March 1st, 2012
One of the top-rated ideas on IdeaScale is “From Flex Passes to Points” which states, “Currently you can spend $7 worth of points on one flex pass, but you can not go the oposite way! The meal plans come with sometimes an abudance of flex passes that go unused. Allowing us to switch would not be a great debt to the dining services because they are trading a $7 all you can eat for a fixed amount of food per money.”
Here is a response to the idea from Dennis Pierce, Director of Dining Services. The general message seems to be that if we were to allow conversion of flex passes into points, the price of meal plans would need to be increased. USG will continue looking into this issue to see if this is true, and if so, if the student body would allowing conversion and increasing meal plan costs.
Flex passes were created to be used for “guest meals” and to be spent at in the Department’s Grab & Go’s. The Grab and Goes offerings that have been created to be used with flex passes are items that we make in house or have a less expensive price point. That way we have control of the raw food costs as they relate to the value of the raw cost of a flex pass. For example we serve fountain beverage vs. bottled soda. At our Cafés and the Union Street Market are margins are higher thus the use points vs. flex passes. However, that being said we are looking to see if we can change the structure of points vs flex passes for the fall. We need to determine the proper mix that will be financially feasible.
Meal plans are priced with a consideration of a “missed meal factor” and the use of points and flex passes. If the participation rate is higher and more flex passes / points are used then the cost of the plan would have to be higher. Thus the “cash out” of points or flex passes at the end of the semester would not be feasible under the current model. Students can participate in making a donation using a flex pass during our Give A Meal program that occurs every semester. This event benefits the Covenant Soup Kitchen, the No Freeze Shelter and also funds the transportation costs for the nontraditional breaks.
February 14th, 2012
Hey UConn, this is the third of many responses to top-rated ideas from our new website, uconn.ideascale.com. On the site, you can post your ideas for improving UConn, and vote other ideas up and down. The highest-rated ideas will be referred to the appropriate USG committee for further discussion and action, and I will be writing blog posts to detail what is being done about these ideas.
One of the first ideas to get a lot of votes was, “Polling Place on Campus for Local, State, and National Elections.” This is an idea that is far along in the process, and USG has actually been pursuing it for many months.
There are many obstacles to overcome in order to get a polling place on campus – the cost, where to put it, the necessity of having it open for EVERY election (not just presidential or even midterm elections, but also local elections and referenda), and concerns over whether it would be allowed by state law (there are mixed messages, and no definite decision, on whether state law would consider it to be unfairly catering to a certain population). These are all being worked through, with the goal of getting a polling place for November 2012.
Some info on the progression of the issue: I met with Secretary of State Denise Merrill (formerly the state representative from Mansfield) in March 2011, who was supportive of the idea but said that the power to make it happen was in the hands of the town registrars. I then met with President Herbst about the issue at the beginning of Fall 2011, and she is very excited about making it happen. We plan on meeting with the town registrars of voters in the near future (we were going to meet earlier, but the registrars were unable to meet until Connecticut’s redistricting process was complete, and it just finished up). Also, the mayor of Mansfield has expressed her support for the issue and is working on it as well.
I will be sure to post updates whenever there is progress on this issue. Stay tuned!
February 12th, 2012
Hey UConn, here’s another response to a proposal from IdeaScale. I am personally responding to the most popular ideas on our new site, to tell students what actions USG is taking to work towards improving UConn. While I am typically just going to reply to the most popular ideas, I will post a response to less popular ideas from time to time, in order to provide information to interested students.
Dennis Pierce, the Director of Dining Services, contacted me about the idea, “Provide healthy food choices on campus” and requested that I post a response from him. His response to the idea:
The Department of Dining salutes USG for hosting the IdeaScale. It truly creates a venue that allows to de-myth many of the perceptions that occur around campus. We took the comment above and addressed the miss-stated information. Please note that we are always open to comments and suggestions. If there are questions regarding our menus, ingredients etc feel free to call us at 486-3128, email us via our web site or set up an appointment to discuss.
