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Miami ASG: Year-in-review

The new era of ASG was trumpeted by a bench.

Under public pressure about the ASG executive cabinet's meals and gifts fund (a longstanding stash for rewarding ASG's top leaders), student body president Maggie Reilly decided to donate the entire budget item ($1500) to build two benches; one outside Armstrong Student Center and one outside Shriver Center.

ASG's "new era," as the incoming secretary of communications and media relations Gaby Meissner described it, is the time for ASG to refocus on helping students.

And it's a rejection of old ASG, in multiple senses of the word. The new cabinet is leaving behind vestiges of past administrations, like meals and gifts. The 14-person cabinet is also young: five freshmen and four sophomores were elected in 2017, compared to three of each in 2016.

The bridge year between old and new ASG was led by Reilly, her vice president, Stuart Coulston, and the rest of the executive cabinet.

What did Reilly and Coulston hope to accomplish when they sought their positions in early 2016? A lot, according to their still-running campaign website.

The first -- rec-center reform. Reilly hoped to replace the demolished Withrow Courts with a "res/rec," a dual residence-hall/recreation center. There is a new building being constructed on the space (dubbed "President's Hall"), but there is no indication that it will be a res/rec. There is a rec center attached to Martin Hall on North Quad, near Withrow. However, those plans have been in place since March 2015, before Reilly's tenure as president or term as the 2015-2016 Secretary for On-Campus Affairs.

Reilly stated, in her closing speech to the ASG senate, that she had succeeded in converting Clawson Hall into a satellite rec center. The Board of Trustees contemplated this conversion when they approved the renovation package on February 19, 2016. Reilly was voted president in April 2016, but served as on-campus secretary the previous year, where this renovation would have been within her purview. The decision to add a recreation facility was made in budget negotiations that June.

She also said that Miami is surveying new locations for Withrow Courts. The tennis courts' relocation was completed in July 2016, but no other plans are in place, according to minutes from Board of Trustees meetings. Of course, this doesn't mean that the administration isn't working to increase rec center space. Reilly and the former secretary of communications and media relations, Amy Berg, did not respond for comment.

Reilly's administration had more success in dining. Her campaign website promises a new chain restaurant on campus. This is a potential victory for Reilly's administration: by fall of 2018, she believes that a new facility will be open in Maple Street Station. The actual restaurant is uncertain, though Chick-Fil-A is near the top of the list for ASG and administrators.

A new joint committee (including members of ASG, RHA and Dining Services) was created to work for students' dining needs. Over the year, the committee created a declining-balance-laden meal plan ("Diplomat Plus") and allowed students to convert buffet meals to dining dollars.

The conversion was a one-time opportunity, and there are still steps to be taken, but it's an improvement for students frustrated with their dining options.

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Reilly's administration also took a step in the right direction for transparency. For the first time in ASG's history, an operating budget was brought to the senate floor. Two senators, Luke Elfreich and Nick Froehlich, passed a bill through the senate to increase the frequency that the budget is presented to senate and to regulate discretionary spending.

Senator Froehlich and senator Charles Kennick brought another successful transparency reform bill to Senate. Each session is now livestreamed on Facebook, garnering over 100 viewers on mosts session.

A portal for student concerns was published to ASG's website, fulfilling another transparency-related campaign promise. And finally, Reilly gave the first "State of the School" address, where she informed the student body of ASG's current and future work. In her closing speech to ASG, she mentioned that the graduate school student government would be creating a similar tradition.

Outside of Reilly's core campaign promises, ASG made a couple significant strides. Former secretary for on-campus affairs James Oaks succeeded in adding emergency contact numbers to the back of all newly-printed student IDs. The student success fund, a scholarship fund established to help students without resources pay for non-traditional things (club fees, etc.) was set up and given seed funding of $2,000.

And, fulfilling perhaps their primary duty, ASG funded over $970,000 in student organization requests. However, this current semester did see cutbacks of several thousand dollars for student org funding, while ASG's own $90,000 operating budget saw no cuts.

For the next year, incoming student body president Maggie Callaghan and her vice president, Luke Elfreich, have a new slew of promises. They hope to build up the entertainment options available to students in Oxford, improve on-campus parking, open King Cafe for all hours, increase funding for student organizations, expand and relocate student counseling services and translate maps and menus for international students.