is on the website. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for students to come to us with issues.
4. We sent out an email to every incoming student so they kind of know what student government does, some past things we’ve done.
5. We had 12 panels at orientation to talk about what student government does, and we’ll be sending out an email newsletter soon to every student.
Q: In your running platform, you mentioned working on community relations. How do you plan to do so?
Sarah Tabsh: I’m sure you saw last year, we have a community outreach chair that is present at every meeting, so that will continue through the next year. Her name is Lisa King and she’s a senior communication studies major.
MR: With the new dorms that were just approved by the city, it’s an exciting step, and student government is very much involved in the planning for that. Student government is involved in the conversation of what amenities and services will be offered.
I’ll be at every single (Orange) City Council meeting, and I went to a lot last year, and whether we’re speaking or not, I want to push to speak more than when there’s something wrong. Let’s update the city. Let’s update the community members on what Chapman’s doing.
I meet with Jack Raubolt, who’s the vice president of community relations, every week or every other week depending on what’s going on. We talk about strategies and things to do to put ourselves more out in the community.
Q: Student wellness seems to be a big priority for the two of you. What are your goals for student wellness and how do you plan to implement them?
MR: With recreation and with mental health, we’ve kind of focused on a well-rounded health, wellness and recreation idea. I think we need a big push in wellness, which incorporates mental health, recreation and nutrition. The specifics I want to see are greater resources in mental health and an expanded fitness center.
ST: (The goals are) definitely going to take some time, especially with budgeting, because student government cannot directly sponsor Student Psychological Services, and (Chapman is) in the process of hiring engineering faculty, so the priorities lie in higher departments right now than hiring for psychological services.
MR: We don’t have enough resources in mental health, so we’re going to push for more resources in mental health. I don’t care what the university is prioritizing, mental health is important. We don’t work for the university, we work for the students. So regardless of what they’re doing or who they’re hiring, we’re still going to push for what the students protest and what needs to get done.
ST: We try to do as much research as we can. The same research showed that we were ‘on par’ with other universities in terms of mental health, so the administration, in their eyes, are like ‘That’s fine.’ But when we have 60 students on a waitlist, those are 60 students. Those are 60 students who can’t get the help that they need, even when they’re going and asking for it. Of course we should be striving to do better when 60 people aren’t getting help.
MR: Our cap for sessions is much higher than other universities. We allow students to come back more than other universities, so we can help them as opposed to just refer them to another place. But where that hits us is then students who want to see someone don’t always get to.
Q: How will these improvements be made?
MR: What I want to do is start open committees to be chaired by student government, but similar to the provost student advisory board, we’d have it open to where all students can apply to sit on this committee.
Q: In your platform, you said you wanted to look at Freshman Foundation Courses (FFCs). What about them are you looking into or trying to change?
MR: This has been something that, since I came in to student government
my freshman year, I focused on, because in my mind, without knowing much and without collecting student feedback, everyone must hate their FFCs. So from there, we conducted a survey, and it was a few hundred responses which actually told us that students were enjoying their FFCs. But where the problem lay was in the coursework differentiation. Say there are two different FFCs, and one student has six essays, two midterms and a final during that year, where the other student just has to watch movies and take some notes. When everyone’s doing different levels of work, that’s when they start feeling some disconnect, because their roommates or their friends have different courses. It’s a conversation we’ll definitely keep open, but I’m pleased to learn that, at least in past years, the majority of students we’ve surveyed really have enjoyed their FFC.
Q: In your platform, “implementing a portal of current senate projects” and “compiling a list of past advocacies” were listed. Can you describe what this will look like and what effect this will have on student government?
ST: We have an archive based on what policies were made in previous years, and see what people were working on and how it failed. It might not be necessary to show where people failed in their different advocacies, because I think everyone has a good idea, but sometimes goes about it in the wrong way. My whole idea is that people were pursuing the same advocacy that had been attempted five years ago and were running into the same wall.
MR: It’s helpful for us to track all of that. There are definitely initiatives that have failed in the past that have succeeded later on, for example, the Cross-Cultural Center.
Q: You have also been working on getting declining balance to be applicable in the Orange Plaza. How feasible do you think this is?
MR: We had a petition with more than 1,000 students saying this is something they would use. I completed all the research comparing us to other schools that do this and how they do it.
Now, it’s on the desk of Harold Hewitt, who’s the executive vice president and chief operating officer. He’s the one who signs off at the end, basically, so it is on his desk for approval. Another thing to note is it is bringing students back into the community. They are becoming more of members of the community, going to community restaurants, shops, et cetera.