Dining is a rather large organization preparing in excess of 180 thousand meals per week in our residential dining program. We have to meet the needs of a very diverse group of individuals. We offer healthy options, Vegetarian options, Vegan, Kosher, Gluten Free, and Dairy Free. While we strive to provide many options there students that want to have many choices and sometimes that may not meet the definition of healthy. What we do strive for is using the best “clean” ingredients that originate from quality sources. We would like to thank all that have added comments. This allows us the opportunity to better market the correct information as it relates to the products we serve. We hope that once reading the following, individuals will seek out accurate information, so that miss information is not perpetuated creating a plethora of urban myths.
Director of Dining Services
· Hydrolyzed beef stock in soup labeled as “vegan”……This is not true. Here at UConn anything labeled vegan does not contain any animal by products. We take a conservative approach to insure that all our ingredients used in recipes are in fact vegan.
· Potato chips and snacks loaded with plant dextrin’s and cane sugar…..We use Deep River Chips that is a local company out of CT. Here is a quote directly from their web site. “We only use non-GMO potatoes and all of our products are kosher certified, gluten free and contain no trans fat. We’re also 100% committed to sustainability”.
· Food loaded with salt, not sure if they use msg or gmo-ingredients in the cooked food at the union………At the Student Union there are no items that contain MSG. We have recently begun to source lower sodium chicken and beef bases as well as all our beans for lower sodium content and continue to look for ways to reduce sodium.
· For such a research oriented campus, it surprises me that it serves its students such low quality of food……All our food is restaurant quality and is purchased through an approved vendor. Sysco does not specify of our purchasing requirements. Dining, through the use of a trained culinary team, and with review by a Dietician create menus and specifications for all of our menus. We establish high quality specifications that our food distributor must meet before we purchase any item. We also use common brands that are also sold in retail such as Purdue, Tyson etc.
· Food served is heated with high temperatures and has many additives, food colorings and preservatives as well as unnecessary chemical compounds, not to mention non-organic, non-fair trade, non-kosher vegetables and animal products…………Here at UConn we cook all our food to the required state of CT guidelines and do not add any additives, food colorings, preservatives and unnecessary chemical compounds. Where possible we use local, organic fair trade products. We also are one of the largest consumers / purchasers of local CT grown produce. Often vegetables served at the SU Market come from our UConn Student Garden, Spring Valley Farm.
· The choices for healthy eating on campus are severely limited and this needs to change……….We offer healthy options on campus at all our dining facilities on campus. In each of our facilities we offer Healthy Husky and Healthy plate alternatives. If at any time you feel that your options are not varied enough then share your ideas with our management staff. Without verbal, timely input we do not know if we are meeting your needs.
· The Coca-Cola company in case you didn’t know provides all of the student union food and not sure what else, maybe dining hall food…………..Not quite true. Coca Cola only supplies some of our beverages. Our beverage selection includes all natural juices, milk and water. Individuals have a choice when selecting a beverage.
· How can anyone truly enjoy pasta shells with chemically-flavored and composed fettuccine Alfredo sauce (student union)……….Not accurate. Our Alfredo sauce we serve at the USM top ingredients are skim milk, cream, cream cheese and Romano cheese. It is made here in the USA in Wisconsin.
· UConn’s Dining service is a contract account………Not accurate. UConn is a self operated food service provider owned and operated by the University of Connecticut we are not a contract foodservice.
February 12th, 2012
Hey UConn, this is the first of many responses to top-rated ideas from our new website, uconn.ideascale.com. On the site, you can post your ideas for improving UConn, and vote other ideas up and down. The highest-rated ideas will be referred to the appropriate USG committee for further discussion and action, and I will be writing blog posts to detail what is being done about these ideas. This is the first post in what will be a very long series!
One of the top-rated ideas on IdeaScale is “Get a Red Box on campus” which states, “We should get a Red Box on campus to have easy access to newly released movies instead of just being able to see one movie at the Student Union theater.”
The idea made a lot of sense, so I looked into it further. SUBOG, who runs the Student Union, had previously looked into getting a Redbox kiosk in the Student Union, but the company actually turned down their request because they thought there would not be high enough of a demand on a college campus. This surprised me, since I’m sure hundreds of students would use a Redbox if there was one on campus.
