Jack Littman, above, brought up his resolution to support procurement policy reformation towards verifiably conflict-free products. MANJU SHIVACHARAN / THE STATESMAN
Jack Littman, above, brought up his resolution to support procurement policy reformation towards verifiably conflict-free products. MANJU SHIVACHARAN / THE STATESMAN

MOOCs and the Democratic Republic of Congo were the highlights of the USG Senate meeting on Thursday, April 2 regarding Stony Brook’s expansion plans for online learning and a student effort for a SUNY product reformation, respectively.

Wendy Tang, the associate provost for Online Education, spoke to the senate to gather student opinions about online learning and explain what the university wants to do with it in the future.

“If you asked anyone five or six years ago, online education didn’t have a good reputation,” Tang said. Now, it “is a tool to be used efficiently and intelligently to address issues we are facing in public universities with large classes,” she said.

Sen. Nathan Blazon-Brown brought up one such issue involving teachers’ ignorance of or resistance to adapt to new technology for learning in the classroom.

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“If there was a way to help, or ironically enough, educate teachers on technology, because I feel like that education already is there, but some teachers refuse to use it,” Blazon-Brown said. “I mean I have professors that don’t even know how to use the projector.”

Tang said she and the Division of Information Technology’s Teaching, Learning + Technology (TLT) branch are working with teachers to put together workshops so that teaching habits can better connect with new students’ learning habits.

“It’s a subtle culture change, and for that I need your help, in a sense that if you guys have a good experience, or even a bad one, please let the faculty know,” she said.

Massive Open Online Courses, which can accommodate thousands of students in large, low-cost learning, and “flipped” classrooms, where most of the learning is done at home while more work experiential learning is done in the classrooms, are two things the school will be exploring in the future, Tang said.

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Jake Littman, a senior psychology major and leader of the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative of SBU, brought to the floor his “Resolution for SUNY Undergraduate Student Government to support procurement policy reformation towards the reformation of verifiably conflict-free products.”

Littman began by outlining the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and explaining that armed groups that have numerous human rights violations use conflict minerals like tin and gold to fund their illegal actions.

“We want to take funding away from armed groups perpetuating violence,” Littman said.

He pointed out that $5 million per semester is collected from students from a technology fee, and some of that money goes towards companies like Canon and Nikon, who are not as selective when it comes to using conflict minerals.

Littman’s resolution states that “it is our duty to see to it that all efforts are being made to ensure that technologies purchased for our campuses and beyond are contributing to peace and stability rather than the funding of armed groups perpetuating the crisis in the DRC.”

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After it was approved 18-0-0, Littman said he would be willing to “drive up to Binghamton myself and bring it before the floor of the SUNY Assembly.” The SUNY Student Assembly holds conferences during which student leaders from each of the 64 SUNY campuses come together and voice their opinions, plans or problems.

The Commuter Student Association Agency Act also passed by a vote of 16-0-1. Senator Taylor Bouraad said “CSA would be an agency instead of a club,” and no immediate changes would go into effect. In the long term, CSA President Vincent Justiniano hopes it can have more of a structure like USG, with aspects like an executive board.

“My personal feeling is that we’ve grown and we can’t grow any further,” Justiniano said. “This will give us potential to grow and expand in different ways.”

Also on the agenda for the night was the 2015 USG Constitution Act,  which was tabled at the request of Vice President of Academic Affairs Steven Adelson after he received no feedback regarding the possible changes and revisions to the USG Constitution. The vote was postponed until next meeting.

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