With one half of their term officially behind them, Undergraduate Student Government President Gerard Basalla and Vice President Danielle Di Scala spent Tuesday evening reflecting on the past semester during the USG State of the University Address.
The invite-only event was held in the Great Hall Meeting Room of the Ohio Union, and involved a dinner catered by University Dining Services followed by speeches from USG’s chief of staff, vice president and president.
Annie Greer, USG chief of staff and a fourth year industrial & systems engineering, started off the event by reiterating the theme put forth at the beginning of the school year: “Reach up, reach out, reach forward.”
“Reaching up is about strengthening our relationships with each other and developing as individuals simply so that we can do our job and do it well,” Greer said to the audience. “Our vision was and is to make USG a family, so that our members feel accepted, valuable and empowered.”
Greer emphasized the organization’s commitment to this theme by citing structural changes intended to make USG more accessible and transparent. She mentioned the creation of liaisons intended to create relationships with student organizations around campus, as well as the monthly public forum and revamping of the USG website.
“Something the student body has asked for year after year is transparency and, this year, we set tangible initiatives to prove our commitment to transparency as an organization,” Greer said. “We hope that the student body has noticed our increased efforts to hear their voices and we will continue to ‘reach out’ as the Spring Semester begins.”
Basalla echoed the importance of the student voice when he described his vision for USG.
“We’ve taken the approach that USG is supposed to represent all students, by being a mouthpiece for our student body, sharing our perspective with administrators, faculty, staff and the Buckeye community,” Basalla said to the crowd. “By revamping our internal structure and making our organization more transparent to others, we have created an organizational structure that fosters the ability to work well with every member of our community.”
Basalla continued his speech by highlighting resolutions and initiatives that he felt showed the progress USG has made over the course of the year. These included the organization’s work on textbook affordability, the End Hate OSU initiative to end hate speech on campus, and working with and updating the OSU mobile app.
Special emphasis was placed on the “unprecedented feat” of passing the resolution to place a mental health disclaimer on course syllabi. The resolution passed unanimously in the University Senate last November. The implementation of the mental health disclaimer, which will include the Office of Student Life’s Counseling and Consultation Service’ address, phone number and website, comes after more than two years and three resolutions on the subject, with the first two attempts resulting in the drafts expiring before the end of the semester they were put forth.
Basalla said that USG is committed to mental health and combatting the stigma that surrounds it.
“To those Buckeyes who are struggling, you are not alone. Your stories matter and you matter,” he said.
The speech also touched on some of the things USG wishes to accomplish in 2017 including a “Time for Change” sustainability event to encourage the importance of environmental conscientiousness, continued work on diverse student and faculty enrollment, and combined efforts with faculty toward textbook affordability.
Basalla concluded the event by saying that he hopes his speech will move past the tradition of a recap and reflection and instead act as a call to action.
“This new year gives student leaders the opportunity to reevaluate our goals, work across the aisle with peers across the country to transform the world,” Basalla said.