So, in order to help demonstrate that students really wanted to bring a Redbox (or similar service from another company) to campus, I and Senator Connor Mullen authored legislation in USG, “A Statement of Position Concerning Bringing a DVD Rental Kiosk to UConn.” It passed at USG’s Senate meeting on February 8th, and the full text will be posted online soon.
Moving forward, USG will be doing all it can to make this happen, working with possible hosts of the kiosk (such as the Student Union or the Co-op) to bring this service to UConn students. Stay tuned for further developments!
February 4th, 2012
I have a column in the Daily Campus today recapping the past week for USG. Click here to read it on the Daily Campus site, or see below for the full text.
Hello, UConn! Student Body President Sam Tracy here with some updates on what your student government is up to. USG just concluded our special elections, IdeaScale is going great, we have some big elections coming up, and a fee increase for USG is going to be on the ballot in March.
As I hope you’ve heard, USG held special elections this past Monday and Tuesday to fill some vacant seats in the Undergraduate Student Senate. Election results are in, and they’ve been posted on USG’s website, usg.uconn.edu. Check them out, because you may have some new people representing you in USG. I’m really looking forward to working with all of the new senators for the rest of the semester.
USG’s new website, uconn.ideascale.com, is growing even larger than what we had hoped. As I write this, we already have 66 ideas posted, 397 users, and a total of 3114 votes. 16 ideas have passed 50 upvotes, and I will be writing a response to each of them at presidentialblog.usg.uconn.edu. Stay tuned, and be sure to check out the site. You can post your ideas for improving UConn and vote other ideas up and down.
Now that the special elections are over, we’re already looking forward to the upcoming regular elections, which will take place March 5-7. Positions up for election include President and Vice President, Comptroller, Multicultural and Diversity Senators and Academic Senators. If you’re interested in running, you need to fill out an election packet to get on the ballot. To get a packet, come by the USG office in SU 219 or print one off from our website.
During those elections, there will also be many things other than USG positions to vote for, including members of the Co-op Board of Directors and a number of referenda. One of the referendum questions is a $5 per semester fee increase for USG, which would bring the student fee from $40 per semester to $45. This fee increase would allow USG to continue funding student organizations to host events on campus or attend conferences and competitions. As I’m sure you have heard, USG’s budget is strained due to the rapid growth in the number of student groups. Since USG last got an increase four years ago, the number of student organizations has increased from 200 to over 500. While it’s great that more groups are being formed, it’s impossible for USG to keep up with demand for funding with the current fee. So when elections roll around, help USG help students by voting yes on USG’s fee increase.
As always, please contact me if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas for improving UConn. My open office hours, held in SU 219, are Mondays from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 17th, 2012
I am proud to announce that USG has just launched a new website: uconn.ideascale.com. On the site, UConn students can post their ideas for improving UConn, and vote the ideas of their fellow students up and down. Any idea that receives 50 votes will automatically be assigned to a committee in USG, so your ideas will really make a difference. It is our hope that this site will be a fun and easy way for students to share their ideas, let the best ideas float to the top, and make serious positive change on our campus.
Log on today and check it out!
December 20th, 2011
Yesterday, the Board of Trustees held a meeting to vote on the proposed tuition increases that were discussed at the town hall meetings last week. Here is the statement that I made during the public comment section of the meeting:
Members of the Board of Trustees,
Thank you for the opportunity to address you today. For those of you that I have not had the fortune of meeting in person, my name is Sam Tracy and I am the President of the Student Body here at UConn Storrs. I am here to speak on the topic of the proposed tuition increases.
However, before I am able to address the exact proposal, I would like to express my disappointment at the timing of this entire process. While I acknowledge that the Board is seeking to have tuition decided as early as possible in order to allow families more time to plan their financials, the timing of this discussion has prevented many students from learning about and voicing their opinions on the proposed increases. The town hall meetings took place last week, during finals, making it very difficult for students to find the time to attend. Also, this meeting is taking place on the last day the dorms are operational until the Spring semester – very few students remain on campus, and those who are still around are packing frantically to move out of the dorms by noon, when they close. When we were discussing tuition increases two years ago, I was one of many students who came to this meeting to speak during public comment. As you can see, I am the only one here today. Student involvement in the decision-making process should be a priority for the Board of Trustees, and any other group making decisions that will impact students at this University.
