College students across Colorado will soon have a united voice advocating on their behalf. The Colorado Student Government Coalition was recently created to promote positive change for public colleges and universities statewide.
The CSGC will officially convene for the first time Saturday when student government representatives from all of Colorado’s four-year institutions gather at Metropolitan State University in Denver to discuss issues affecting higher education in the state.
Several members of the Associated Students’ Government at CSU-Pueblo will be in attendance.
According to Mike Weiner, former president of the ASG, the CSGC began in January when Nigel Daniels, then president of the CSU Fort Collins student government, invited representatives from schools across Colorado to meet.
“There was a fairly good turnout,” Weiner said. “We were learning about higher education issues in the state of Colorado. We were doing different breakout sessions regarding funding and other sorts of things that affect our education.”
“At the end of the whole thing, he (Daniels) assembled a lot of the presidents and vice presidents together to have a discussion about how we could continue working together. And one of the gentlemen there, the student body president of Fort Lewis at the time, his name is Alexander Thompson, he got really excited and was talking about forming the Colorado Student Government Coalition.”
From then on, the student government at Fort Lewis was heavily involved, according to Weiner. They started coordinating email correspondence and began drafting a constitution for the organization.
“This came directly out of Fort Lewis,” Weiner said. “Essentially, it (the coalition) would be a board that would meet once per semester in person and then through conference calling once a month. When they met in person, they would be chaired by one elected vice president from one of the universities. And then all of the presidents would sit on the board and would provide representation for their campus.”
Weiner said they would look at legislation in the state and see how they could advocate on behalf of students in Colorado.
“It would be a major voice that would be able to speak to the legislature,” he said. “They would be like ‘wow; this is all of the students in the state. Everybody from the universities feels this way. We should probably take action.’ It would be a really powerful speaking body.”
Unfortunately, after holding one conference call in the spring, the group began to lose touch. Weiner said they had a meeting scheduled for April, where they planned to meet at the Capitol in Denver for a news conference, but due to scheduling conflicts, the event was put on hold until the fall.
Over the next few months, personnel changes occurred at many of the schools involved, including CSU-Pueblo. Timothy Zercher was elected president of the ASG, and when they had their transition meeting in May, Weiner shared all the information on the coalition with him.
“I knew he (Zercher) would get super excited about this, and he would want to try and continue it. I forwarded all the email correspondence that I’d had, and he got in contact with them (the other coalition members),” Weiner said. “I’ve tried to be an active participant, because it’s something that’s super cool, and I want to see it through.”
Zercher did get excited about it and immediately started pulling things together.
“This is exactly what I think we should be doing,” Zercher said. “And it’s exactly what I want ASG to be involved in, more macro-focused goals as opposed to just the little tiny fires we are constantly putting out.”
Zercher started by getting the new contacts for all the schools, which took several weeks.
“Apparently, it was a tumultuous year statewide as far as student governments go. There was a whole number of new people, and there was no organization, no follow through, no trainings. There were probably six different colleges that were complete upstarts as far as student governments go,” Zercher said.
CSU-Pueblo was one of the colleges that had a large turnover in student government, but Zercher was well prepared because of his collaboration with Weiner.
“I sent out emails to 11 schools, including CU-Denver and CU-Boulder. I included the most recent drafts of the constitution and bylaws and any correspondence from last year,” Zercher said. “I told them we should really schedule something for this fall.”
Progress was slow, but when the schools were brought together on a conference call with the White House regarding a nationwide initiative on sexual assault prevention, Zercher had a conversation with representatives from two other schools.
Scott Greenler, the newly elected student president at Fort Lewis, who had drafted the original CSGC constitution, and Patricia Ordaz, student president at Metropolitan State University joined Zercher in revitalizing the coalition.
Together they coordinated the inaugural meeting of the CSGC for Oct. 25-26. Hosted by Metro State, the gathering will include representatives from all the four-year institutions in Colorado. They will elect officers, vote to ratify the constitution and make plans for the coming year.
There will also be several resolutions on the table that the group will discuss.
As a representative for CSU-Pueblo, Zercher is sponsoring a resolution requesting increased funding for higher education in Colorado.
Both Weiner and Zercher agree that funding for higher education in Colorado is at a critical stage.
“We are next to last in higher education funding in the United States,” Weiner said. “So this is something phenomenal for the CSGC as a group to bring forward.”
“We’re the second most educated state in the U.S., but we are the 48th in funding,” Zercher said. “It’s abysmal.”
The resolution Zercher will present concludes with a call to action for legislators to increase funding and reverse “the systematic defunding of higher education in the state of Colorado.”
At the meeting Saturday, the CSGC will look at this resolution as well as the White House initiative to prevent sexual assault on campuses and issues surrounding students’ intellectual property rights.
Zercher said the collaboration between student governments in the CSGC will give students a much-needed unified voice for positive change, and help legislators act in the best interests of those students across Colorado.