Student government backs off-campus ambassadors


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Yue Z

Tristan Schmidt, Director of Academic Affairs, address the audience during a UISG meeting in the second floor ballroom of the IMU on March 27, 2018. UISG met to discuss Neighborhood Ambassadors, people who could represent students in off-campus housing. (Yue Zhang/The Daily Iowan)

sarah watson, [email protected]

Off-campus students will have an additional touchpoint this fall after University of Iowa Student Government passed a last-minute funding initiative to support off-campus students.

In its last meeting of the year, the Student Senate voted to contribute $7,000 to an off-campus neighborhood-ambassador program starting this fall semester.

Ten “neighborhood ambassadors” for eight Iowa City neighborhoods would be paid to help plan off-campus community events and serve as a liaison between residents and such groups as UISG or Center for Student Involvement & Leadership.

Off-campus students make up most of the students at the UI — 73.8 percent of the student body, and students make up more than half of the Iowa City housing market, according to the legislation.

“We have a huge community of people who don’t have access or as easy of access to on campus resources that they would get through a [Resident Assistant]” UISG Sen. Loden Henning said. “An off-campus ambassador really is the way to bridge that gap between our off-campus students and campus resources.”

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Applications will be available in the next few weeks for neighborhood ambassadors representing the neighborhoods of Bowery, Brookland/Roosevelt, College Green, Downtown, Longfellow, North Side, and Riverfront Crossings East. Applicants will be chosen in early April and go through training in the fall for the 2018-19 school year.

Each ambassador would receive a $250 stipend per semester.

UISG will fund part of those salaries by allocating $2,000, or $100 per semester per ambassador, to go toward salaries for its first year. The remaining $5,000 will be available to cover event-planning costs.

After concerns about funding oversight were brought up, an amendment passed to approve funding for community events on a rolling basis, and leftover funds will return to the UISG contingency account.

The legislation passed with 75 percent of support from the Senate, though several senators questioned whether the initiative was a responsible use of funds.

“I also live off campus, and I am just unsure of the sustainability of the program involving community events. I know for me and for my roommates, we don’t have the time or the draw to attend an off-campus event,” UISG Sen. Alex Bare said. “I think there are already a lot of resources on campus that students could go to to get information on rent and leases.”

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Legislation sponsor and UISG Sen. Hunter Gillespie responded by saying that while programming would be open to all students, it mostly provides a helping hand to those who aren’t already involved. Ambassadors could also point students to on-campus resources that exist.

“This program is designed to target those students who are not really heavily involved, and those students that might not feel as connected,” Gillespie said.

Ambassadors will be expected to host two to three events per semester and spend about five to 10 hours per week completing their responsibilities.

In addition to event planning, ambassador responsibilities also include talking with residents and meeting with organizations partnering on off-campus initiatives. However, they would not be considered mandatory reporters or have any inspection duties, Henning said.

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