Due to this unexpectedly rushed process, the Undergraduate Student Senate has not been able to debate the proposed increases and issue an official opinion on the topic. We meet every other week, and since the final vote appears to be taking place just days after the town hall meetings, where students had the chance to learn about the proposal, we had no time to debate the increases. As I said before, I cannot stress enough the importance of allowing the student body time to learn about proposed increases and discuss them. While it may be too late to change the process this year, in future years, it is imperative that we start the discussion even earlier, with town hall meetings in the middle of the semester, and the Board voting on the proposals while students are still on campus.
While the Undergraduate Student Senate has not issued a stance on the proposed increases, I think I speak for every student when I say that we need more faculty. No matter their major, every student has had trouble getting into a class at one point or another. Hiring more faculty would allow for more courses to be open, and for smaller class sizes, which will lead to a better learning experience. As CFO Richard Gray said during the town hall meetings last week, from 1995 to 2011, undergraduate enrollment increased by 53%, while the number of faculty increased only 16%. This led UConn’s faculty:student ratio to increase from 14:1 in 1996 to 18:1 today. Having a better faculty:student ratio would not only help UConn rise in national rankings, but it would truly improve the quality of education for students, which is, after all, what those rankings are trying to measure.
While hiring faculty should certainly be a priority for our University, I find it unreasonable to push the entire bill on to students, who are already graduating with an average of $23,200 in debt. We are a public University, whose entire mission is to provide an affordable education to the people of this state in order to better our society as a whole. Despite our public status, the state has slowly been chipping away at its commitment to UConn. As I am sure you know, appropriations from the state of Connecticut made up 50% of UConn’s operating budget in 1991. Today, they make up only 27.6%. For decades, state contributions to UConn exceeded income from tuition and fees – but two years ago, the situation changed, and students’ money now makes up 34.4% of the budget, with the state only contributing 27.6%. And this change in percentage is not just because the total costs are increasing – the state’s contributions have actually been declining in dollar amounts. As I said before, we are a public University. While I do not expect the state to return to funding 50% of UConn’s budget in the near future, it should stop making cuts, and start renewing its commitment to higher education. And don’t get me wrong – I realize that the Board of Trustees is not in charge of state appropriations to UConn. But I say this to illustrate that it’s possible to hire more faculty without raising tuition, if only the state of Connecticut would renew its support for our University. The Undergraduate Student Government will certainly be working on this issue in the Spring, and I would love to work with any members of the Board, and anyone in this room, who is interested in working with us.
Of course, even if the state is willing to renew its commitment to UConn, that money will not be seen for this upcoming year. Therefore, I express my support for the current proposal of hiring more faculty in order to better the student experience at this University. I also strongly support the creation of a four-year plan for tuition. In my experience as a student, who is now paying his own way through school, knowing the cost of my education for my entire undergraduate career would have helped tremendously with my financial planning. While a four-year plan will not directly affect me, as I am a junior, it will be greatly appreciated by future UConn students.
Thank you very much for your time.
December 13th, 2011
At yesterday’s meeting of the University Senate, Provost Nicholls told the Senate about the number of faculty in each school that would be hired for the 2012-2013 academic year if the proposed tuition increases are approved by the BOT. The numbers are as follows:
Business – 11
Agriculture – 6
CLAS – 25 (plus 2 “cluster hires”)
Education – 7
Engineering – 12
Fine Arts – 7
Law – 1
Nursing – 2
Pharmacy – 2
As you can see, if all of these searches are successful, over 70 faculty will be added to UConn. This will be bring the faculty:student ratio from 18:1 down to 17:1 in just one year, which will increase course availability to students.
The issue of faculty hires is tied closely to the proposed tuition increases, which will be dedicated to hiring these new faculty. If you want to learn more about this issue and share your opinion with the UConn administration, please go to the Town Hall Meeting on Tuition Increases this coming Thursday, at 3pm in Konover Auditorium (in the Dodd Center).
