At Your Service
SGs recognize their students' needs
By Risa G. Merl
Ask not what you can do for your Student Government; ask what your SG can do for you! This might sound great, but what are the chances of SGs providing real tangible benefits to their students? We’re not talking about long-term projects like new buildings or policy changes but things that students can use now. The chances are greater than you think. At schools across the country, SGs are recognizing the short-term needs of their students and providing them with benefits that matter, and get students involved in, and make them appreciate SG—finally.
Give and You Shall
So, what exactly are tangible benefits? Different SGs offer an array of beneficial programs. The keys to a successful program are creativity, usability, and immediacy—make sure it’s a program that the students can use today.
A cash discount is a common benefit that’s highly successful when used in a creative way. Through its Printshop, CSU offered low cost printing and photocopy services to its students. Just how low? How about only four cents a page for copies and a plethora of other discounted printing needs such as banners, posters, and fliers. Any student, faculty, or staff member could make use of these discounts.
But the Printshop wasn’t always a successful tangible benefit. “The decision was between closing the Printshop—students weren’t using it—or moving it to a new location,” Piunno says. Sales tripled when it was moved next to the SGA executive board’s offices. “Students responded well to this benefit. They really liked the fact that it was six cents cheaper to copy things here than anywhere else on campus,” Piunno says. “Our main focus is the Printshop and different ways to expand the resource and make it even better for the students.”
Surfing Made Easy
What about this web site makes it wow? “The first tangible benefit is that the students knew their direct input was going into the site,” Dulong says. “This is a site developed by students, controlled by students, and dealing with student issues, so they knew whatever they asked for we’d try our best to put on the site somehow.” On a typical SG site, you might find minutes from the last meeting, ways to contact the senate, and upcoming SG news. Although The Hive is home for UR’s Student Association and the place to find SA information, its role isn’t just that of representing SA—it’s also home to the other 100 student groups.
The Hive goes above and beyond to offer UR students a place for everything they may possibly need, whether it be e-mail access, local weather reports, information on local events, or current campus news. “We wanted one site where it’s a ‘one-stop shopping location.’ You’re on The Hive, where everything should be,” Dulong says.
The site has a comprehensive current events calendar, which didn’t exist on any other UR site before The Hive. Through its, “What can your SG do for you?” section, students can comment on how the SG is doing or request new services. The feedback system has been very successful due to the anonymity. The site also has world, national, and campus headline news. “For campus news, we post events that benefit the entire student body,” Dulong says. The campus news also informs students of big events on campus, such as concerts and speakers, or the less exciting tuition increases. “If you’re going to the site to check out the weather or log onto your e-mail, you might as well be able to find out what’s going on, too,” he says.
Knowledge Is Power
Last spring, MDC also initiated a system to monitor use of the high-demand books. As of then, Huson reported 12 to 15 people using the books per day. “Word of mouth has been really great,” he says. As a student who used textbooks in the library because he couldn’t afford books of his own, Huson knows how important this benefit is to students. “General feedback from students is that the program has been a great help,” he says. High textbook prices were a major issue at MDC, and the book donation program has been a great resource to solve that problem. “We have less students complaining about the textbook price issue,” he says.
The program not only helps students to save money, but at the same time, it encourages students to visit the library more often. “This is a program that could work anywhere. It’s not limited by space or tradition; it could work on all campuses,” Huson says. “It saves money and encourages students to study. I hope more colleges adopt programs like this one.”
AirBus started by charging $9 one-way and $14 round-trip, but lowered prices to $7 for one-way and $12 round-trip. “Compare this to $22 one-way for a shuttle van or up to $45 one-way for a taxi cab,” he says. AirBus operates trips at targeted common travel times and uses full-size highway coaches. Their busiest trips carry as many as 57 passengers. “With multiple airBus trips per day, we can move a lot more people a lot more efficiently,” Greenberg says. “And since profit isn’t our motive, we can do it for a lot less.” The service is publicized on campus and customers can reserve seats on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Last year’s leaders of the Michigan Students’ Association ran with the proposal for airBus on their campaign platforms and followed through to bring airport transportation to fellow students. MSA provided the resources to publicize airBus to students. “The program has been wildly successful,” Greenberg says. “Of the 41 reserved trips, we had 30 sold out completely. We had to upgrade to larger buses and regrettably turn some people away.” In fact, the program is so popular that he says some students recognize him in-person as the “airBus guy.” “This is a resource that everyone can use,” Greenberg says.
Coming Soon to a School
The key to keeping a program alive also comes from students. “We’ve taken a lot of feedback from the student body and have made a lot of changes. We’re constantly making The Hive better,” Dulong says. Piunno also knows the importance of listening to the students, who are her customers. “As manager, I listen to all comments and suggestions and take them to my committee. We discuss them and see what’s possible. If it’s not possible for us to do, we try to figure out another department that would be possible to get that done,” she says. AirBus used student feedback to make sure that the program was fulfilling the needs of its customers. “We actively sought feedback from our customers,” Greenberg says. “We’ve established a pretty good recipe for operating smoothly, but we’re always open to input.”
“There will always be attempts to start new programs, and many new programs are resurrections of older ones that had died out,” Dulong says. “Until the perfect program is found, I don’t think there will ever be a slowdown of new attempts.” There may be some trial and error before the right program is found, but providing students with tangible benefits is an effort that serves not only the student body, but the SG as well.
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