Our View: The Daily News grades outgoing executive slate OPTiC

<p>Student Government Association slate OPTiC was elected as the SGA executive board for 2017-18. Greg Carbó served as president, Katy Volikas was vice president, Lizzie Ford was secretary and Kaia Thompson was treasurer. <strong>Emma Rogers, DN File&nbsp;</strong></p>

Student Government Association slate OPTiC was elected as the SGA executive board for 2017-18. Greg Carbó served as president, Katy Volikas was vice president, Lizzie Ford was secretary and Kaia Thompson was treasurer. Emma Rogers, DN File 

At issue: Each year, The Daily News evaluates and assigns a grade to the outgoing Student Government Association slate. 

The Daily News first spoke to members of the executive slate OPTiC in spring of 2017 when they were campaigning to be the next SGA slate. 

When campaigning, OPTiC promised to accomplish nine platform points. During OPTiC’s tenure, five of the points have been adjusted or renamed, though SGA President Greg Carbó said six of the nine points have been fully completed with plans to accomplish the remaining three by the end of the semester. 

“You are only as strong as your team and those around you. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” Carbó said. “Without the people that are around you that are dedicated to working, dedicated to having fun — this whole thing couldn’t have been done.”

Organizing UPD LiveSafe Initiative: Somewhat Complete

Originally, Carbó said the point aimed to host a summit for chiefs of university police departments from around the state. Now, the point, which is spearheaded by senator Kaleb Chowning and secretary of student safety Drake Spangler, has been readjusted to support LiveSafe, a campus safety app, and its integration into Ball State’s campus.

One of the app’s functions features a service that asks friends to watch each other walk across campus via GPS.

Carbó said the bidding process for the safety app to be brought on campus has begun, and because OPTiC found and brought LiveSafe to campus officials, Carbó said he feels the point is complete.

The incoming slate, Amplify, will continue to work to bring LiveSafe to campus, hopefully by spring of 2019, Carbó said.

Allocated budget: $200

Used (as of April 4): none

Remaining: $200

Expand current academic resources on campus: Complete

SGA created a cyber security team to collaborate with the Office of Information Security Services to help protect student emails from being hacked.

According to an email obtained by The Daily News, Carbó and other members of the executive board met with Deb Howell, assistant director of the Office of Information Security, in October 2017 to discuss the formation of a cyber security team. 

Additionally, SGA is providing student feedback while the university evaluates Blackboard and Canvas, Carbó said. 

RELATED: Ball State evaluates Canvas, Blackboard LMS

SGA will also host Back to the Books Bash during finals week, where members will provide free food, tutors and study locations for students, Carbó said.

Allocated budget: $1,000

Used (as of April 4): $415.23

Remaining: $584.77

Fostering student-teacher relationships: Complete

To complete this point, SGA plans to recognize teachers of students’ choosing through a survey. The winning teachers will receive a plaque and the classes with the most student participants will receive a pizza or doughnut party.

Treasurer Kaia Thompson said she received about 250 responses from students nominating about 160 teachers. Currently, Thompson said 21 of those teachers have won, though she is unsure if there will be an official SGA announcement about the winners.

Allocated budget: $3,000

Used (as of April 4): none

Remaining: $3,000

Advancing technology on campus: Complete

Carbó said this point had three specific goals: the Blue Loop bus route, adding charging stations around campus and making printers more accessible in Bracken Library.

In September, SGA announced it extended the Blue Loop bus route to run from early November to early May.

Printers have been added to every floor of Bracken Library. Ten charging stations have been bought by SGA — four are in the library, one is in the SGA office and the remaining five have yet to be placed. 

Allocated budget: $3,550 and $3,150 rollover from previous SGA slate

Used (as of April 4): $2,653.01 and the rollover funds

Remaining: $896.99

Providing incentives for multicultural organizations collaboration: Complete

Carbó said this platform point was created to help multicultural organizations work together. In order to do so, a $5,000 collaboration fund was established.

However, SGA treasurer Kaia Thompson said $2,000 from the collaboration fund and $750 from the small organization fund have moved toward the co-sponsorship fund, which now totals $10,250.

“Co-sponsorships allow organizations to receive funding [for] no more than half their event cost,” Thompson said. “The collaboration fund requires requests to be submitted 30 days beforehand. We decided we know people are applying to co-sponsorships and that is a need, so we transferred the money.”

The following is a look at the funding SGA gave to organizations on campus throughout the 2017-18 year:

Budget details:

  • Cardinal Kitchen
    • Allocated budget: $6,500
    • Used: $3,891.93
    • Remaining: $2,608.07
  • Student organizations
    • Allocated budget: $10,250
    • Used: $5,638.39
    • Remaining: $4,611.61
  • Big 4
    • Allocated budget: $2,000
    • Used: $990.96
    • Remaining: $1,009.04
  • Leadership fund
    • Allocated budget: $6,500
    • Used: $5,163.03
    • Remaining: $1,336.97
  • Small organizations fund
    • Allocated budget: $3,250
    • Used: $389.20
    • Remaining: $2,860.80

Initiate 5 year art plan: Not completed

Carbó said SGA has spoken with the director of the school of art, Arne Flaten; associate director for landscape and environmental management, Michael Planton; associate vice president for facilities planning and management, Jim Lowe; and President Geoffrey S. Mearns to start collaboration for the potentially grant-funded project.

