What issues at USD need to be addressed first?
EM: What we have right now are three big main points. Developing a Division-I tradition, fostering USD/Vermillion relations and making SGA more accessible for students.
How do you plan to go about doing these things?
CH: With the DI tradition we want to increase all aspects within the university — increase athletic attendance, and increase attendance at fine arts events. We have an excellent theatre department. We are the only university in South Dakota to offer a masters in fine arts, and the art over there is fantastic, so we’re very lucky to have them. We want to reestablish ourselves as the capital of higher education in South Dakota. If you look at the bronze plaque that’s right outside of Old Main, it reaffirms that the University of South Dakota is the capital of higher education, and I think that’s what was meant when the University of South Dakota was founded. We are the flagship university of the state. We are the doctors, we are the lawyers, we are the bankers. So we want to do that, and we want to reaffirm more diversity initiatives.
EM: We’re both on the SGA subcommittee on diversity, and one of the big things for the university in their last strategic plan was their making a big push to bring diversity to campus and make it a more inclusive environment for all groups, so we’re looking at some of the student organizations on campus and making sure that all those groups are getting their voices heard and making that an emphasis in the senate as well, so continuing to promote our subcommittee and promoting some of the events of these groups. Trying to recruit more diverse members of our senate, because right now our senate is very limited. Just generally doing the little things here and there to make USD a more inclusive community as a whole. The other aspect of the Division-I tradition is services and programs. Trying to make sure that students are aware of the programs that we have. I don’t know how many freshmen come in knowing that you get free tutoring or you can go to the dental hygiene office and get your teeth cleaned for free. Just making it known about the programs that we do have, and improving upon the ones that we have. Developing the Division 1 Tradition is more or less bringing a culture that recognizes that we are at the pinnacle of college athletics now. If we’re going to have that recognition, it’s about time we start offering a student experience that meets that recognition.
EM: We want to make Coyote Crazies more of a legitimate booster organization than it is right now. Creating some sort of a reward system, like reduced-cost shirts, free food at the game. If we want to create a good tradition, there needs to be communication between everyone — between the students, the cheerleaders, the dance team, the band. There’s a lack of organization and that’s something we want to fix. So getting ourselves a little more organized, and making ourselves more organized as a Division-1 university. We’d also like to extend tailgating at football games to halftime.
CH: So we can run with the big dogs.
EM: Obviously, Vermillion has hosted us for 150 years and we’ve kind of been an important part of it. Vermillion probably wouldn’t survive without us, but of course it’s a very symbiotic relationship. We wouldn’t survive without them, either. Many students feel that there’s a disconnect between USD and Vermillion. When they’re on campus, it feels like we’re at USD, not like we’re in Vermillion. So there’s a culture issue. Things we want to do are bringing news of what’s in the community and events in the community to students, and doing outreach projects, especially with the high school and the grade school, and then generally in the Vermillion area. Draw people to USD, and build that relationship.
CH: SDSU does a very good job of mobilizing in-state. They have various alumni clubs within the state. They do such a good job of utilizing that, and I think we definitely need to utilize that and capture more of our in-state talent.
EM: The other aspect of that too is we have the three main boards in Vermillion: Academic Development Board, Chamber of Commerce and City Council and SGA sends representation to the Chamber of Commerce and City Council but at the start of this semester they were saying they would like someone to fill that position, and it would be nice to see more permanent representation there. If USD wants to grow sustainably in Vermillion, housing issues will be huge. Not just on campus. They’re having problems with family housing in bringing in new businesses to give Vermillion some more growth. We need conversations like this between students and the community.
CH: Some of the housing around campus is very outdated. They need to revamp it and redo it.
EM: Not only do most of the students not know when the meetings are, but the environment is definitely very intimidating, and that’s why we’re running. We’re running for the students. We’re very ordinary guys with a very extraordinary inward calling to serve the students, and that’s what fits into this whole making SGA more accessible. We want the students to feel comfortable coming to us and talking with us. Some of the ideas included bringing the SGA offices downstairs, where they should be, so students don’t have to go out of their way to find us. We just want to make ourselves available to the students, because we’re a resource for them and we need to make that known to them. We’re also looking at implementing a three to five year strategic plan for SGA, so when new senators come in they know what’s next.
CH: SGA is sometimes seen as an elitist organization, but we want students to feel like they can come to us.
Change and continue from prior administration
EM: The big thing we want to do is make an even bigger effort to bring ourselves to the students.
CH: We want to branch out on diversity. We first really got the gist of diversity when Dr. Jesus Trevino, the new Vice President of Diversity here, came to our leadership retreat back in September, and that’s where this really started, and it’s something the university has sorely needed for many years. I also love the forums, they’re great.
EM: This fits into bridging the gap between Vermillion and USD. What I’d like to do is have a forum with Vermillion residents that live near campus, because obviously the smokers on campus are going to have to go off, and if they’re smoking in the front yards of those people. I want to keep the smoking ban, but if we’re going to effectively enforce it we need a few smoking zones, parking lots, for example, just because it’s difficult to enforce this. Having a smoke-free campus is wonderful, and I love it, but at the same time you have to respect the rights of all individuals.
CH: Maybe even smoking huts. It’s a personal choice, and it’s legal outside of campus, so we definitely want to work on that.
Challenges to face in the next year?
EM: The diversity issue. Making a big change in that regard is something that will take a lot of time and a lot of effort. The Council of Higher Education graded us and almost took away our accreditation because we’re so far behind on diversity. So that will be a huge issue for us, and I believe the university is correct in putting this as one of their top priorities, because it needs to be. It’s long overdue. If we’re going to hold to our mission as the best small liberal arts flagship school in the nation we need to address issues such as this. Housing will also be an issue. USD is quickly outgrowing Vermillion, and we can’t continue to sustainably have our dorms over capacity.
CH: We’re also going to have to rely a lot more on our donor base. Public education is becoming more expensive, and we’re going to have to rely on our alumnus in order to build some key infrastructure and building on campus.
EM: Our big slogan is that we’re building a legacy, and we’re at such a crucial point in USD’s history, with new Division-1 recognition and very limited resources in a town that we’re beginning to outgrow. That’s why I’m extremely excited to see what happens in these next couple of weeks. This is huge time for USD, and for the students. Our huge focus on putting so much money into USD is the students, and that’s going to be very important for us to continue to commit to if we’re going to continue to be successful in the future.