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First NISG Town Hall held in Union

KIRBY DAVIS
The NISG upper cabinet, pictured, answered questions about NISG and various on-campus issues at their first ever town hall. From left to right: Tristan Berhard, vice president, Jamal White, president, Maggie Miller, dir. of gov. relations, Danielle Massey, dir. of finance, and Darvel Givens, dir. of diversity.

MONIQUE SMITH, Staff Writer

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In an effort to engage with students and foster discussion, Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) hosted their first ever town hall in the Maucker Union this past Wednesday, Nov. 1.

Approximately 15 to 20 students were in attendance.

The purpose of the town hall was to provide students with the opportunity to speak with NISG representatives about issues they feel need to be addressed on campus.

“We really wanted students to be able to set the agenda so we know what we can be working on for them,” said Tristan Bernhard, a social science education and political science double major and NISG vice president.

According to their website, NISG supports more than 250 organisations by allocating over $300,000 annually, coordinates lobbying efforts on behalf of students and also works on student-led initiatives.

“Northern Iowa Student Government is the governing organization of the student body,” said Jamal White, a marketing and organizational leadership double major and NISG president. “We represent and advocate for students, and we act as the ultimate voice for the students.”

As the representatives of UNI students, NISG aims to address issues students face on campus.

Some of the issues they have been working on include mental health, diversity and inclusion and campus safety and security.

These issues were covered at the town hall, with many students submitting anonymous questions voicing their concerns on these matters.

“This is an opportunity for students to come forward and say this is what we think about these issues, and this is what I think about some of the actions you are taking towards those issues,” White said. “It’s an opportunity for us to inform people of some of the things we have been doing and it allows people the opportunity to give us feedback as well.”

At the town hall, there was a panel of NISG members, which included White and Bernhard. The other members were Maggie Miller, who is the director of government relations for NISG, Danielle Massey, the director of finance, and Darvel Givens, the director of diversity. Hunter Flesch, the chief of staff, acted as the spokesperson, reading out questions submitted by students before and during the event.

The night started with Bernhard explaining the role of NISG, for those students who were not fully aware. After the introduction, the town hall portion of the night began, with Flesch reading the questions that had been submitted.

Some of the questions asked included: “What initiatives are being worked on regarding mental health on campus?” and “What can NISG do to improve safety on campus?”

Some students were curious about how to get involved with NISG and lobbying. Miller suggested students write letters to their local legislator about why they love UNI. In addition to this, Flesch encouraged students to bring their questions and concerns to NISG members, as they have the ability to bring about change on campus.

“We have the privilege to be connected to a lot of administrators and students on campus,” Flesch said. “If you have an idea you want to discuss, come talk to us!”

In regards to the question of what NISG can do to improve safety on campus, White discussed the Safety Walk, which was implemented by the organization to improve the safety of students.

“On the safety walk, we checked the lights […] the emergency poles and the navigation of campus,” White said. “We worked with Helen [Haire], the chief of police at UNI.”

In an interview before the event, White discussed how the success of the first town hall will determine whether or not NISG will hold another one in the future.

“I think the plan is to really evaluate the value that we get out of it,” White said. “We will always be more innovative with new ways to get student input, if this is not the best outlet.”

However, according to White, regardless of the success of the town hall, UNI students can be sure there will be other mediums available to them in the future to express their questions and concerns to NISG.

“Northern Iowa Student Government has been working really hard this year, but this was an opportunity for us to really take the time to hear what the students want,” White said. “I think we can always pitch what we want and what we think is right for the students, but I think it’s really important to take the chance to hear their perspectives and get their perspectives on some of the initiatives we’re pushing.”

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First NISG Town Hall held in Union