IgniteTU concluded its term by swearing in BecomingTU, the Temple Student Government executive team for the 2019-20 academic year, at an inauguration event on Monday.
“Throughout the entire year, we’ve done a lot of great work throughout different initiatives that we’ve run and throughout a lot of different policy changes that we’ve tried to implement,” said Gadi Zimmerman, the former student body president, on Monday.
Francesca Capozzi is the new student body president, Kaya Jones is the vice president of external affairs and Laryssa Banks is the vice president of services. BecomingTU, an all-women ticket, succeeds an administration that focused on students’ need-based issues, like food and housing security, and worked with a struggling Parliament body.
The outgoing executive team — Zimmerman, vice president of services Trent Reardon and vice president of external affairs Cameron Kaczor — discussed the administration’s progress and pitfalls during an end-of-the-year forum moderated by The Temple News on Tuesday.
Combatting food and housing insecurity
Many of IgniteTU’s initiatives focused on food and housing insecurity.
The administration created a need-based Ignite a Movement scholarship and collected more than 100 donations for the Cherry Pantry at its Cultural Cook-Off event, Zimmerman said. IgniteTU also started TSG’s partnership with Swipe Out Hunger, a national organization that donates students’ leftover meal swipes to students in need.
Food and housing insecurity affects about one-third of Temple’s undergraduate students, according to a study by The Hope Center, but the issues were not the main focus of previous administrations, Zimmerman said.
“One of the main reasons that students drop out of school is because their basic needs aren’t met,” he added. “School’s already challenging enough that to have that on top of your workload, it’s horrible.”
The administration announced the Ignite a Movement scholarship in January, and three students will be selected to split more than $6,000 in donations from an OwlCrowd campaign, Reardon said.
The scholarship can be used to cover costs like meal plans, on-campus housing payments or textbooks, and IgniteTU’s executive team hopes it continues in future TSG administrations.
“We’re really happy with the impact that it will have for the people that it’s going to affect the upcoming year,” he added. “Hopefully, it gets bigger and bigger.”
The Swipe Out Hunger program hasn’t been implemented at Temple yet, but IgniteTU administration has worked with the Office of Business Services to launch a pilot program for the 2019-20 school year, Zimmerman said.
Addressing internal issues
TSG’s Parliament branch struggled during Fall 2018, with the branch’s first resolution not coming until November. Parliament was mandated by the Ethics Board to propose 15 in its last active month of the fall semester.
During the most recent election season, a Parliament committee reviewing the constitution reduced Parliament’s seats to 30 instead of 37, because Parliament filled only 27 of its seats by the end of Spring 2019, according to its website.
Only 18 members of Parliament and were sworn in on Monday, and Drew Gardner, an at-large representative, was selected as speaker of the body.
IgniteTU also addressed BecomingTU’s suggestion to make Parliament inactive during Fall 2019 to fill seats and work on its ability to pass and initiate resolutions. During Tuesday’s forum, Zimmerman suggested the constitution allowed Parliament to go on sabbatical and said IgniteTU considered it during its administration.
A sabbatical is not currently constitutional and wasn’t permitted under the previous constitution, said Morrease Leftwich, TSG’s former chief judge. Parliament is required to pass resolutions each semester, he said.
“They have to constantly be working, and that stuff can done behind the scenes as well through committees,” said Emanuel Wilkerson, a former at-large representative.
Having a large student body means a large student government, but operating TSG can be difficult if there isn’t communication between Parliament and the other branches, Zimmerman said.
“They are going to be able to engage so many more students by having more people in those positions,” Reardon said.
The executive team also had members of its administration leave at the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year. Kaczor knows three members who left for personal reasons and another who studied abroad this semester, but that’s not unlike any other student organization, she said.
“If something comes up where [students] can’t suddenly make this commitment, then they shouldn’t be involved,” Kaczor said.
Interacting with the student body
Student involvement in TSG has consistently dwindled, with a lower voter turnout this election season than last year’s. During the two voting days in early April, 2,755 votes were cast, down 1,750 votes from last year’s election, a more than 38 percent drop. Student body turnout was 8.42 percent.
More publicity about elections from the university’s administration could increase the number of people who know about TSG initiatives and elections, Kaczor said.
“The Temple Student Government bubble is so small,” she added. “If the Temple administration sent out an email, it would have been a good thing to have.”
IgniteTU was criticized for being inaccessible to student organizations after it switched its mandatory General Assembly meetings to weekly email newsletters, The Temple News reported. The administration decided in January to hold town hall meetings twice a month and require a student organization representative to attend at least one meeting each month to be eligible for allocations.
“It’s on TSG to make sure that we are still engaging with the student body and meeting students in person,” Zimmerman said.
Both executive teams running for the 2019-20 academic year had multiple campaign violations and were suspended from campaigning on the last day of voting, which could have decreased student votes, Reardon said.
For past elections, TSG has had physical voting sites throughout Main Campus, but this year, voting was entirely done online. These may have also helped raise awareness of elections and increase turnout, Reardon said.
Members of IgniteTU’s own administration did play a part in violating the Election Code this year, but those individuals will not necessarily be involved with BecomingTU, the 2019-20 ticket, because they are reviewing new student applications for administrative positions, Zimmerman said.
The first violation was for tagging the BecomingTU account on a photo of Jones at a TSG town hall. The second involved a campaign member, who’s also a member of IgniteTU, removing the opposing team’s name from the official TSG site.
Capozzi, Banks and Jones will be forming an administration with new members, Zimmerman said.
“It’s important to note that BecomingTU as a campaign is over,” he added. “So whatever views people have about the campaign, they should welcome the new administration with open arms.”