Carbó said several concepts for art, including student murals, posters and paintings, have been established. Flaten, however, said he hasn’t spoken with any SGA leadership since the fall of 2017. 

“I suspect that this larger, sort of five-year plan for art on campus is not something that has gone away. I think it’s just something that because of lots of other things that have been happening has sort of been pushed to the back burner a little bit,” Flaten said. “I don’t at all think this is dead in the water, and I don’t fault anybody in SGA leadership. I think sometimes the things that we would love to see happen end up being shuffled around when you’re dealing with other kinds of opportunities or initiatives that come through that take precedence.”

Carbó said he is working with incoming executive slate president Isaac Mitchell to continue the project next year.

“It kind of was one of those things that we had the five-year art plan, we wanted more art on campus, but then the whole rebranding of the university, it kind of got pushed back because at the end of the day the whole rebranding of the university was a huge art project we supported,” Carbó said. 

Allocated budget: Money used came from grants, not SGA funds

Used (as of April 4): none

Remaining: none

Establishing central location for diversity resources: Somewhat complete

When the slate was campaigning, secretary Lizzie Ford said the slate would attempt to make diversity resources more centrally available on Ball State’s website. Carbó said this goal was primarily completed through the creation of the SGA website.

Carbó said money wasn’t allocated for the platform point because initially SGA thought it would be able to work with the university on its website and SGA realized it had to build the website internally. 

Because of this, Carbó purchased SGA’s external website — ballstatesga.org — with his own money. He said SGA will later reimburse him out of the executive expenses fund for the estimated $135-purchase. 

“For a 20,000 student school, for SGA not to have a website, it was ridiculous,” Carbó said. “So, we created a website and put our diversity resources on there.”

Initially, the group reached out to associate director of disability services Courtney Jarrett to have this accomplished. However, when The Daily News reached out to Jarett April 10 she said she was unsure of the progress of this point.  

“I know Lizzie Ford really well, so I talk to her regularly about a variety of things, but website things has not really been one of them,” Jarett said. “I will say that she and Greg, and probably the other folks involved with OPTiC, were pretty involved with a really cool disability, mini Beneficence Dialogue that we did in March. 

“Right now, they’re taking all that information to make recommendations to [The Council of Diversity and Inclusion] about things that we can do on campus and some of that could be web related.”

Allocated budget: none

Used (as of April 4): none

Remaining: none

Mobilize discussions about open education resources: Complete

This point has transitioned from its original goal, implementing OpenStax — a company that provides open-source textbooks to colleges and universities — at the University, to focusing on open educational resources.

“OpenStax is like a piece of the puzzle —  it is a small part of a huge initiative,” Carbó said. “SGA moved to, with Sarah Pruitt [secretary of academic affairs], to bring this to campus.”

Carbó presented the idea of utilizing OpenStax to faculty council, where faculty gave him feedback on the initiative and asked questions about how it would fit into the current textbook publishing and purchasing process. 

Carbó said he partnered with the Open Textbook Alliance to write legislation regarding SGA’s support of open educational resources. The legislation passed in SGA senate and is currently in university council.

Allocated budget: none

Used (as of April 4): none

Remaining: none

Promote mental health initiatives on campus: Complete

Ford helped SGA initiate events, partnerships and host speakers in order to promote mental health awareness on campus.

“Our mental initiatives raised awareness not only of what the Health Center and Counseling Center does,” Ford said. “We raised awareness on a wide variety of topics including mindfulness, stress management, body image and body positivity, sexual assault and violence and sexuality.”

She said OPTiC helped with the Sexual Assault Awareness Panel and Bystander Intervention Training that was established to help the Interfraternity Council (IFC) members meet the educational requirements of the probationary period that began in October.

RELATED: Pause ends for 12 Ball State IFC fraternities, 1 left on probation

Additionally, several other events and speakers that SGA played a part in include: Brittany Piper, a sexual assault activist; Caroline Chavez, an alternative sexualities and mental health speaker; Springing into Wellness; and Ball State’s Body Positivity Month. 

Ford said some of the organizations SGA partnered with included the Counseling Center, the Health Center, the Office of Victim Services and Step In. Speak Up.

Bill Betts, director of counseling and health services, confirmed the Counseling Center partnered with SGA to bring Brittany Piper to campus and to put on Springing into Wellness. 

While Ford said earlier there was a possibility OPTiC could work with Suicide Prevention Week, she said that “fell through.”

Allocated budget: $2,343.32

Used (as of April 4): $950.56

Remaining: $1,392.76

Considering all of these facts, The Daily News has determined OPTiC received a grade of C+ for its work.

The executive slate set out a small, concise list of platform points and began work immediately after inauguration. This allowed them to accomplish most of their points during their tenure. 

However, one of the biggest issues The Daily News found was the lack of transparency when OPTiC changed its platform points or reallocated funds. Additionally, at the beginning of the year, slate members said they would stay transparent with the Ball State community through the use of a website and social media, however this did not happen. 

Finally, while executive slate members were responsive the press, there was a general lack of understanding of both government and press functions. 

Overall, we feel that OPTiC saw various successes throughout the academic year, but the fact that they were not transparent about the processes and procedures it took to achieve its goals warrants the slate a grade of a C+. 


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