On April 20th, Geri Denger was sworn in as the new PSG President, officially ending Mike Young’s year-long run in office. Young and his running mate Becca Wilmoth were elected PSG President and Vice President by winning 29.8% of last year’s votes after running on the campaign platform of TIME (Technology, Inclusion, Mental health, and Engagement). Last week, Mike Young, only two weeks from the end of his term, reflected on his accomplishments during his presidency. “I think we’ve really hit every point that we wanted to and I think we’ve done a good job,” Young stated. “We’ve always tried to relate what we’re doing back to [our] platform and I think if you look at everything that’s happened in our term, you can name three or four concrete things that we got done for each of those points.”
One of the platform points that students were most excited about was Technology – specifically eliminating pay-to-grade homework systems with free alternatives. Before Young’s presidency, it wasn’t uncommon for students to pay near $100 for access codes to online homework, especially for the university’s largest math classes. “We tried to find areas where we could get involved in the process to speed it up because the University was already interested in doing this,” Young said. After PSG used their Strategic Planning and Assessment Committee to gather data from students about the older pay-to-grade system, they equipped the University to better deal with the problem of paying for homework. Young concluded by stating that the University planned to abandon all pay-to-grade systems with free alternatives by the beginning of the 2016 fall semester.
Upon his election as PSG president, I myself interviewed Young and predicted that he would spend the majority of his presidency fighting for attention and input from a complacent and apathetic student body (ironic, considering his second platform point was Inclusion). However, through a series of events called Let’s Talk, Young believes that he and Wilmoth have been able to create a dialogue on campus about specific issues. “What it’s like to be a minority at Purdue, what it’s like to be a woman at Purdue, and we have a LGBT Let’s Talk scheduled as well…” Young stated. While these talks are progressive and may seem promising, Young himself stated that attendance was usually around 50 – 70 students, which is a little low for an undergraduate population of 40,000. Although Young was pleased with these number’s, it’s not an exaggeration to say that there’s improvement to be made.
As the third point in his platform, Mental Health was the “biggest challenge of the year” according to Young. Last year there were only 18 clinicians at CAPS providing mental health resources to the entire population of Purdue. During his campaign, Young proposed hiring more CAPS staff members to serve Purdue’s students, however progress has been slow. “We’ve been talking to President Daniels about this… I think he’s really onboard with us,” Young stated. However, he went on to state that PSG’s budget alone is not enough to hire all of the extra staff they wanted (another 7 clinicians). Following the Board of Trustee’s vote on the University budget, Young hopes to announce by the end of the month some good news concerning the mental health resources available on campus. “I’m not sure we’ll get all of the money was asked for, but we’ll definitely get something.”
The final point in Young and Wilmoth’s platform is Engagement. Going hand-in-hand with inclusion, Young wanted to make PSG more accessible to Purdue’s undergraduate population. The complacency of Purdue’s student body being previously mentioned and emphasized, Young and Wilmoth had their work cut out for them – they needed to try something new. They began by being more active on social media. “We post very regularly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,” Young said. “If you create a graph of the reach that our Facebook page has, and compare that to last year’s, last year looks like a flat line at zero – it’s that big of a difference. We’ve really been aggressive on social media, trying to get the word out there.” What’s more, PSG began posting legislation online. “Every bill that we vote on is online and any student can vote on it – something that’s never been done before.” Young went on to state, “[students] want to say ‘Oh, well PSG needs to communicate better,’ but the simple fact of the matter is anyone who really wants to be informed about what we’re doing has ample opportunity to be informed, and I don’t think that was the case in the past and I think this year we’ve really made it a priority.”
“I really wish we’d have focused a little more on sexual assault,” Young stated when asked if there was anything he could have done differently over the past year. “I know a big focus was mental health, and a lot of people who were interested in both ended up working on the metal health side of things.” He went on to say, “I really wish there was a bigger focus on student legal services. We’ve done a lot of work already, and personally for me I wish I could’ve done a little bit more on that.” At the end of his interview with the Review, when asked if there was anything else he wanted our readers to know, Young said, “Anyone can write a bill, which is something that nobody knows. Literally anyone can any piece of legislation for PSG…. So, anyone who wants to write a bill, we’re pretty open to making that happen. It’s a way for students to get involved without having to run [for PSG].” Listening to Mike Young advocate his platform at the end of his term, it’s hard to imagine anyone could reflect on his past year as PSG President and accuse him of not trying.