Where do we go from here?
Andrew Sheeler / Editor-in-Chief
May 3, 2011
Check out time is nearly here. The car’s revved up, the luggage is packed and all that remains is turning in the keys at the front desk. After a yearlong stay as editor of The Sun Star, it’s time for me to move on. There’s just one more thing to do before I go. I have something to say about the management of this place.
Not my bosses on the Publication Board. They’ve afforded me a rare and invaluable opportunity, a chance to learn something no classroom could teach me. This isn’t for the editing team of The Sun Star, either. They’ve put more hours and work in to this paper than many students put in to their homework, and they’ve had plenty of their own homework to juggle as well. This particular message is for those we elect to serve the student body: ASUAF.
Where do we go from here?
The students have spoken, and they are not happy. According to the unofficial election results released on April 30, slightly fewer than half the students who voted believe that ASUAF is not spending the $35 student government fee adequately. Just a third of the voters were satisfied with what their elected student leaders did with the roughly half million dollars in student money they receive annually. This is college so the grade metaphor is apt: ASUAF gets a failing grade.
There are many sources for the figurative “F” that students saw fit to assign the student government. Lack of information and transparency is one of them. After all, ASUAF didn’t hire a government relations director until more than half way through the spring semester when the year is nearly done. They still have not hired a public relations director. In fact, if the wall in Gruening is to be believed, we are currently in the second year of the Adrian Triebel administration. Triebel was ASUAF president in the fall of 2009.
Then there is the question of what is ASUAF spending its nearly half million-dollar budget on. Besides The Sun Star, KSUA and the Concert Board, there is simply very little that ASUAF has visibly spent money on. When they do spend money, it is or appears to be for self-serving reasons. Senators quibble over granting a few hundred dollars more to the participants of Alternative Spring Break, and yet they made certain to add two more unneeded members to their annual Juneau delegation trip. Despite drawing more than $25,000 in student fees for the summer, there are no current plans to spend any of it. Students pay that summer student government fee in good faith, expecting to see some tangible result from it. Instead, ASUAF has chosen to pocket it for their own bank account.
The student government might have been more transparent and efficient if it had an advisor. This isn’t unreasonable. As it stands, ASUAF is the only student organization that does not have an advisor. The stakes are simply too high for them not to have an experienced adult offering them advice. Yet when ASUAF President Nicole Carvajal wrote $20,000 in to the 2011-12 budget for an advisor position, the ASUAF senate reacted with overwhelming opposition. The position was stripped from the budget. Senators Arthur Martin and Jennifer Chambers high-fived when it happened.
The lack of an advisor is a contributing factor to the institutional dysfunction that plagues our student government, but it’s not the only one. The senate is essentially split between experienced senators and novice senators. A handful of senior senators use their parliamentary experience to wield disproportionate power in the senate. New senators are given the cold shoulder, with many not even being told what their committee assignments are. New senators who thrive do so in spite of the environment, not because of it, and many are removed from the senate before they can do so.
The students have spoken. Mari Freitag and Dillon Ball have been selected to lead us through the next academic year. My advice to them is clean house. Cut the senate in half. Get an advisor. Put a stop to the petty bickering that dominates and often paralyzes the institution that you oversee. Give the students a reason to believe that their money isn’t being wasted.
Correction: In this editorial I wrote that ASUAF had not hired a Public Relations Director. Ben Molnia has served as Government Relations Director since November. Additionally, Rosemary Paz was hired as Public Relations Director in February. I sincerely regret these errors.