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USG president, vice president look back, move on

Thomas Bradley / Campus editor

Boxes scatter the floor of the Undergraduate Student Government office suite in the Ohio Union as one student body president moves out to make room for another, leaving behind not only what he considers a successful term, but politics altogether.
Nick Messenger, a third-year in political science and USG president, will officially step down Wednesday from his one-year term with Emily DeDonato, a third-year in biology, as his vice president. Taylor Stepp and Kevin Arndt will take office as the president and vice president for Ohio State’s first year on semesters.
Messenger said he ran for president to help students solve problems they were facing. He said he and DeDonato can leave office knowing “we accomplished what we set out to do.”
Messenger said it’s a good year when a USG president and vice president achieve two or three of their platform ideas. From helping students determine how to graduate on time to encouraging green energy initiatives, Messenger and DeDonato said they accomplished nearly everything for which they campaigned.
MySwitch, a website launched last September to help students with the quarter-to-semester conversion, was one of the reasons DeDonato said she and Messenger ran for office. The website they created has been visited more than 52,000 times and will continue to be used after the conversion as an advising tool.
Last fall, Messenger and DeDonato invited OSU students to beat Michigan in sustainability efforts in Out-Green the Wolverines. Participating students recycled plastic bags and exchanged inefficient light bulbs for energy efficient ones.
Messenger and DeDonato introduced their Buckeye Bookswap program Winter Quarter for students to directly sell textbooks to other students. Out of the 500 books collected, nearly 450 were left unsold, said USG director of academic affairs Sean Fitzpatrick.
While Messenger admitted the program would need more marketing in the future, he considers the debut a success.
“Students that did use it overwhelmingly said that ‘this saved me $80 or $90 from a book I was going to buy at SBX or Barnes & Noble,'” Messenger said.
Other accomplishments from their platform included providing $35,000 in funding for student organizations, adding seven new study tables to William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library and increasing the number of Student Safety cars.
The only platform item Messenger said he and DeDonato can’t check off their list is joint jurisdiction between OSU Police and Columbus Division of Police, an agreement that would allow University Police to patrol off-campus neighborhoods.
President E. Gordon Gee told The Lantern April 23 that both police departments are working through union contract issues to reach an agreement.
“Our own police, the Ohio State University Police, are fully committed to doing this,” Gee said. “I think it will happen in fairly short order.”
In achieving many of the items from his campaign, Messenger said he views his term as president a success, but said the credit lies with his cabinet.
“I don’t possess any leadership skills or any insight or knowledge that makes me any better at this than anybody else would be.” Messenger said. “We get a lot of credit for things that USG does but the biggest secret … is putting the right people in the right places and then letting the rest take care of itself.”
Messenger called his experiences over the last year “life-changing” in more ways than one, but perhaps the greatest lesson of all for Messenger was learning that politics is not where his life is headed in the future. He said he will instead pursue a career in medicine.
“The campaign was fun, but the real joy out of this year for me was the day-to-day ability to do something that made someone else’s life easier or someone else’s life better, or made someone’s day and really made a difference, when I can actually see and touch and feel the difference I’ve made through what we do here,” Messenger said. “I’ve enjoyed that experience much more.”
DeDonato said it was a mutual decision to not seek re-election.
“We did everything we wanted to do,” she said. “We knew there were other people out there who can do a good job.”
Neither DeDonato nor Messenger have plans to participate in USG next year. DeDonato said it would be difficult to step out of a role she and Messenger held for a year, and she said she wants to give the new leaders their chance to govern. Messenger agreed.
“I’m a believer there’s only one USG president at a time,” he said.
In leaving behind a life of breakfasts with university administrators and evenings in cabinet meetings, Messenger said he looks forward to the “average” life of a college student – though that is not to say he won’t miss his time as USG president.
“I’ll miss being busy all the time,” Messenger said. “The office becomes a second home, the people … become lifelong best friends … (It was) an incredible experience with incredible people, and I’m excited to see Taylor and Kevin and their team having those experiences.”
Messenger said he leaves USG at a time when more students are paying attention to student government, reflected by this year’s election, which brought in a total of 8,563 votes, according to election data. It is the second-highest number of votes cast in the history of the organization behind the 1975 election in which 8,770 votes were cast.
He said he hopes Stepp and Arndt can continue the trend of more students caring about USG, and that he is ready to let the new president and vice president take over.
“The book on Nick and Emily is pretty much closed,” Messenger said. “I had a solid 365 days to get my agenda accomplished, and we did a lot of it. Now it’s Taylor’s 365 days. I really do wish them the best of luck. I think they’ll be fantastic.”

Caitlin Essig contributed to this story.

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