Andrew Bruening / For The Lantern
Some students focused on bringing more transparency to Undergraduate Student Government gave their support to the write-in presidential campaign of Jacob Coate, a second-year in political science.
A Facebook group called “USG at OSU: Call for Reform” was started by Peter Marzalik, a third-year in Russian and international studies, who briefly decided to run as a write-in candidate himself after reading in The Lantern that incumbent USG President Taylor Stepp would be running unopposed, though he decided against it.
Marzalik said he wanted to address what he saw as a lack in USG transparency and student body engagement.
“As a concerned constituent and as an active student organization leader, I feel like it’s my duty to voice my opinions on the situation, and also propose and promote solutions to try to make USG (as) effective, transparent and accountable as possible,” he said.
Marzalik said transparency has been lost in USG in the past few years, citing several out-of-date and what he believes are detail-deficient documents on the USG website. The documents include Senate resolutions, bills and budgets.
“Transparency and accountability are not now institutionalized in USG,” he said.
Marzalik said he believes Coate will change that if elected.
Coate has incorporated some of the points Marzalik highlighted into his campaign.
“My campaign and everyone who worked on (USG at OSU: Call for Reform) are two groups of people who really want to increase accountability with USG,” Coate said. “We think that those policy initiatives were incredibly outside-the-box thinking and really add a nonpartisan element to USG politics.”
Stepp and his running mate Josh Ahart, a third-year in public affairs, are also running on a platform of transparency, but Marzalik is not convinced of their promise.
“With Taylor, it’s a campaign promise that (is) included because it sounds good. With Jacob, it’s the main reason he is running – to reform the system – so he can carry out more of his platform ideas that will come out,” he said.
Marzalik believes USG should “be at or at least be close to perfection” with the amount of money it is allotted every year.
Every student pays a $37.50 per-semester Student Activity Fee, which according to the Ohio Union website generates roughly $4 million. That money is divided among several student programs, and 8.65 percent is given to student government funding.
“That is a mini-investment that every single undergraduate student is making, and we don’t know where that money is going because there has been no comprehensive budget released to the student body or even advertised to be looked over,” Marzalik said.
Stepp said he is unaware of the group’s issues with USG, but invites them to come to the next USG meeting on Wednesday at the Ohio Union.
“They have not made contact with us to try to push any specific reforms,” Stepp said. “USG isn’t exactly where it needs to be, but we’ve had a very good year.”
Marzalik’s ideas include a newsletter with updates on what USG is doing, university-wide surveys, updating executive reports regularly and forming a non-partisan performance review committee.
“If Taylor Stepp does win, I will still be attending the first Senate meeting following the election … presenting all of these ideas. He can decide if he wants to do them or not,” Marzalik said.
Marzalik said he was unaware of the application deadline to register as a candidate for USG president, which is why he isn’t running against Stepp.