Nookraker: ASUAF summer committee gets “B” rating

Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star Columnist
August 30, 2011

Theodore Roosevelt once wrote that critics do not matter, but instead attention should be paid to “the man who is actually in the arena. . . who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes  short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.” Roosevelt goes on to say the best one can hope for is a crowning achievement, while at the worst, one fails while attempting something great.

The University of Alaska – Fairbanks (UAF) student government deserves credit for its accomplishments this summer – all of the major actions they planned to take, they took. Their short laundry list included approving a $3,000 advertisement contract at this paper, an additional $3,000 to purchase promotional items for use at government-sponsored events, and $1,500 to hold a summer barbecue. The Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (ASUAF) summer committee approved the advertising contract on June 1, they purchased promotional items that same month, and they held the barbecue in mid-July.

Toward the end of summer, the committee began writing legislation for the annual Starvation Gulch barbecue ($500), a short training video for new senators ($500), as well as binders for senatorial blue books ($100). Every year blue books, which include a copy of the senate’s bylaws and rules of procedure, are supposed to be made available to all senators. The senate did not vote on these bills as planned on Aug. 26 because not enough senators showed up to make quorum and the meeting was cancelled.

Despite successes, the committee was plagued with what are best described as “staffing issues.” Five senators made up the original committee: Jennifer Chambers, Arthur Martin, Joshua Cooper, Ean Pfeiffer, and Hollie Seiler. Seiler resigned prior to the committee’s first meeting and Pfeiffer (while an official committee member) was absent for the entirety of the summer. This left the committee with only three active members.

Because three-fifths of the committee were needed to make quorum, every active committee member (Chambers, Martin, and Cooper) needed to attend every meeting. However, as the summer progressed, meetings were postponed, cancelled, or called due to a lack of quorum. The primary cause was scheduling conflicts, according to Chambers.

Of the six official meeting minutes emailed over the student body list-serve, only three met quorum. This does not include the past two meetings, scheduled for Aug. 17 and Aug. 26, which were also cancelled due to lack of quorum. While the committee officially made quorum for 50% of their scheduled meetings, the actual number is most likely closer to 30% as the official minutes do not reflect the total number of times two committee members met only to find themselves lacking a third person.

How successful was the ASUAF summer committee? Compared to summer 2010, the first year ASUAF operated between terms, it was a run-away success. To be fair, the first summer was a joke. That committee only aimed to mobilize a campaign against higher tuition (which it did not do), it lost its committee chair early in the summer, and was plagued with attendance issues.

The summer 2011 committee likewise had difficulty getting enough people to show up. However, they were still able to pass legislation and hold a planned event. While the event was poorly marketed and committee chair Chambers was forced to co-op her roommates into helping out, it still occurred and students benefited from it.

Could the committee have done more? Ideally, yes. If a full committee was willing to meet on a weekly basis, I have little doubt that they would have found prudent and helpful means by which to spend their approximately $20,000 in student summer fees. If they made quorum 100% of the time, instead of their official 50%, they could have held monthly events, really sunk their teeth into their new senator training program, and re-launched their website (which has been down for months). However, when push came to shove, they had only 2 to 3 active members who could rarely meet more than once a month. This held them back. But the summer committee was in the arena.

Did the committee attempt anything great? No. By my reckoning they kept the government boat afloat and even made it a little farther downstream. When nobody shows up, it’s hard to get things done. However, that is not the fault of those who actually attend meetings. The committee accomplished what they set out to do, and by that standard they were successful.

Overall Rating: B

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