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ASUA senators discuss platforms and goals for this year

Andreas Zai

Andreas Zai, a computer science and pre-business sophomore, is working on his platform that focuses on making the structure of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona more efficient and effective for both senators and the students they represent.

“One thing I noticed when working with the elected officials last year was that people were making plans and not really able to follow through with them,” Zai said, referring to when he was involved with Freshmen Class Council last year.

Zai said one example was a former senator proposing to make a dry cleaning center in the basement of the Student Union Memorial Center. The proposal, which at first glance seemed appealing, soon fell through.

“He wasn’t able to accomplish that because of the complications of working with both a private company and the [UA],” Zai said.

In order to avoid problems like these in the future, Zai said he is calling for both a streamline of efficiency and a more realistic assessment of what ASUA senators and staffers are capable of accomplishing. He said he plans to achieve this by having the senators who are leaving office document their term and its efficiency.

Hailey Schwartz

Hailey Schwartz, a public health senior, was elected with a health-based platform for UA students. Schwartz stressed the importance of effective communication between campus services and students.

“There are so many resources and services on campus that students should know about,” Schwartz said, referring to vaccinations, counseling and nursing.

Schwartz is an intern at Campus Health Service working within Health Promotion and Preventive Services. Schwartz said she plans to use her position as both a CHS intern and ASUA senator to help “close the gap” between the two campus organizations.

According to Schwartz, this would include increased communication between the two groups, with ASUA providing improved information about the health needs and wants of the students they represent, and CHS responding accordingly with policy changes or projects.

Schwartz also wants to bridge what she describes as a “huge divide in ASUA between our health students and the [Student Health Advocacy Community],” another student-run organization on campus.

Schwartz said she hopes she can further align the concepts of student health and representation by combining the organizational efforts of these groups.

She said she wants to work with other senators and health advocates on specific campus projects and broader institutional changes, ranging from upholding the maintenance of hand sanitation stations, to increasing student awareness about flu and meningitis vaccinations being offered on campus.

Alexa Jenkins

Alexa Jenkins is a junior studying psychology and criminal justice. Jenkins said serving as an ASUA senator involves a “smorgasbord of different tasks,” which can include individual projects or larger team efforts that span the entire ASUA board.

One of these team efforts, Jenkins said, is updating the ASUA website and making it easier to contact ASUA members to improve the interaction between students and ASUA senators.

Jenkins said these particular efforts for improved communication revolve around a central effort to make campus life easier for students.

She worked on the ASUA’s senate staff last year and gained experience helping other senators implement their own projects for improving student health, education and communication on campus.

One specific project she helped initiate, and plans to fully implement during her term, is the Don’t Cancel That Class program.

“I worked with [ASUA Sen.] Michael Finnegan and other staff members to get it started,” Jenkins said. “The basic concept is that when a professor’s class suddenly gets cancelled, instead of everyone not attending, there would be a representative to lecture about a different subject, like awareness and prevention of sexual assault on campus.”

She said it’s already been implemented at other schools, such as the University of Montana, and it’s her plan to have it fully enacted this year. Upon graduating from the UA, Jenkins wants to attend medical school and study for her dream job as a forensic psychologist.

Trey Cox

Trey Cox, a public health junior, is in his second term as an ASUA senator. His main project goals involve collaboration with other senators to help accomplish their campaign platforms from last April.

The first project is with ASUA Sen. Matthew Lubisich and involves establishing a campaign team to keep the UA student body informed about the major restructuring of ASUA’s representation process.

Starting next year, the organization will have 22 senators exclusively elected from each college throughout the university, in addition to three “at-large” positions that the entire student body will vote for. This is a change from its current senate structure, which has only 10 “at-large” positions.

Cox said that keeping students informed of the new changes is key for their desired effect, which is to increase involvement in student government.

Cox is also collaborating with ASUA Sen. Alec Kretch to open ASUA to more information technology interns. He said technological resources are important in accomplishing certain platforms, like updating websites and installing new phone apps. Some ASUA campaign promises have fallen short, Cox said, because of a lack of IT support.

Cox said he also wants to expand the diversity of membership at ASUA by getting students from other clubs and student organizations further involved in ASUA meetings.

Cox said he isn’t completely certain about which career path he’ll take after college, but he’s considering a position as a health policy administrator or medical provider.

Natalie Scibilia

Natalie Scibilia, a pre-business and math sophomore, works on the Student Services Fee Advisory Board and Appropriations Board.

