ISU student seeks university support for Campus and Community Commission

Christie Smith

The Ames community is aiming to integrate college students as permanent residents.

As the ex-officio representative on Ames City Council, Sam Schulte, senior in biochemistry, represents the student perspective as a non-voting member of the council. Though Schulte is unable to vote on city matters, he’s there to weigh in on issues particularly relevant to the student demographic.

When interviewed by the Daily last semester, Schulte said he had one major goal before his term as ex-officio was over — he wanted to form a commission made up of student, university and community representatives to focus on the integration of ISU students in the Ames community.

Schulte has made good on his promise to commit to a joint commission and has earned himself another year to iron out the details after being reselected by the incoming Student Government president to continue serving as ex-officio.

“The idea did not come from me,” Schulte said. “But I’ve just been the most recent person to try to reinstate the commission and refigure it.”

A joint commission was established in 2008 as the Student Affairs Commission, according to city documents. The Student Affairs Commission was made up of 15 members from various constituencies. Over time, the commission lost its effectiveness.

“It was too large, Schulte said. “The membership was too specific, and that led to difficulties in retaining members, in finding interested members as well as finding times at which everyone was available.”

Since Schulte’s time in Student Government, he said he had not known the Student Affairs Commission to be active.

In spring 2013, Sawyer Baker, the ex-officio representative at the time, presented a letter to the council with her concerns about the Student Affairs Commission and possible solutions to reinvigorate the group. One of the issues she addressed was the lack of specific goals for the commission — it had often felt that it didn’t serve a specific purpose.

Baker’s request spurred a series of short-lived solutions for the commission, according to city documents. In 2014, the council considered a task force model where certain task forces would be created to deal with specific issues when they arose. The task force model was submitted to University Council for review, but no decision was ever announced.

When Schulte tried to track down that proposal, he said he couldn’t find a clear answer as to what exactly had happened to it.

During the time the task force model was in limbo, Lissa Villa, ex-officio at the time, sent an email to the commission staffer expressing that Student Government was beginning to have doubts about the task force model.

When Schulte was selected for the ex-officio position in spring 2015, he said the commission was already on his radar, but admitted he was hesitant to take on the project.

After sitting on the council, Schulte said it became obvious the commission was needed.

“[The commission] will bring together many different voices, which will help to streamline a lot of the input that City Council gets,” Schulte said.

One example of a time Schulte realized how helpful the commission could have been was during a City Council discussion about overnight parking in Campustown.

For Schulte and Student Government, the idea of creating overnight parking in Campustown has been a goal to discourage students from drinking and driving. When City Council asked for input on the situation, Schulte said Student Government and the Campustown Action Association each submitted documents with proposed solutions, but they were not in agreement.

Schulte said if the commission had been up and running, representatives from both the Campustown Action Association and Student Government could have worked together on a solution.

“By having this commission … we can save time by having everyone there discussing the issues and coming to, hopefully, a consensus,” Schulte said.

After being approached by Gloria Betcher, Ward 1 councilwoman, and Matthew Goodman, former at-large councilman, about their interest in restarting the commission, Schulte said he decided to act on it.

Schulte said he met individually with each of the council members as well as the city manager and representatives from organizations such as the Campustown Action Association. Schulte also discussed the commission with outgoing and incoming Student Government presidents and vice presidents.

On Feb. 11, Schulte and Trevin Ward, president of the Campustown Action Association, submitted a letter to City Council detailing ways to reconfigure the Student Affairs Commission and rename it the Campus and Community Commission. Under the new plan, the commission membership will be halved and membership requirements will be less specific.

“We’ve decided that each of those [eight] members should be from a broader constituency,” Schulte explained. “Rather than something very specific such as Young Professionals of Ames, just simply get someone who’s involved in business in Ames.”

As for ensuring a feeling of efficacy for the new commission, Schulte said he’s not worried.

In Schulte and Ward’s letter to the council, they outlined five areas of concern for the commission to initially focus on, including the overnight parking issue, security cameras and pedestrian safety in and around Campustown. They also put an emphasis on high-density developments around campus, specifically in neighborhoods where college apartments appear in or near permanent residential areas.

In Schulte’s plan, Student Government will submit yearly goals for the commission to the City Council. Council members will then be in charge of approving, amending and/or adding to those goals. Ultimately, the goals of the commission will be at the council’s discretion.

Schulte also provided a “formal mechanism” for the commission to submit its own goals to council for approval, in case there’s something they feel has been overlooked.

“There are a lot of avenues for introducing new discussion topics or issues,” Schulte said.

Schulte presented his plan for the revamped Campus and Community Commission at the March 22 Ames City Council meeting. Council members received Schulte and Ward’s letter as well as a charge written by Betcher, describing the duties and responsibilities of the commission.

Council members ultimately decided they wanted the commission to be approved by university administration before taking any action on it. They agreed they wanted more time to read Betcher’s document and consider the functions of the commission.

Tim Gartin, Ward 2 councilman, was one of the council members who expressed concern over the proposed plan.

“Well, this is obviously going to affect the ISU administration,” Gartin said, “We think it would be appropriate really before we move on this to get their input.”

Schulte said he wasn’t disappointed in the council’s reaction. He has scheduled meetings with university administrators, including President Steven Leath, later this week.

After meeting with administrators this week, Schulte said Student Government senators will vote on whether to support the commission within the next two weeks. Schulte will present the Commission to City Council again April 26.