In early October, a handful of students gathered to hear the first ever State of the Students Address by Julia Poirier, president of the Unified Student Government Association (USGA).

A handful of students gathered on the fourth floor of the Klarchek Information Commons to hear Poirier’s vision for the future of Loyola. Poirier opened her presentation by saying she wanted the night to be “less of an address and more of a dialogue” to promote transparency with USGA and to garner student feedback.

Kelsey O’Shaughnessy, chief communications officer of USGA, says they are trying to connect more with the student body.

“We hope the students understand that we are here for them with total transparency. The State of the Students Address was held to indicate to students that we have heard their concerns from the past and we are doing our best to implement change and spread information to address those issues,” O’Shaughnessy says.

Students attending the event were encouraged to ask questions, offer their opinions, and comment on USGA’s presence on campus.

Poirier presented what she called the USGA Strategic Plan, a three-pronged plan that she said will improve the Loyola experience. The plan deemed sustainability, diversity, and tuition as the three most important issues facing the students this year.

Sustainability is an issue that Loyola has undertaken as a top priority, as also mentioned at the Faculty Convocation held earlier in September. Poirier has long been involved in issues of sustainability at Loyola. She helped initiate the Uncap Campaign last year which successfully banned the sale of bottled water on campus.

Now, Poirier proposes a Sustainability Initiative Fund to help increase student involvement on this issue. The fund would cost each student between one and five dollars a semester, and students can opt in or out of the fund. Poirier says the money would only be used by students and for students. She cited similar programs at other universities around the country, such as University of California at Berkeley, off of which she is basing this proposition.

The second issue Poirier discussed was diversity, which she said is “imperative to a Jesuit education.” She is proposing to create a new position called Chief Diversity Officer, an administrator who would sit on the cabinet of Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., president and CEO of Loyola. Seven other Jesuit universities already have implemented this position. This officer would help expand and ensure diversity on campus. Poirier offered eight objectives of this position, including enrollment, retention, intercultural respect, a more diverse faculty, and diversity in University leadership.

Finally, Poirier discussed her concerns with rising tuition. She said she wants students to be able to be more involved in the tuition increases to understand why these increases are happening and how that money is being spent. She offered three potential ways to help appease student concern over rising tuition: a line-by-line explanation and student approval, tuition increase cap of 2.5 percent, and a tuition lock so students pay the same amount they do as their entering semester.

Following Poirier’s presentation, the chairs of the student government talked about each group’s short- and long-term goals. Students were able to ask questions directly to the chairs of certain USGA departments.

“In order for USGA to run efficiently, we need the students to voice their concerns to us so we may represent them in the best way possible,” O’Shaughnessy says.

USGA also provided voter registration forms for students who had not yet registered to vote in the upcoming election. Additionally, they streamed the first presidential debate.

O’Shaughnessy says USGA is pleased with the outcome of the event and hopes that students will continue to offer their input.

“We hope that the participation will continue to grow through our events and meetings, as well as through our office and online channels. USGA is here to represent the students. Their concerns are our concerns. We look forward to tackling issues for them and making real, measurable change in the University on behalf of the students,” O’Shaughnessy says.

For more information on USGA, or to send them a comment or question, visit their website, Facebook, or Twitter pages and use the hashtag “#jumponitUSGA.”