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New USG committee aims to resolve technology-related student issues

The Technology Ad-Hoc Committee will work to solve technology-related issues like digitizing U-Cards and improving transportation apps.
Image by Shalom Berhane
The Undergraduate Student Government office on October 26, 2023 in Coffman Union.

The Undergraduate Student Government’s (USG) new Technology Ad-Hoc Committee, adopted this fall, aims to tackle technology-related issues across University of Minnesota-sponsored platforms. 

The committee will work on projects that directly affect students, such as digitizing U-Cards and improving transportation apps like Gopher Chauffeur and Gopher Trip.

USG members Peter Nguyen and Daniel Tobias will serve as the committee’s co-chairs and talked about what they are looking forward to while serving.

“I was really excited to work on this committee just because so many of these issues with transportation and with facilities have technological solutions that are going to be really good to tackle,” Tobias said. 

The idea of a Technology Ad-Hoc Committee was first introduced last spring and was passed down to Nguyen. In searching for a co-chair, Nguyen said he was looking for someone with experience chairing a USG committee and Tobias seemed like the best fit. 

“Daniel has experience,” Nguyen said. “There’s a ton of expertise. He’s just someone you can kind of lean on and rely on in terms of the projects and things like that.”

Nguyen added many of the issues the Technology Ad-Hoc Committee will deal with have considerable overlap with advocacy projects, such as improving the University’s transportation apps, within the Infrastructure Committee that Tobias chairs. So, it made sense to include Tobias on the team.

Technology Ad-Hoc differs from most USG committees because it will include fewer members, is less process-based and aims to change technology students use rather than policies that affect students, according to Nguyen and Tobias. 

Tobias said the unique structure and process of the Technology Ad-Hoc Committee will allow the committee to focus its work on technology-related issues. 

Also differing from tradition, Nguyen said he hopes to get more of the general student population involved with the Technology Ad-Hoc Committee since student input is particularly important when dealing with technology issues. According to Nguyen, the general student population is welcome to serve on any USG committee, though most members are typically USG voting members. 

“For this committee where there’s just a lot of expertise that could go into it in terms of technology, it would be really cool to have a lot of people from outside USG with that kind of expertise get involved,” Nguyen said. 

Tobias said collaboration between the Technology Ad-Hoc Committee and other committees, like its partnership with Infrastructure, will be central to the committee’s function. 

“They’re gonna be big projects that require efforts from a lot of people,” Tobias said. “Really just having more people that work on those projects is going to be really good where we can have people from this committee, who obviously are going to be focused on that, but then also people from the Infrastructure Committee that want to help out.”

Cora Goodwin, a second-year student and member of the Technology Ad-Hoc Committee, said she joined due to interest in the committee’s initial projects but had ideas of her own she wanted to work through the committee. 

Also a member of the Academic Affairs Committee, Goodwin said she joined USG with the goal of creating a standardized Canvas template. Since this combines Goodwin’s interest in both technology and academics, she said she was excited to collaborate on a change that she would have appreciated as a new student. 

Since arriving at the University, Goodwin said she wanted to improve issues with Canvas and make the bus app more accurate.

“Those were things I cared a lot about and made me want to join USG and then I hear, ‘Oh, there’s gonna be a tech committee,’” Goodwin said. “Everything I want to do fits perfectly into that committee.” 

Like other USG committees, much of the proposed changes that pass through the Technology Ad-Hoc Committee will be born from student input, Goodwin added. 

Nguyen said he feels it is important for the Technology Ad-Hoc Committee to harness student efforts in its work because it will deal with many technology-related issues students combat daily.

Nguyen added he hopes a collaboration between the committee and University administrators or stakeholders will prove the University’s recognition and prioritization of student issues, further incentivizing students to give their input.

“Sometimes it feels like the best you can hope for is a co-sign,” Nguyen said. “But I hope they are willing to help us and we go into directly collaborative work, or a worker who directly works on an app gets involved, I think [that] would be cool.”

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