December 9th, 2011
The Chairperson of the Recruitment and Retention Committee, Maeve Shea, has announced her resignation. She did an amazing job, both in her position this year and a Senator last year (winner of the Rookie of the Year award!), and she’ll really be missed by us folks at USG. Her vice-chair, Elizabeth Golas, will be serving as Acting Chair until a new Chairperson is appointed and confirmed by the Senate.
In order to fill the position, I am seeking letters of intent. The R&R Chairperson is in charge of leading the R&R Committee, whose mission is to recruit members to USG (both getting people to run in elections, and seeking non-elected members for committees and other areas). They also work with current members to ensure that they are getting the most out of the experience as possible, which includes running our mentorship program.
If you would like to be considered for the position, please email me a letter of intent outlining your experience and your vision for the committee. Keep it no more than one page in length, and email it to email@example.com by 5pm on Wednesday, 12/14.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 9th, 2011
I have a column in the Daily Campus today recapping the past week for USG. Click here to read it on the Daily Campus site, or see below for the full text.
Hey there, UConn! Student Body President Sam Tracy here with some updates on what your student government has been up to the past week. President Herbst’s office hours went very well, we met with State Representative Gregg Haddad about the upcoming legislative session, our ad hoc committees are really getting things done and our budget for the semester worked out almost perfectly.
As you may know, President Herbst is holding open office hours during the semester, and the most recent session was this past Monday. I attended with Comptroller Daniel Hanley in order to meet with Herbst about entrepreneurship and the CLAS commencement ceremony, and there were dozens of other students in attendance. It was really great to see such a high level of engagement by students and I highly recommend attending her next set of office hours. UConn is incredibly lucky to have a president who is so receptive to student concerns.
This past Wednesday, External Affairs Chairperson Ethan Senack and I met with Haddad, who represents the towns of Mansfield and Chaplin in the Connecticut House of Representatives. We went over what can be expected to be debated during the 2012 legislative session and planned out some student-centered bills and initiatives that can be introduced to the General Assembly. Also, Connecticut is nearly done with its redistricting process, and the 54th District (where campus is located) has shrunk from including Mansfield and Chaplin to including only most of Mansfield. This is due to the growing student population since the last census, and makes the student vote even more important in future elections.
During this semester, I have formed two Ad-Hoc Committees: the Funding Policy Committee, chaired by Agriculture Senator Ed Courchaine, and the Free Speech Committee, chaired by Brenna Regan. Both have been making excellent progress. The Funding Policy Committee had their first meeting last week, and is going to be working heavily over winter break to review other schools’ funding policies in order to figure out the fairest, most sustainable way to fund student organizations. At this week’s Senate meeting, Brenna Regan appointed the members of her committee, who were then confirmed by the Senate. The Free Speech Committee will be working to review both the policies of USG and of the University, and creating recommendations for ways to better protect students’ rights to free speech on campus.
Finally, on Wednesday, the Senate approved a motion by Comptroller Hanley to reallocate USG’s remaining money for the Fall 2011 semester. This moved money out of committees that did not need their remaining funds, including the Executive Committee, and moved it into committees that needed more funds for the semester, such as Funding Board and the Academic Affairs Committee. After this movement of money, the Funding Board was able to completely fund all of the applications for funds by student groups for the final funding session of the semester. I am very happy that we were able to fund every application, and did not have to turn anyone away due to a lack of funds. We at USG are doing all that we can to ensure that we are able to do the same thing for the Spring 2012 semester.
That’s not all USG has been up to lately, but unfortunately, I cannot fit everything into this one article. If you’d like to stay updated on what USG is doing, please check out our website at usg.uconn.edu, like us on Facebook, follow me on Twitter (@TheSamTracy), or listen to Vice President Lindsay Chiappa and I’s radio show, “The Powers That Be,” on WHUS on Thursdays at 6 p.m.
And as always, please contact me if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas for improving UConn. My open office hours, held in SU 219, are Tuesdays from 2:30-4:00 p.m. or Wednesdays from 3:00-4:30 p.m. You can also email me at email@example.com.
Good luck on finals!