Scibilia said that the SSFAB and Appropriations Board is funded by student tuition.

“We allocate this money based off of what services and projects are popular with students, as well as what we as senators think would benefit them,” Scibilia said.

Scibilia said one popular program that is funded through the student services feeis Think Tank, which is an on-campus tutoring service for UA students.

“It’s a program that a lot of students really like, yet it can also be expanded and improved,” Scibilia said.

Through her collaboration with Think Tank staff members over the summer, Think Tank will open up its Supplemental Instruction program to an array of subjects.

This focus on expanding academic resources to UA students blends into Scibilia’s other platform, which is responsible spending. In order to ensure that the funding decisions ASUA senators make are for things students find both popular and beneficial, Scibilia said, a lot of advising and back-and-forth discussions take place on the Appropriations Board.

“Ever since I starting working at ASUA as a senate aide last year, it’s always been my goal to help other students share in the U of A campus experience,” Scibilia said. “Part of this involves hearing out students’ complaints, and I think that my position on ASUA’s Appropriations Board can be very helpful in addressing a lot of them and making the campus experience better for everyone.”

Natalie’s broader career aspirations after the University of Arizona involve strategic consulting for businesses, a goal that she says reflects her work in trying to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ASUA.

Matthew Lubisich

Matthew Lubisich, a political science and economics sophomore, is the chair of the Appropriations Board and oversees meetings regarding the allocation of funding for campus clubs. In addition to his administrative duties within ASUA, Lubisich also has a larger, three-part platform he ran on last year.

The first part is a collaborative effort with ASUA President Manny Felix and Krista Millay, program director of the UA Women’s Resource Center, to raise awareness of sexual assault at the UA through the “I Will” campaign.

Lubisich said the campaign is a weeklong event to increase awareness of sexual assault on campus, seek ways to identify and prevent it and assist and encourage victims to speak out.

“It’s one of my main goals as a senator to help turn something like this into an annual event that will last beyond my term,” Lubisich said.

The second part of Lubisich’s platform is free parking for students during finals week. This is a tentative proposal since it is still early in the year. It also hinges off discussions with David Heineking, the executive director of UA Parking and Transportation Services.

“At the very least, we’ll be able to meet and discuss what the possibilities are,” Lubisich said.

The last part of the platform is a project with Residence Life to establish some form of a subsidized laundry system. A big key to implementing that is making a convincing proposal to the Residence Hall Association.

“The goal is [to] let UA students do their laundry at free or reduced charges at least once a month,” Lubisich said.

He said he hopes that his participation in student government will help prepare him for a career in politics.

“I’ve always enjoyed working on campaigns, advocating for causes,” he said. “It’s definitely a future goal I have in mind.”

Maddy Bynes

Maddy Bynes is a political science and history senior, and sits on two committees at the ASUA: the UA Green Fund and the Presidents Advisory Committee for the Environment and Sustainability.

Her positions indicate a longstanding commitment to environmental issues on campus. Bynes worked as an Eco-Rep at Pima Hall during her freshman year.

Bynes proudly pointed out that the UA is ranked 22nd on a 162-school sustainability ranking by the Sierra Club for 2013. However, it’s also a ranking she wishes to improve upon throughout her term.

One approach to improving the UA ranking, Bynes said, is to encourage basic environmental conscience among students.

“We could for instance increase awareness about environmentally-friendly behaviors, like recycling and reusing water bottles and shopping bags,” Bynes said.

Along with finding ways to adjust individual behaviors, Bynes wants to introduce structural changes to campus organizations in favor of environmental sustainability.

As a starting point for this year, Bynes said she wants to put forward a sustainability commitment for ASUA. She describes it as a statement that organizations put forward to outline and encourage certain goals, such as a reduced carbon footprint, carbon neutrality and reduced water consumption.

“I also plan on advising the ASUA president on environmental matters,” Bynes said, referring to future on-campus sustainability projects in need of funding.

Part of accomplishing Bynes’ environmental program involves collaborative efforts between on-campus clubs and organizations.

“I want to build partnerships between different programs, like services, clubs and Greek-life so we can have a larger collaborative organization at the UA,” Bynes said.

Bynes’ desire for greater communication between school organizations plays into the last part of her platform, which is retaining freshmen students.

