Taking a Step Back

Max Cowan was recently elected as president at University of Idaho… for the second time. Unlike many two-term student government presidents, Max took a year in between his terms and served as the senate secretary. He says, “taking the time off helped me take a step back and look at what issues are important and what issues students actually want to be solved.”

He noted that during presidential terms in student government there is a lot of pressure and demand for your time from all angles and that can make it difficult to have confidence in the decisions you make but it is important to remember that you were elected because your student body has confidence that you should be deciding which issues should take up your time and how to act on them. He also noticed that with such a high turnover rate, student government frequently takes too much time to make decisions or try to action and that can inhibit the impact they have on campus. “I don’t want to live and die by one policy during an entire term,” Max observed. He recommends taking the ‘shotgun’ approach as far as changing and implementing policies. Understanding that you, as student government, have the opportunity to try out a lot of different things and seeing what sticks can help create the progress or change you and your student body want to see.

This upcoming year Max and his student government are aiming to make some changes in the following areas:

  • Student Life – “We can’t have a thriving campus community when 1 in 4 women and 1 in 30 men experience sexual assault during their time in higher education.” As a residential campus, Max says, University of Idaho is active in enforcing their sexual conduct policies, but there are still students that fall through the cracks. After implementing the It’s On Us campaign last year their student government realized that the University of Idaho population doesn’t use social media as much as more urban schools, so they are hoping to adapt it to be a more personal, face-to-face experience.
  • Affordability – The University of Idaho has high student fees and Idaho as a state does not award many state-funded scholarships. By lobbying in the capital and working on adapting the university’s budget, Max hopes to help low-income students and the students of the middle class that tend to get left out when it comes to financial aid.
  • The Classroom Experience – “The number one way students interact with their university is through the classroom. They want a strong classroom experience,” Max knows. Most student governments don’t think of the classroom as being a part of their sphere of influence, but Max does. He understands the struggle of not getting your grades before the end of the semester, not knowing who to contact when you have a problem with a professor, and the annoyance of having a broken HVac system. So this year the student government hopes to tackle that to give students a better experience by working with their administration, registrar’s office, and department deans.

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