For too long, members of Temple Student Government have proposed initiatives during their campaigns they could not fulfill while in office.
For example, one of BloomTU’s initiatives was to provide permanent on-campus prayer spaces for religious students, but they never managed to get it enacted.
While it’s important TSG advocates for its student body, they must be realistic in what they are promising to fight for. Their frequent over-ambitious initiatives have disappointed the student body, decreasing their support for its work and participation in elections. To restore students’ confidence, TSG must make smaller, more feasible goals to prove they are capable of fulfilling students’ needs.
Big, overly-ambitious and unrealistic initiatives advocate for specific and immediate changes to student life. However, goals that are smaller and more feasible are ones that align with issues the university has already expressed an interest in and do not have an abrupt, direct impact on students’ lives.
TSG was created to advocate to the university’s administration on behalf of the student body and hold the university accountable for addressing the needs of its students. To do this, the student government is split into three branches that, when working efficiently, are supposed to initiate, develop and sustain different policies and programs for the student body.
All TSG initiatives must receive approval from the university before going into effect.
This means, with the right research and support behind its initiatives, TSG has the capacity to influence university policies to favor students’ interests.
“It’s getting in the room with the right people,” said Philip Smith, the director of Student Activities and the faculty adviser for TSG. “It’s a matter of having meetings and those types of conversations.”
A good TSG initiative is heavily researched and includes specific, measurable and attainable plans for accomplishing a goal.
“Without proper research, you could fall into a place where you are making false promises, or ones that are not easily or logistically feasible for the university to implement or for TSG to actually carry out,” said Mark Rey, a public health graduate student and former vice president of BloomTU, TSG’s executive administration during the 2020-21 academic year.
However, many of RenewTU’s initiatives are hefty promises — like reducing class sizes or enforcing strict penalties for students who violate COVID-19 guidelines — without proper research for implementing them.
Although these ideas are theoretically a great way to help the student body, they aren’t very feasible, said Johanna Bauer, a sophomore recreational therapy major. Bauer hasn’t seen many of TSG’s initiatives come to fruition this year, she said.
“It doesn’t seem like they’re very practical ideas that they can put in place,” Bauer said.
Because TSG is currently advocating for big-picture goals that are likely to fail, students may feel less inclined to participate in voting after seeing its advocacy continuously fall flat. For example, TSG’s executive branch has seen record low voter turnout rates in recent years, with RenewTU winning its unopposed election last spring with only 139 votes, the fewest cast in at least 18 years, The Temple News reported.
When there is low voter turnout and low participation among students, TSG is unable to ensure its initiatives are informed by the needs of the student body.
The first step TSG can take towards undertaking smaller, more feasible initiatives is improving its research process. This involves looking at what Temple students need, what nearby universities are doing and how they’ve implemented those initiatives, Rey said.
Many of TSG’s smaller initiatives in the past have been successful, like BloomTU’s partnership with faculty and students at the College of Education and Human Development to host programs on campus discussing pathways to higher education levels for community members.
The College of Education and Human Development claims to make serving the needs of schools and communities a top priority, according to its website, making this initiative more feasible because the college already expressed their interest in this issue.
Smaller ideas like these are more beneficial than TSG’s hefty promises because they stand a higher chance of being implemented and ultimately making a difference, Bauer said.
Student governments at other local universities, like Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania, also choose to focus on smaller initiatives that still help the student body, like promoting community service events. For example, Penn’s student government organized a safe space within their organization for students to discuss microaggressions they have experienced.
“TSG must remember to look into researching feasibility, logistically, what kind of research has already been done and why it wasn’t implemented during one’s tenure,” Rey said. “Students must remember that there is a policy-making process, and it takes a lot of work to do the research and build a coalition of support.”