At the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU's, general assembly meeting, it was announced that the organization is launching an initiative to collect feedback from students on a range of issues.
ASMSU President Lorenzo Santavicca plans to survey students on a broad range of issues – from comprisable policy changes to mental health awareness. According to Santavicca, no other Big Ten student government has a program like this.
Santavicca has detailed the program to his staff, but the rest of the organization will learn about the program at ASMSU's weekend retreat.
He believes the initiative, dubbed ASMSU Project Teamwork Inspiring Measurable Effectiveness, or TIME, will help the organization provide students with better service.
“One of the things I ran on on my platform was around data-driven advocacy, and this is really a point in time for student government to make the next step and setting a standard for the way we do work on campus and our community to show we’re really listening to the needs of our students,” Santavicca said.
Vice President of Finance and Operations Dan Iancio is in charge of Safe Ride and other student services offered by ASMSU. He thinks TIME will help him be better at his job as well.
“I think it can be extremely beneficial for our department especially seeing as we oversee all the services here on campus," Iancio said. "I think it’s important to get feedback like, ‘How are we doing?’ I really think it’s important to get students involved. Are they getting what they want from their student government? So I think it’s really a vitally important role going forward in helping us improve our operation.”
Santavicca believes the project will be beneficial to ASMSU members themselves by fostering student leadership.
“While we’re going to be doing a lot for our students, we’re also going to be tracking how we as student leaders are growing in that process,” Santavicca said. “And I really think that’s going to change the way we show our campus body that our organization is doing a lot to help build student leaders for our society today, but also make a campus impact, and ultimately a state impact and a national impact.”
Santavicca hopes the first survey will be sent to students shortly after the retreat. To encourage student participation, Santavicca has his eyes set on prize incentives for participation.
“I’m thinking the idea about getting a moped or something like that for students, and doing a sort of raffle type of thing for students that take it,” Santavicca said. “I push for real incentives for students to take it because the goal is to make sure students know about what we’re doing on campus and how they can help us do that better.”
Santavicca is excited at the prospect of ASMSU being a trailblazing student government with regard to this initiative.
“I think this is going to be a precedent that we set for other student governments,” Santavicca said. “I really hope that we’re going to set a precedent that shows that you can really modernize student government based on the means and access to data, the ways in which we do surveys with our students, and really keep us accountable to what people are saying.”
Santavicca says he’s been mulling over this project for some time, and believes it could be a valuable way to ensure ASMSU will be cutting-edge even after he leaves office.
“This has been something I’ve been thinking about for awhile, but because I’m in this unique situation where I’m in my second year (as ASMSU President), I think I have a particular advantage to creating some succession planning for the organization,” Santavicca said. “And I mean that because we’re moving on a lot of different initiatives right now with issues in advocacy for things like city health and wellness in terms of the rural East Lansing community, we’re talking about sexual assault, we’re talking about mental health awareness, we’re talking about budget advocacy for state tuition funding.”
Santavicca cites last year’s moped policy controversy as part of the program's inspiration. When ASMSU received word that moped parking was to be changed for this school year, it
“We had surveyed students at the end of the year last year – at the end of the semester when they announced that they were going to change policies to revoke moped policies to where mopeds could park on campus and we launched a survey within hours after students made us aware they were going to do that,” Santavicca said. “We got about 13 percent of our student body to take our survey, and that was also an inspiration as to why this is all coming to me now.”
Santavicca says the surveys will provide students with the opportunity to have a say in what services ASMSU offers are worth the money.
“We’re also going to ask students about our services. So, our iClickers, our graphing calculators, our legal services, our Safe Ride program that we just launched,” Santavicca said. “This is going to be a real test for us to collect data on what our students need today. As truth be told, a lot of these services have been here for a long time, and the reality is we have technology that’s faster. ... So we need to be able to ask students if they think these continue to be services that we as a student government should be funding. Forward, we’re really asking ourselves, ‘Are we spending the student tax dollars in the right fashion?’”
Executive assistant to the office of the president, Mariam Makki, has observed that student feedback does influence ASMSU's decisions, and she believes it is an important aspect of student government to Santavicca.
“I think that a huge part of what Lorenzo wants to do is make sure that he is answering to the student body," Makki said. "He has 40,000 students to answer to and collecting data is really important to not only get input, but also to tailor what we do to the audience that we’re trying to reach. And that’s a really big part of what ASMSU does is provide services for students who kind of request these services and want these services on this campus."
Santavicca believes this is the right year to take on piloting this program and is confident in his colleagues.
“I think is is a really stellar year for us to do that because leadership is good right now,” Santavicca said. “Our organization is at a pinnacle, and I really want to take advantage of that.
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