Andrew Jackson and Sophie Chang are nearly finished with their first semester serving Ohio State as its Undergraduate Student Government leaders.
Following their campaign platform of affordability, inclusion and sustainability, Jackson and Chang said they have strengthened connections with administrators, supported students following the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and created a future pilot program for free tampons and pads in the Ohio Union and the RPAC.
However, a few major speed bumps during Jackson and Chang’s first semester as president and vice president, respectively, have inhibited more progress. Notably, this semester’s general assembly, a group of student senators that represent different areas of campus, has been plagued by the contentious political atmosphere.
“I think it’s absurd that people think that we sit in our meetings and play politics,” Jackson said. “What is actually happening in our meetings is research on projects that are happening and updates on what’s happening around the university.”
Jackson, a fourth-year in political science and Spanish, and Chang, a fourth-year in environment, economy, development and sustainability, both agreed there is “nothing political about USG.”
Despite this claim, the most contentious resolutions passed this semester dealt with political topics.
This includes a resolution supporting an Ohio bill about free speech on campus and a resolution passed to add a holiday celebrating indigenous people on the same day as Columbus Day.
Chang said calling something “political” in USG is taboo because of the organization’s historical nonpartisan belief. She said when the student government, or a resolution they produce, is partisan, it deters members from wanting to progress further in issues.
Other obstacles the pair has faced are the recent change in the director of the diversity and inclusion committee, as well as internal USG pushback from creating a university-wide scholarship registry.
A scholarship registry — which would allow potential students to access all available scholarships at Ohio State — has slowed down due to increased oversight by individual colleges and offices, Jackson said.
Beyond these roadblocks, Jackson said the work they do will benefit the students even beyond his time at Ohio State.
“The more work we do in here, the less work the students have to do out there,” Jackson said.
Jackson, who said USG is not political, said he was “most proud” of supporting DACA students. At one point in the semester, he and Chang promised to travel to Washington, D.C., to lobby on behalf of these students to push representatives to vote for the Dream Act, a replacement that could help protect DACA students currently in the United States.
“I think one of the best things we’ve done this year is working with our DACA students and really making sure that they have all the resources that they need to be safe and succeed on campus no matter what,” Jackson said.
However, the trip was canceled because they believe the act will pass.
The relationship with university leaders has grown more than past administrations, Chang said. The pair kept existing relationships with University President Michael Drake, while adding relationships such as a connection with the Office of the Chief Information Officer.
This gave way to the free tampons and pads pilot program, spearheaded by Chang.
Though the pair said they are excited for next semester and the work still to be done, Chang is looking forward to a long break following Autumn semester final exams.
“It’s been a definitely interesting year, but I’ve been quite lucky to have the team that I have around me to help with everything,” Jackson said.