Olsen made most of his time as student body president

For 363 days, David Olsen, senior in Business, was the face of the student body.

Whether his presence was noticed by most people or not, Olsen was the latest to represent student leadership on campus and in the community. Often wearing formal business attire, Olsen delivered the general student opinion on important University issues.

“The experiences I’ve had, the different opinions from people … not everyone’s going to like you if you’re a leader, and not everyone’s going to like what you have to say,” Olsen said. “Being able to handle that and deal with it is important. I am really proud of my time here as a leader to serve the students and the University.”

Olsen recalls three days in particular during his term that stood out as the most significant of his one-year term.

*Oct. 27, 2010*

University president Michael Hogan and interim chancellor and provost Robert Easter, along with other University administrators, addressed students at the annual meeting to the student body at the Illini Union Ballroom. The Illinois Student Senate sponsored the event.

For Olsen, it was one of the first events where he had an opportunity to interact with the students. He said part of the mission of the University is to serve the students; however, students must return the service or else administration may not listen.

“It was one day when students were able to get up and ask the president about difficult decisions,” Olsen said. “I think our leadership is willing to listen, but we (students) often don’t take those opportunities to ask more of them. I hope we are able to do more of this because I know some students are very concerned with University issues.”

*Jan. 20, 2011*

The Board of Trustees postponed its decision on increasing the Library/IT and Academic Facilities Maintenance Fund Assessment (AFMFA) fees at its January meeting in Chicago. The proposed $6 and $7 increases were delayed after Olsen and student trustee Dan Soso persuaded the board to allow for more student input.

Olsen had read the meeting’s agenda a few days prior to the meeting and noticed the items. He was concerned the fee items would be passed without students’ voices on the subject.

“I didn’t believe that the University had gotten enough student input as they claimed they did,” Olsen said.

What followed was, Olsen said, one of the best examples of student government working to its full potential. The student fee ad hoc committee, created before the Board of Trustees meeting, focused its attention on the Library/IT and AFMFA fees. Led by committee chair and student senator Jake Vermillion, the committee was able to finalize a 97 page report on the fees within two weeks. At the March Board of Trustees meeting, the trustees voted against an increase to the Library/IT fee and voted only for an inflationary increase on the AFMFA fee.

Olsen said the events of that January day led to all the successes of the fee committee and his leadership in the following months. He added that his work and Soso’s kept the student/trustee relationship strong.

“We have a voice as students, and we can exercise that voice reasonably and rationally and do the legwork behind what we’re trying to do,” Olsen said. “I think that showing that faith to campus leadership was extremely important.”

Vermillion, freshman in FAA, said all those sleepless nights working on the report were worth it.

“As David would often say, ‘Carpe Diem (seize the day),’” Vermillion said. “He definitely helped me and others working on the committee and elsewhere grasp the concept better.”

*April 20, 2011*

Olsen’s last day in office was bittersweet but, he said, rewarding.

“That day was the culmination of 363 days of work as president and student leader,” Olsen said.

He said he was looking forward to what new student body president David Pileski and the new ISS assembly were bringing to the table.

Pileski, sophomore in FAA, said his friendship with Olsen helped him gain valuable advice that made the transition to his new role easier.

“You know you’re doing something right when not everyone agrees with you,” Pileski said. “Things (advice) like that make me feel less concerned about the future.”

The one-year term goes by fast, and Olsen said he hopes Pileski and the rest of the senate do not lose the momentum gained from this year’s work.

“You only have a very short time to make a difference. You have to rely on your successors to take on some of that work,” Olsen said. “My work didn’t end April 20 — my work stayed on for the rest.”