Christina Nadler for USS Chair 2012–2013
This is a living document so please share your thoughts by commenting below or using the contact form to send me your ideas.
Christina’s Plans for USS
Rather than telling you all about my history and what about my personality or leadership skills will make me a successful chair, I want to discuss what we, as USS, could do together. As the chair of the USS, I would lead the development of a five year strategic plan to more closely align us with our mission to advocate for the interests of all CUNY students.
Every member of the plenary would have a voice in directing the plan, but for any five-year plan to succeed we must create more accountability and transparency in the USS. Much of this plan will be discussed and produced by plenary as a group. There are several important changes, however, that need to be made in order to facilitate transparency and accountability in USS to make any five year plan successful.
These changes will include:
- Chartering CUNY-wide Task Forces and Clubs, as well as creating affiliates.
- Grant application process to fund student activities
- Online budget with expenditures on the USS Website, updated as money is spent
- Student services budget line for movie tickets, medical subsidies, and more
- Part-time web staff and restructuring of staff
- Address quorum issues by amending the constitution and bylaws
- Creation of subcommittees such as Academic and Civic Affairs
- Restructuring of Steering to have 3 Co-Chairs—and, within five years, to have three student votes on the Board of Trustees
- Promoting a new reputation for USS
- Selection of representatives to Board of Trustees subcommittees by application
- Creating a Student Bill of Rights
- Implementation of a Five Year Strategic Plan
Task Forces and Clubs
USS will develop a formal chartering process for the development of long-term task forces and CUNY-wide clubs. These task forces and clubs will have their own bylaws and will run themselves while receiving an annual amount of funding from USS. The amount will be the same for each group (more funding will be available through the grants process if needed). Some examples of CUNY-wide Task Forces may include LGBTQ, Disabilities, Sustainability, or Health Issues. CUNY-Wide Clubs will be less action oriented and more interest based and could include Film, Cultural Clubs, Chess, Debate, etc. Any student from any campus could propose a club or task force, but the chartering would be done by USS at plenary meetings, given that it met certain criteria that we would codify–for example, having a certain number of students from a certain number of campuses express interest might be one of our criteria. USS will also develop a system to charter USS Affiliates which could include a CUNY student newspaper with an active blog.
This process would allow us to fund a wide variety of events, but with a strict, predetermined budget which would alleviate many of the problems of USS’s past in terms of a lack of transparency.
Grant Application Process
Should one of these task forces, clubs, or affiliates need more money than in their budget for an event they could apply for a grant, through USS’s new Grant Application Process. Not only can the task forces, clubs, or affiliates apply for a grant, so too can every CUNY student who would like to hold an event. We will have very clear criteria for what kind of events can be funded. For example, we might say that it has to be open to all CUNY students, or that it needs to advertised on multiple campuses. This criteria for funding will be voted on my plenary and made public on the USS website. We can then be sure that every event receiving USS funding has met some basic criteria that we all agree is appropriate. Once the criteria has been decided an Plenary, the Steering Committee will implement the criteria through the review of grant applications. Once our grant application process has taken off we may decide to have a separate Grant Application Committee to handle all of the applications.
The USS Budget will then be much more transparent because we will know that each club has its own budget, and all event funding will go through the same process of approval. That said, there are still many more ways that we can improve the transparency of the University Student Senate. As Chair of the Audit Committee last year I have been privy to all of the expenditures of USS for the past five years. There are many things that I found to be a inappropriate use of student funds (see my report). Although the administration, including the CUNY Treasurer Bill Fox, has not taken the necessary steps to conduct the mandatory annual audit of USS in a timely manner, I have written the report on behalf of the Audit Committee. I would implement these recommendations of the USS Audit Committee:
- Trim expense for Albany trips so more students can participate
- Make clear process to determine which students attend events or trips
- Create specific budget line for Albany trips
- Create budget line for non-plenary or steering meetings
- $10 per person maximum for food for meetings
- Institute a policy that requires steering members to attend meetings to collect stipends
- Clarify guidelines on legitimate social expenditures and efforts to make these available to all CUNY students
In addition USS would show a live budget and expenditure on the website to maximize transparency. I would also create a Student Services Line which we could use to provide Discounted Movie Tickets, or perhaps Medical Subsidies for lab work, or many other possible services. We would also try to be more cost efficient and use extra money to increase scholarships. I would also search for new ways to optimize the usage of staff for the implementation of our goals. This will included restructuring staff and hiring a permanent part-time web staff member to maintain the website. Finally, I would change the budget year to be based on an academic year, not a calendar year. This would make it so that each new steering committee could be able to start right away with their own budget.