“When times get rough, it’s really that base of friends you’ve set up that helps you through it,” Bynes said. “I think getting freshmen involved in more clubs and programs is a key part to building those friendships.”

David McGarey

David McGarey is a sophomore engineering major. His main platform goals this year as senator are to increase both involvement in student government and senator accountability.

To boost student participation, McGarey wants to emphasizes outreach to incoming freshmen, a group he said has the greatest potential to get involved in student government, but has the least knowledge of it. One initial goal he has is to inform more students that senator meetings are open to the public, pointing out that the agenda, minutes and a live stream are usually posted at the ASUA website.

“When more people show up, we’re able to dedicate time to a public opinion or comments section for the audience,” McGarey said.

In addition to increased student involvement, McGarey wants to strengthen transparency and accountability in the senate itself. One way he plans to do this, he said, is something he calls “Platform Survival.”

Platform Survival is a way to hold senators accountable on the platform they ran on during their campaing and ensure that it is followed up on while they are senator. McGarey said that there are many cases of strong, visionary platforms that get people elected, yet tend to fall under the weight of financial and bureaucratic problems once the school year starts.

“My mother was actually an ASUA senator when she attended here and the information and experience that she shared was very helpful for me, and let me know what was realistic and what wasn’t,” McGarey said.

He also wants to promote a similar type of intergenerational communication between incoming and outgoing senators, with each senator outlining specific ways they will pursue the platform they ran on, which new senators can use, rather than having to create new plans for accomplishing platforms.

Alec Kretch

Alec Kretch, a computer science junior, is approaching this year with a technology-based platform. Kretch works from ASUA’s Technology Board, and the first portion of his platform involves updating and improving websites and applications that are widely used by UA students.

“A lot of websites are outdated or aren’t as easy to use as they should be,” Kretch said, referring to the Desire 2 Learn program, Arizona Mobile App and the ASUA website itself.

The improvements Kretch said he has in mind range from new features, like a setting for a student’s CatCash balance, to making the overall design of websites like D2L more intuitive. To usher in these new changes, Kretch is working with other staff members to create a programming subdivision inside ASUA.

“So far, we’ve been getting applications for candidates that we’ll be interviewing at the start of the school year,” Kretch said.

This newly updated technology leads into the second part of Kretch’s platform, which is to foster collaboration between ambitious and talented UA students. Calling it the “Kretch model,” he describes it as a proposal to promote business start-ups at the UA.

“A student with an idea for a business proposal can submit it to the Eller College of Management,” Kretch said. “And through the newly updated UA app, that business plan would get circulated to students with the relevant majors or skills to help make it happen, like marketing majors to work on advertising, or engineering majors to help with technology.”

Lastly, Kretch said he wants to promote increased campus involvement in student government. He and other senators want to discuss possibilities for further interaction between ASUA members and the undergraduate student body.

“One idea I had was forming an ASUA club for people that have other commitments,” Kretch said. “But there will be other proposals to talk about when our senate meetings start this fall.”

Joe Zanoni

Joe Zanoni is a senior studying political science serving his second term as an ASUA senator. Zanoni has worked with ASUA since his freshman year, first serving in Freshmen Class Council and then as the director of Civic Engagement.

One particular agenda point that has spanned throughout his time at ASUA is the issue of student representation. Last year, Zanoni reinstated the “UA Listens” group, which is a Facebook page that allows students to directly petition for particular interests they have relating to student government.

According to Zanoni, “UA Listens” is more of a piecemeal action, pointing out larger, structural issues with representation at ASUA.

“It’s really tough for ten of us senators to represent 33,000 undergraduate students and 7,000 graduate students,” Zanoni said.

To address this insufficiency, Zanoni has worked with other senators, staffers and executive members to restructure the ASUA constitution over the last few years. His main goal is to create more specialized representation for students of different colleges. The current structure includes ten “at-large” senate positions, each of whom must campaign for the votes of the entire student body.

“Under the new structure there are only going to be three at-large positions combined with 22 senator positions that separately represent each college at the UA,” Zanoni said. “The constitutional changes are designed to go into effect next year. It will reach more students who aren’t that involved in student government by giving them a senator that’s directly fixed to their college.”

This new restructuring falls in line with Zanoni’s general goal of making it easier for students to raise their particular concerns as voters.

Zanoni wants to pursue a career in representation after graduation with his final goal being to serve as a U.S. senator from Arizona.


Follow Isaac Rouseville on Twitter.


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