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New USG president wants free-flowing communication

Planes were a near constant sound over Intzar Singh’s childhood home in South Ozone Park, Queens, just a few minutes away from JFK. But over time, he said, he got used to the noise.

As the new president of the Undergraduate Student Government, Singh seems to be doing just that yet again: blocking out the noise. Confident and unflappable, with a sharp haircut and energetic voice, Singh appears to adapt quickly in other areas of his life too. Hunter doesn’t offer a finance major, so he is teaching himself by poring over finance books in his spare time. When his parents would not allow him to go to SUNY Binghamton, Singh shifted his plans and came to Hunter. A math major, he discovered a love of theater in college, and decided to minor in in the subject because it brings out his creative side and exposes him to different people and conversations.

This is Singh’s third year as a member of USG. Before elected president, he acted as treasurer, which he calls the toughest E-board position. Singh, along with nine other members of the E-board, is paid $5,345 for the job, and members and senators are paid a range of $500 to $2,500.

Even after dealing with 20 minutes of Hunter bureaucracy before this interview, Singh had a smile on his face and was ready to switch gears for a discussion about his new gig. “I tend to work best when there’s a lot going on,” he said, only a little out of breath.

Here, the Athenian sits down with the new president of the USG—which acts as the top liaison between students and administration, as well as charters clubs and organizes events—to see how the first four months of his term have gone, and what plans he has for the next eight.

 

You inherited a nine-member E-board that controls more than $200,000 in funds that goes towards events like the Blood Drive, Spring Fling, street fair and the Thanksgiving Dinner. Are there any changes you want to make?

Reaching out to a broader demographic for involvement in USG, reaching out to more students, and in general, just learning how to do those things. Even though we’re made to represent the students, I feel like there’s still a disconnect. There hasn’t been a free flow of communication in terms of, “How do I talk to USG about certain things that I have a problem with?” One of the best ways to reach us is just drop by and be like, “Hey, I have this question.” Maybe we’re not able to meet with you right away, but I’ll give you my email, and it’s available online too, and then we can have a sit-down, like now. (Singh can be reached for questions here: intzar.singh@hunterusg.org)

How do you work with the college administration?

We regularly have conversations like, “Hey, where’s the cafeteria?” or “Hey, what’s up with the bedbugs?” and then eventually, they were like, “Ok now we implemented this bedbug thing.”

They did?

Yeah, according to them, they have a process for—I’m assuming it’s an outside vendor that comes in and they do a cleaning of basically the carpeted floors, the ones with a lot of cloth heavy seating, because that’s where the bedbugs tend to be.

Hopefully the complaints die down, and if not, then we need to have a sit-down with them again, like, “Ok, I’m sure you guys tried to implement a thing, but now you guys need a better procedure than this.”

What are the powers of USG? What can and can’t it do?

USG itself doesn’t have any control over the facilities. We can’t be like, “We want this thing here. We want this thing here.” I feel like a lot of people don’t understand that from their end. We want to build an open communication, so if we have a meeting with administration about bedbugs and the cafeteria, maybe there’s a better way of getting that out. So far I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of it, but it’s a process.

Honestly, a lot of that is also like, “The internet’s down.” And people are like, “What is USG doing?” We don’t control the internet, but if you guys have a problem with the internet, we’ll let people know. We have a say at the table, but we don’t control the table.

USG gets its funding from Student Activity Fees, but that was redistributed last year. What are some tough financial decisions you’ve had to make?

CUNY has made it much harder to reject clubs. It’s almost to the point where you really can’t reject the club, so, we’ve had to account for more clubs, but the club money has been cut down by approximately $10,000 of the total pool.

This year we’ve had to cap clubs at $5,000. This has been preemptive cut as we are preparing for more clubs. All clubs get a minimum of $500, which is another change we made. I used to give them $1,000. We think that’s a better amount because we’re not going to be able to reject a lot of them.

It’s really tough in the sense that we’ve had to cut clubs that have performed well back to $5,000. We have to take into account the CUNY bylaw changes, and that the total money we have is not changing but the total number of clubs is growing because we’re not able to limit them as much.

Keeping with this theme of tough financial decisions, everyone is dying to know, is the Spring Concert coming back?

So numbers change year round, and I don’t want to give a super political answer, but let’s just say I have a meeting at 1:30. The plan is for us to have a spring concert this year. If it doesn’t happen, we’ll try to make a substitute in some way.

This all sounds like a lot of work. What’s the appeal of this job for you?

Sometimes within USG you get kind of in the rut of just thinking from one perspective, but in being president you have to meet with so many different people. You get to take so many different perspectives into account, and I find that really fun – s­ort of like fitting a puzzle. It’s just like, “This person wants this. This person wants this. I want this.” And just fitting that all together.

It’s only a one-year term. What can you get done?

USG at Hunter is going to continue rolling on for many years after I’m done, so it’s more about making sure that the things I do right now don’t negatively affect the future, and setting up a basis that the next president and vice president and people under them can continue having success. I feel like we’ve sort of been building upon that, so hopefully it works out that way, you know?

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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