By Nathan Stephenson, Contributor
The University of Nebraska at Omaha Student Government supported textbook tax cuts, passed a resolution in support of a smoke-free campus, raised environmental awareness, conducted surveys and promoted safe sex—all within the last year.
Student Body President Jordan Koch testified in front of the Revenue Committee on Feb. 6 in support of a bill introduced by State Sen. Adam Morfeld that would eliminate state sales taxes from required textbooks, print or electronic, at postsecondary institutions.
“When students are obtaining a higher education, they shouldn’t be taxed on the materials required to get that education,” Morfeld said.
The exemption would apply whether the textbook is sold, rented or leased. Over a four-year period, LB153 could save students hundreds of dollars, money that could be spent on food, rent and car payments, according to Koch.
In December, Student Government passed a resolution in support of a smoke-free initiative to eliminate smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes on campus.
Rather than eliminating smoking all at once, Koch believes in a using a phased approach over numerous years, which involves designated smoking zones and educational and cessation programs for people struggling with addiction. This includes support groups, individual support and free resources throughout the process.
Student Government supported the initiative after conducting a campus-wide survey and focus groups of key constituencies in spring of 2014 which found that, of the 632 respondents, 73 percent would support a smoke-free policy on campus.
Student Government is coding data from a separate survey conducted last year, which achieved about 1,500 responses, in order to get a better understanding of the student body the group represents.
“We’ll find main student concerns and appreciations regarding educational experiences,” Koch said.
In order to promote sustainability, Student Government is coordinating events for Earth Week, a week in April dedicated to raising environmental awareness on campus.
During Earth Week 2014, which ran from April 19 to April 25, Student Government provided free sunglasses in the Student Center plaza and planted a Red Maple tree near the Peter Kiewit Institute, the latter of which is now an annual tradition. The group collaborated with Maverick Productions, who distributed free potted plants in the plaza, and UNO Bikes, who provided free basic bike maintenance.
Student Government supports the Maverick Readership program, which provides the university community with free access to the Omaha World-Herald, New York Times and USA Today. These papers are available at 12 locations across the Pacific and Dodge campuses.
Koch also supports sustainable transportation options including MavRide, which offers free bus passes to students. The program helps alleviate traffic and parking congestion by offering students an alternative to their cars.
UNO offers access to other environmentally-friendly programs including B-cycle, a bike-sharing program that allows the public to rent bikes from kiosks in the Aksarben Village area, and Zipcar, a car-sharing program.
Additionally, Student Government advocates presenting student athletes, who currently receive no special recognition at graduation ceremonies, with honor cords.
“Student athletes put in so much time and effort; they should be recognized in some way,” Koch said.
In support of safe sex, Student Government recently purchased and distributed condoms, which are available to students in the Maverick, University and Scott Village clubhouses.