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A new kind of unity

The success of the University Unity Project hinges on the coming year

With Student Council elections fast approaching, this is an ideal time to evaluate what the University Unity Project has accomplished over the past year and whether it is worth continuing in the future. After the better part of a year, the Unity Project does not appear to have accomplished very much outside of Student Council’s own initiatives. This year a referendum will allow students to choose the next theme for the Unity Project and this has the potential to bring many more individuals and organizations together. With increased participation, which will require a major push from Council, the Unity Project has the potential to be successful.

According to a post from April 7, 2008 on Council’s Web site, “The aim of this Unity Project would be to have as close to 100% student participation as possible on a designated annual effort.” The most successful aspects of this past year’s Unity Project have come directly from Council, but grants have been awarded to help contracted independent organizations contribute to the project as well. Rob Atkinson, chair of the University Unity Project Ad-Hoc Committee, said the Unity Project is intended to provide a grassroots level at which to approach Council for support of new projects. He also said Council’s intention is to work with groups on a one-time basis under the umbrella of the Unity Project. Because the theme of the Unity Project changes every year, many initiatives financed indirectly by Council this year will not be eligible for support next year. Council’s own initiatives which fall under the umbrella of the Unity Project will continue, but if other non-Council initiatives are to continue, the burden of supporting them will fall to individual CIOs. Therefore, under its current structure, any initiative spawned by the Unity Project can only count on support from Council for one year.  

The theme for this past year was “Beyond our Grounds, Within our Community”. This theme was chosen by Council itself for the first year of the Unity Project. In the future, however, the theme is to be changed on a yearly basis and in the upcoming spring election students will be able to choose from four themes for next year’s Unity Project put to referendum. The themes are Environmental Sustainability, Economic Diversity, International Aspects and Conflicts, and the Arts. This referendum is a chance for students to choose a goal they would like to unify behind. This will allow separate organizations to bring their individual ideas together in the manner originally envisioned by the Unity Project. By having greater input from the student body on the theme for the Unity Project, students will be more likely to take ownership of the theme once it is in place. The success, however, of the Unity Project depends not only on student selection but also the visibility of the projects it encompasses and this requires advertising and outreach by Council. If no one is aware of the accomplishments of the Unity Project, it will be more difficult to entice new students to contribute. Up to this point this has not been an issue because Council has supported so many of the projects itself, but if more organizations are to get involved, the Unity Project must have a more visible presence on Grounds.

The Unity Project has new potential to succeed when students choose which project they would like to pursue, but if Council initiatives continue to be the bulk of the Unity Project, it may be time to reconsider its worth as a tool for student engagement.


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