With students in mind, new leaders set goals for fall

By Paul Biasco

This fall new leaders and decision makers on campus hope to bring a more student-focused approach to the University.

With Paul Schmitt’s first full semester as student trustee, newly appointed Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Anna Gonzalez’s first semester at her new position and a fresh start for the Illinois Student Senate, the University is in for a wave of fresh ideas.

This semester as student trustee, Paul Schmitt, senior in LAS and student senator, has said he hopes to be a voice for the students on the Board of Trustees. Schmitt said that he wants to stress transparency of his, the University administration’s, and the Board’s actions and decisions on all issues that will affect University students.

“If there are issues that are of concern, the main question is how are these things being settled? What are the motivations?” Schmitt said. “I want to make that transparent.”

Another issue that Schmitt said he believes needs change with the new school year is the role of the student trustee. In the past, the position had not always put the students first, he said.

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“My main policy is standing up with the student voice saying, ‘Enough is enough. We aren’t going to buy into this what’s good for the institution,'” Schmitt said.

Schmitt said that in the past student trustees have been swayed by Board members into voting a certain way.

“How can these student leaders in the past be voting for tuition increases when their peers are hurting?” he added.

Schmitt has also been working on some new initiatives during the summer to help support University mothers called the “student pregnancy resource initiative.”

The initiative’s goal is to assemble together resources from the Champaign-Urbana community for students who become pregnant and opt to have a child. Also on Schmitt’s agenda for the semester is state lobbying for increased University funding. One idea in the works is an “Illini Day” for state representatives to lobby for more funding. Unlike “Illinois Day” which lobbied for all three University of Illinois campuses, “Illini Day” will be more targeted to the University.

“We are trying to get a heavily increased involvement for students to lobby the state for funding,” Schmitt said.

Gonzalez hopes to bring a lot of energy and new initiatives to her new post of associate dean having taken over for William Riley at his retirement.

Gonzalez came from the University of California-Irvine where she was Associate Dean of Students and director of the first multicultural center in the University of California system. Gonzalez is also the director for the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relation.

“My hope is to get out there and meet students and help assess their needs to figure out what we can do,” Gonzalez said.

One issue facing the campus right now is campus climate, Gonzalez said.

“The biggest question is how do we get beyond our own comfort zone,” she said. “I’ve learned that students come from the city, suburbs and small towns. How do we allow our students to explore differences?”

She hopes that the new program “I-Unite” will do just that.

Illinois Student senators who were sworn in April will have a fresh start this semester.

“The primary concern for everyone is to make sure that we come across as a cohesive unit to achieve the students’ goals,” said Vikram Chaudhery, external vice president and senior in Engineering.

Chaudhery added that he wants the student senate to focus more on student issues rather than internal issues such as a new constitution which had dominated much of the senate meetings in the spring semester.

“We want to be able to be able to present. This is your student body, this is who we are, this is how we do things and this is who stands for what,” he said.

These new leaders and voices representing the student body all across campus each share a common theme: To forget about the politics surrounding their positions and focus primarily on those whom they represent – the students.

“Visit the student senate, be an intern, join a senate committee,” Schmitt said.

“If you have an issue that you are passionate about, then come on board and we will get it done.”