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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    New reforms will strengthen, move ASA forward

    The Arizona Students’ Association is one of the most important student organizations in the state of Arizona, and it will even grow stronger with a series of reforms being enacted this year.

    On April 5, Gov. Jan Brewer signed HB 2169, prohibiting any student fee money from going to ASA, which previously relied on a $2 student fee for funding.

    This fundamentally shifted the way that ASA operated, and new changes had to be adopted to ensure the organization’s survival.

    As internal vice chair of the board, I have experienced firsthand the changes ASA has implemented to ensure that the power of the student movement will not be stifled by last year’s drama.

    “One of our main focuses is going to be trying to represent the student voice even better and trying to put programs into place that enhance that,” said Edward Walneck, a UA law student and ASA board member.

    Previously, the organization had hired campus organizers with offices at each university. ASA will continue to emphasize grassroots efforts, but it will now rely more heavily on student organizers.

    This not only holds the association accountable to Arizona students, rather than a non-student staff, but also gives students the opportunity to gain hands-on leadership experience.

    “I returned as a student organizer not only because I advocate for the student voice, but also for the rewarding feeling that I helped collectively organize a large group of students for a greater cause,” said Devin Bembnister, a political science junior.

    ASA is already planning its next campaign, which will focus on civic engagement including educating voters, registering students to vote and assisting in next year’s election.

    Additionally, in June, ASA joined the United States Student Association, which provides resources, guidance and support to statewide student associations like ASA.

    ASA has also shifted its funding model to a more traditional non-profit structure and will be relying on grants to fund its operation.

    “It’s obvious it’s a huge challenge,” Walneck said. “When any organization has to switch their funding model, it’s going to be difficult. But it also presents opportunity.”

    To fill the position of executive director of ASA, the new board of directors hired Michael Powell, a professor at Estrella Mountain Community College and grants developer for Avondale.

    Powell wrote over 40 successful grant proposals for Avondale that add up to over $7 million in revenue.

    When asked whether he was worried about the organization’s ability to raise funds for operation, Walneck said, “I’m confident that an organization like this represents an area that is needed, and whose needs can be supported by financial resources.”

    As the Associated Students of the University of Arizona deliberates whether or not to remain affiliated with ASA, it should be mindful of the changes to the organization and understand the opportunity before it, as ASA will continue to grow in the coming years.

    “I think it’s important for students at all three universities to talk about the larger issues at play,” Walneck said. “If we don’t stand together, then divided we fall apart.” He also said he believes ASA will be on the ground advocating for students whether they support the organization or not. “ASA is there to support you.”

    “I’m optimistic of ASA’s future, but I’m going to urge my Senate to focus on what’s best for the U of A,” said ASUA President Morgan Abraham.

    His optimism is well-founded. I have every confidence in this board of directors and the reforms being implemented this year will allow the organization to move forward and prove to Arizona students that ASA is committed to supporting them.

    Anthony Carli is a senior studying political science. Follow him on Twitter.com/@acarli10.

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