It’s almost tiring to read another criticism aimed at an appendage of Central Student Government (CSG) at this point. If you have heard of CSG (although many students have not), it likely is either because of the very popular Wall Street Journal and New York Times subscriptions they cover for all students every semester or because of something extremely negative.
From last winter’s mostly toxic election cycle to a member of the current executive branch who told me they flat-out refuse to even speak with anyone who doesn’t “educate themselves on CSG,” the perceptions I have heard about CSG range from a self-serious Socratic circle to a do-nothing abyss from which your student fees never return.
Now, being a very vocal critic of CSG and ex-member myself, I find both of these criticisms to be understandable but very inaccurate. Some of the most hardworking students I have ever met are currently in CSG. The Winter 2023 elections team passed the test of the largest candidate pool in the history of the university with flying colors and were professional at every step of the election cycle.
Even so, the lack of consistent communication from CSG to the students and the backwards expectation that students ought to seek out CSG (rather than the other way around) severely kneecap the potential CSG can have as a political and social forum capable of being the catalyst of positive progress in our community. CSG’s problems primarily stem from its inefficient allocation of resources, partially due to its own shortsighted decisions, but also to the existential effects of rising costs of living and inflation.
I want CSG to be better, to have a good reputation, and to be a voice for every student on campus. There are three basic steps that CSG could take in raising the ceiling of its capabilities.
The first step to both improve CSG’s reputation and financial responsibility is to mandate that CSG play by its own rules. I cannot express how many times I have told other members of CSG that reimbursing its own food expenses but not student organizations’ is a baffling betrayal of the trust that students ought to be able to place in their representatives and executive. Although the exact amount of money is not publicly listed on its website, CSG has spent thousands of dollars on its own catering from the publicly available resources.
A common deflection by CSG leaders is that there is some level of food reimbursement that occurs for organizations, but in my experience with four other student organizations, I have never once been reimbursed for personal food expenses. The same goes for the members of dozens of other organizations I spoke with on the campaign trail in the winter. Regardless of how egregious this CSG policy has been, ending it or at least limiting catering to only public events where the majority of attendees are non-CSG members would go a long way toward restoring faith in the representative democracy we have established on campus.
The second step to rectify CSG’s fiscal irresponsibility is to treat event expenses as a last resort. This absolutely does not mean I am advocating even fewer fun events for CSG to provide to the students, but CSG needs to think outside the box and use its free resources to make a difference without using anywhere near $25,000 to $50,000 on its events.
Instead of spending over a thousand dollars on an outdoor movie night on the Diag, why not use one of CSG’s free room reservations or even the LSA free room reservations to host the event? CSG could literally host that event free or for $100 max through catering for guests. Instead, the thousands of dollars wasted are going to a specific event day with sparse attendance rather than to, say, the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Survivor Empowerment Commission. Making this change may seem small, but it is one that could save CSG over $10,000 in a single semester.
My last suggestion is directly addressed to that executive member whom I referenced earlier in this article. As a CSG member, your job is to work with and for all students, regardless of whether they ran against you in the last election. It is mind-boggling that this even needs to be said, but petty behavior in student government has had a direct consequence to the detriment of the students recently. Leave the egos at the Union door, and start bringing some bills to the floor. Our campus community is counting on us.