Solebo explains orders for bigger SG budget, better strategy

Olaniyi Solebo, executive president of Student Government.

Two weeks ago, junior political science major and Student Government president Olaniyi Solebo issued five executive orders to the SG general body.

The executive orders outline his goals for SG this semester, which Solebo says address “issues we’ve been avoiding for a while.”

The Signal spoke with Solebo about those issues and what his executive orders entail for SG and the College.

Executive Order No. 1: Establishes a presidential task force.

Signal: What are the task force’s primary objectives this semester?

Solebo: In my speech, I talked a lot about the three challenges that I thought we needed to solve sooner rather than later.

The first was we need to create a strategic plan for … two to three years and stick to that plan. The problem that we have is that because … there’s a big cabinet turnover every two years or so … there’s not very much sustainability or consistency. Every Student Government legislative year is different than the last … The strategic plan is my way of plotting, for the next two years … what we want to accomplish … The other two things the task force is going to be talking about are assessment (of the strategic plan) and apportionment — how exactly we apportion (senators). Should they be from schools or classes? Should we find a different way?

Those are three huge questions, and we’re going to need solutions to them by the end of the semester.

Executive Order No. 2: Develop a residential student census.

Signal: In your speech, you talked about why you think we need a student census — to give voice to student concerns. How will the census be structured?

Solebo: I think … there’ll be an academic portion and a student services portion. It’s not going to be terribly long. I’m not thinking more than three or four pages. But essentially, it’ll give students a chance to express their experiences, and through their experiences, their concerns.

An example would be if I were the one filling out this census, I would talk a little about academic advising, and how I feel … there should be a mentoring aspect to it as well. I feel that students should look up to their advisors and want to ask their advisors how they can reach their future goals … A lot of professors don’t think we should have a mentoring program. A lot of professors think we do advising just fine. It can’t just be me, and it can’t just be 80 other people (that feel this way) when there are 6,000 people on campus. So you put the question to a census, to ask the entire population, and I think it makes much more sense.

Signal: Will it also function like the U.S. Census, collecting information about students?

Solebo: Demographic information isn’t necessary … One of the first things you learn in (Statistics) 115 is that a census is not necessarily demographic information. The difference between a census and a survey is that a census means you get the entire population, versus a survey, where you get a sampling.

Executive Order No. 3: Meet with at least 50 New Jersey state legislators before the end of the current legislative session.

Signal: You mentioned during your speech that last semester (SG) met with almost 40 legislators. Why did you issue this executive order?

Solebo: I thought a 50 challenge would be good … When Brian (Block, vice president of Legal and Governmental Affairs) came with the ‘Tell It Like It Is’ campaign last year … I said as many people who can hear this should be able to hear it … Once you start talking to one person, they talk to another person and another person … If the message spreads, I think it will help. If not this year, then next year, because I know it’s a tough budget climate, but we’ve got to do something. I don’t ever think we’re going to get money back, but I’d at least like to stem the money that we’re losing every year.

Executive Order No. 4: Coordinate a community-wide day of service.

Signal: Why did you want to do this, and do you have any specific plans for it?

Solebo: We had originally talked about this in Legal and Governmental Affairs last year. Sean Parsons, one of our senators, brought up some of the ill will that Ewing residents have toward (College) students. I kept thinking, ‘What’s a way to get (College) students out?’ — to show the community that apart from things they already know (we do) from reading the paper or from reading our profile, that we do other things as well … I really want (the Community Relations committee’s) ‘community’ aspect to go further and further outside campus by coordinating an event that really fits those goals … Whether it’s a 5K run or a couple hours spent cleaning up, I’m interested in anything we do, and I want as many (College) students to be there as possible.

Executive Order No. 5: Draft an SG budget for the 2012 fiscal year.

Signal: Did SG have a budget last year?

Solebo: No. We had a budget last semester … We’re asking for a bigger budget from SFB, which they’ve already said that they’re more than willing to do. So, the charge was to create a budget that fits the goals we have for the next year, which is another reason we need to have a strategic plan — to know what goals we have … The base budget we get from SFB is very small … We fundraise a lot. With the economy, fundraising is harder and harder … We were at a shortfall this semester, because one of our biggest fundraisers fell through … the academic planners. We used to get about $6,000 or $7,000 from academic planners … We lost a lot of money on those planners. Too much money. (Solebo later added that “The fundraiser fell through because the company stopped doing them due to the economy.”) … We came in … cash-strapped and cut a bunch of programs we used to do … CUB has a big budget; a lot of organizations have a big budget because it’s harder and harder to fundraise. And I think we should move toward that rather than away from that, as we were doing in the past.

Signal: Before last semester, how did SG’s finances work if there was no budget?

Solebo: We funded what we could internally, and everything that we could not fund, we went for Special Apps to SFB … I wanted a budget that was concrete.

Emily Brill can be reached at brill3@tcnj.edu.