With the addition of a new part-time staff member, there would be guarantee that someone will be updating the online budget as well as posting minutes, agendas, and announcements on the USS website which will become a hub for inter-CUNY communication. Having a functioning website and creating a culture where USS is known for being effective and transparent may result in students encouraging their delegates to attend meetings and report back. This would help with issues of quorum.
USS would also institute a policy that made steering members more accountable. If every steering member started to attend plenary regularly, even if no other attendance situation changed, we would significantly reduce the odds of USS not meeting quorum. Therefore Steering members will be required to attend Plenary meetings (perhaps with one exception a year) but also hold office hours at the USS office where students can come and meet with them. This would increase their accountability and help them to have information to report at the Plenary meetings.
Constitution and Bylaws
I would recommend several changes to the USS Constitution. Since steering meeting minutes reflect that there is a very low number of members present at each meeting, the meetings would be reduced to one per month rather than two. These meetings would become more efficient than the two that are currently held and all members would be expected to attend. In addition, subcommittees would be created that would also meet monthly. These subcommittees could be similar or different than the ones Vice Chair Antonio Alfonso proposed in the spring. Those included Academic Affairs, Legislative and Fiscal Affairs, and Civic Affairs. These meetings would have Plenary members on them as well as steering members. This would help in creating a sense of unity among USS members.
Student Bill of Rights and Five Year Strategic Plan
The USS would also add to the constitution a Student Bill of Rights which would include a set of principles that all of our work falls under, for example free tuition or student health care. After creating this Bill of Rights we would develop a Five Year Strategic Plan based on these principles, which would also increase institutional memory and make accomplishing our goals more effective. USS has been functioning on a year to year basis, but we would create goals to work for that would guide the next five years.
Creation of USS Co-Chairs
One of the major goals would be to change to USS to a Co-Chair system, rather than just one chairperson. The current Chair of USS would become Co-Chair for Student Affairs, and the current vice-chairs for legislative and fiscal would become Co-Chair for Legislative Affairs and Co-Chair for Fiscal Affairs. We could change this in our constitution with a two-third majority vote and I have been informed that no higher administrative office would try to block us from doing so. The next step after changing our constitution would be to begin lobbying in Albany to change New York State Law to give all three co-chairs a voting seat on the Board of Trustees. This would be a lot of work and take a few years, but it is a goal we can achieve! Until we do achieve this, however, I will make it known in advance how I would vote at the Board of Trustees meetings. I would publicize this online in advance so that students could weigh in on the issues and I could ensure that I was voting in line with what the students wanted. I would also invite the vice-chairs of legislative and fiscal affairs to attend meetings with the Chancellery and other administrative offices.
Application for Subcommittees
As for the Board of Trustees Subcommittees, I would not just pick friends or those of you I know to be the student representatives on those committees. There would be an application process where students on USS would have to write how you would advocate for student issues and articulate student concerns on those committees, as well as explain how you would share the agenda and how you will vote beforehand, and then report back on how you actually voted. If a number of students were equally passionate and articulate about being on a particular committee, there would be a lottery to select the students to serve.
One way that I have already started to work toward these goals was by organizing the CUNY-wide Student Summit on August 19th, 2012. This event can be contrasted to the exclusive USS retreat held outside of the city, and at a very large expense. When I am chair of USS, USS will start being to the benefit of all CUNY students, not just the delegates who represent them. USS would also cease to be so exclusive, and I would change this by facilitating more events that are clearly open to all CUNY students. USS would create a new sense of community and create a new reputation through a real restructuring of our budget and constitution as well as our everyday practices.