Student government president reflects on his time in office
Steven Cole was elected as Student Government President, March 26, 2015. As his year in office comes to an end, he reflects back on how he moved forward with the platform he ran on.
During his time as president, Cole has several accomplishments that he is proud of. He ran on a five-pronged platform last year: academic affairs, student wellness, I.T., student safety, and transportation. While some of his initiatives are still in the works, he has closed out many projects.
The tuition rebate incentive program will be piloted with the incoming freshman class this coming September. Cole developed a plan to reward students who earn at least a 3.0 GPA. After completing a year of college, students will receive a discount on the cost of tuition, the biggest discount being offered sophomore year.
Cole said he constructed the program the way he did to increase students’ ability to afford higher education. Rhonda Longworth, PhD, Eastern Michigan University’s Interim Provost, has worked with Cole on the project since the summer and agreed to pilot the program.
“We’re hoping with the extra financial support, students can replace working a few hours per week at their jobs with this scholarship and be able to graduate on a four-year track,” Cole said.
During Cole’s term, Student Government paid to extend the Rec/IM’s hours to 11:45 p.m., Monday through Thursday night. The facility previously closed at 9:45 p.m. Student Government also paid for rapid HIV and STD testing and provided uninsured and under-insured students with flu shots.
Student Government also added a Reflection Room on the third floor of the College of Business, which is located off campus at 300 W. Michigan Ave. There is also a Reflection Room on the main campus on the third floor of the Student Center.
Cole said coming into the position he had wanted to ensure a more efficient flow of information from students. Last academic year, students either had to call or email the department with concerns. Cole has developed a web report form for Internet connection issues.
“This does two things,” Cole said. “One, students can tell I.T. where the problem is and [I.T.] can hopefully provide advice on how to fix it. Two is I.T. knows where the patterns and problems are so they have better information on how to respond to the concerns.”
The form can be found at emich.edu/it/network/wireless/ under the “Reporting EMU Wi-Fi Service Issues” header.
Another focus of Cole’s regarding I.T. was the Banner Preferred Name Change Project. Due to this university-wide project, students now have the ability to officially change the way their names appear on everything from class roster lists to their emich.edu accounts.
Cole said his main focus with this project was to aid with proper gender identity. The soft-launch will happen this summer and a hard implementation will start in the fall.
Cole noted the help from Mary Larkin, the program coordinator for the LGBT Resource Center and all involved students.
“Out of any of the partnerships I’ve had this year, I’m really proud how I was able to work with Mary and those students,” Cole said.
Cole pushed for sexual assault prevention and awareness during his term. He said he urged for a reflection onEMU’s conduct policy and worked with Melody Werner, the Title IX Coordinator.Title IXensures instructions for those granting federal financial aid do not practice discrimination based on sex.
“We’re trying to find a way to communicate information to survivors of sexual assault clearly,” Cole said.
Student Government also held a Sexual Assault Prevention Week from Feb. 1 to Feb. 4. The weeklong programming event included a documentary showing, and a collection of pledge signatures. Cole said all members of the Board of Regents signed the pledge as well as over 500 EMU students, faculty, and staff.
“The conversation of sexual assault on campuses is so important because so much of the problem is caused by a lack of understanding and knowledge on why it’s a problem and why the issue of consent is something you should care about,” Cole said.
Student Government’s Focus
In addition to working on projects related to his platform, Cole said he also wanted to shift Student Government’s focus back to the student body.
“Even student outside of Student Government last year realized that it was a rocky road,” Cole said. “What [Anjali Martin, Student Government Vice President] came into when we came into office in late April was a senate that was really skeptical of all of our motives and really hesitant to work with us and didn’t feel valued or like their voice mattered.”
Cole said he and Martin made an effort to include the Senate voice in their decisions.
“An important point with the cultural aspect is it allows the senator to be more outside focused and it allows the organization as a whole to be more focused on students and what is actually going on,” Cole said.
He said Student Government was also very focused on ending EMU’s involvement in the EAA. He said since his first day in office, he routinely voiced his concerns about the EAA to administrators and the Board of Regents.
“The EAA was a disaster for our university and was really hurting our students,” Cole said.
He said voicing concern over the EAA was a team effort with the senators.
Cole is also looking into programs related to race relations similar to the ones he envisions for consent. He would like to institutionalize the conversation in order to not only recruit a diverse population, but retain that population.
“How well you respond to the concerns of your students of color cannot depend on a few very vocal black student leaders putting issues front and center,” Cole said “It can’t be a couple administrators at the highest levels who think that this is an issue. The institution itself has to have some kind of reoccurring evaluation how they’re succeeding in incorporating students of color and where there are areas of improvement.”
He said raising a student’s awareness of diversity is essential to post-graduation preparedness.
“The university should be used as a vehicle to better the individuals at our school,” Cole said. “And I don’t think you can be a career-ready young professional, regardless of your field and area of study, you cannot be a functioning member of society without an awareness.”
Cole said his main focus concerning student wellness was mental wellness and the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services program.
Cole said after reviewing data with the director of CAPS, Lisa Lauterbach, they found soon as classes resume, CAPS becomes booked two to three weeks in advance.
He said that while the number of staff members has stayed the same, the number of students who use the services has gone up by about 15 percent. Cole said CAPS needs more staff members to get the waiting time down.