USG’s busy agenda a tall order

As the fall semester draws near, the Undergraduate Student Government’s new administration is already hard at work, preparing to push an ambitious list of campus improvements including tighter security and better access to campus health services.

A top priority for USG President Holden Slusher’s administration will be making Leavey Library safer for students studying late at night. Specifically, USG officials said, Slusher’s staff wants the university to install turnstiles at the library’s front entrance.

The turnstiles would keep track of the number of students and visitors in the library and reduce the risk of theft, USG said.

“We want to really push aspects of both safety and transportation this semester, especially safety … as it’s become a huge concern over the past two to three years,” said USG Vice President Ashlie Chan.

Hugh McHarg, executive director of communications and public programming for USC Libraries, said he and his team have begun talking with USG about the viability of installing turnstiles, but McHarg said his department had yet to begin research on cost efficiency.

Chan also said USG plans to work with the Department of Public Safety this semester to decide where DPS officers should be stationed around campus, and to discuss the possibility of installing additional security cameras where needed.

In addition to its efforts to bulk up campus security, USG is lobbying to extend the weekend operating hours of the University Park Health Center. Currently, the health center is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends and for urgent care only.

Longer operating hours for the health center and the Lyon Center, the main campus workout facility, were a prominent aspect of Slusher’s campaign platform last spring. But Helen Moser, USG’s director of campus affairs, said both initiatives might be wishful thinking this semester because of the still-struggling economy and the university-wide staff hiring freeze, which went into effect last November.

“It’s not very feasible at the moment because of the budget issues,” Moser said in reference to extending weekend health center hours. “We need to work on making sure that we keep the [health center] hours that we do have.”

Slusher said he is optimistic about longer Lyon Center hours after talks with Patrick Bailey, executive director of Student Life and Involvement, but Bailey did not indicate that the improvement is imminent.

“We have a lot of major challenges, and with every problem, there is always a money factor. With the economy and the university’s policies … it’s harder, but I don’t think that’s ever going to be a reason not to see results,” Slusher said.

To find these results early on — despite a stall in its big plans by a sputtering economy — USG says it will turn to some of its more thrifty agenda items, such as a safety blog where students can voice concerns to DPS.

“We do have very lofty goals, and the administration might say no [to certain projects] due to economic cuts. But if we’re going to start with big changes and work our way down, it’s something we can pass down to the next administration,” Chan said.