USG office hours overhaul allows Zoom for the first time

A new bill passed by USG aims to make student government officers more accessible to students.

A group of USG student senators seated at a meeting on Sept. 12.

Students will now be able to meet with officers of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) over Zoom following a bill unanimously passed by the USG Senate during a meeting on Sept. 5.

When presenting SB 143-08, President Divya Jakatdar emphasized the low usage of the office hours system and highlighted a need to reach students not served by the current system, including students who commute or have jobs.

The USG bylaws dictate that all USG officers are required to hold office hours that are accessible to their constituents and complete USG responsibilities, such as processing applications or completing research. Chief of Staff David Martinez said officers are anyone who is listed on the staff roster. These office hour requirements range from two hours a week for junior officers and up to 20 hours a week for the president and vice president.

Under last year’s Office Policy Manual, USG office hours were held almost exclusively in the USG offices. Some members in the Executive Cabinet, Programming Department and Legislative Branch were allowed to complete some office hours outside of the office per an exception, termed external office hours.

The updated bill changes this significantly, allowing student leaders to regularly complete their office hours outside of USG offices, and for the first time, allowing office hours to regularly occur over Zoom.

A group of student senators seated for a meeting on Sept. 12.

The bill sets out three major categories of office hours: internal office hours, public office hours and external office hours. Internal office hours refer to any office hours that occur within the physical USG offices, which are required to make up at least 50% of a USG member’s office hours.

Public office hours are the new name given to what used to be external office hours, and consist of any hours an officer spends working in a USG capacity outside of the office, such as tabling at the involvement fair or going to meet a constituent outside of the USG office.

The third category is now termed external office hours, or the time a USG member spends doing official work on Zoom. As a check on the potential abuse of external office hours, officers are required to deliver their completed work at the end of the office hour period.

The new office hour system is intended as a trial run that is set to expire on Nov. 17, 2023, unless re-approved.

With the influx of new hires at USG at the start of this semester, office hours are still being determined, but they are expected to be decided by Tuesday, Sept. 19.