This year IU Student Government created two student liaison positions to bridge the gap between the City of Bloomington and IU.
The new roles include attending weekly city council meetings to listen to what the council members discuss and how those things could affect students’ lives.
“IUSG realized that there were some issues happening in our current city government that affected IU students, but there wasn’t someone that was advocating on behalf of those students,” deputy student liaison Joe Bergin said.
Bergin, a freshman, works with sophomore student liaison Justin M. L. Freeman, representing students by attending city council meetings.
Before accepting the new position, Freeman toyed with the idea of running for the Bloomington City Council.
He spent time formulating campaign ideas, logos and a message before deciding against running. He reached this decision after having conversations with IUSG President Alex Wisniewski about creating a student liaison position.
“I felt like this position truly captured what I was most passionate about – making a difference,” Freeman said. “It’s our job to represent the student body as best as we can.”
This step is long overdue, city council member Stephen Volan said.
“If you drink the water here, if you ride the bus here, if the police and fire departments protect you here, that makes you inherently interested in the affairs of the city,” he said.
The liaisons’ job allows them to find what information students need to know about the city.
“We’re kind of the eyes and ears,” Bergin said.
Bergin and Freeman said they also want to increase student engagement with local government.
They said they're thinking about creating a hotline where students can call or text in their opinions on the topics that matter most to them, Freeman said.
“The more opinions and viewpoints we get from people the more effective we become,” Freeman said.
Both Bergin and Freeman said they want to advocate for IU students in any way they can. This includes working toward a hate crime bill at the state level.
As student liaisons, they could encourage the city council to pass a resolution to encourage the state to pass hate crime legislation, Bergin said.
“Student liaison is not a role that has any one definition," he said. "So much of what we are doing is figuring out what works best for us to benefit students."
Freeman said the newness of the role is his favorite part.
“Since this position has never been done before, since it’s unprecedented, we have the autonomy to choose in which direction we want to point,” Freeman said. “We get to spearhead this.”