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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ASUA begins to fix campus reputation

    Erin Hertzog
    Erin Hertzog

    After a year marked by sexual harassment allegations against the student body president, talk of impeachment and multiple elections violations, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona is looking to rebuild their reputation.

    “”When the student population sees a conflict going on in their student government, it’s disempowering and it’s disheartening,”” said Erin Hertzog, president of the ASUA, the UA’s student government.

    Next year ASUA will have to work “”twice as hard”” to win back student support and inform students of its activities, Hertzog said.

    Last year’s ASUA president, Cade Bernsen, was found guilty of sexually harassing four students in an investigation conducted by the Dean of Students Office.

    Throughout the seven-month investigation, the ASUA Senate mulled over impeaching Bernsen, but he retained his office and pay while on administrative leave during that time.

    The reputation of ASUA also took a hit during its spring elections when former ASUA Sens. Patrick Cook and Rhonda Tubbs were disqualified from running for executive vice president for repeatedly violating the ASUA elections code.

    The election also saw a decline in 400 votes from the previous year as only 4,060 students cast ballots.

    Amid these challenges, the ASUA Senate launched two programs: CatsRidde, a free driving service on Friday and Saturday nights, and the Laptop Loan Program, which loans laptops to students at the Main Library.

    In March, President emeritus Peter Likins told ASUA that they needed to “”heal”” and “”put the stress and conflict behind.””

    Ashley Prunty, a psychology senior, said if ASUA representatives avoid appearing in a newspaper for “”something horrible”” next year, then they will be more successful than last year.

    ASUA’s Plans for Improving Outreach

    • A new diversity director position within the president’s cabinet to advocate for cultural groups on campus.
  • “”Pulse teams”” on the UA Mall every Tuesday that will find out what campus issues students care about. ASUA will hold town hall meetings on the issues to provide a forum for student voices.
  • Breakfast with the president: an opportunity for UA students to speak with ASUA representatives and UA President Robert Shelton.
  • An open-door policy for the ASUA offices to allow students to speak with ASUA representatives when possible.
  • A new, resource-focused ASUA Web site and newsletter to debut in August.
  • The issues of last year not only prevented ASUA from achieving its goals, but it also created the impression that they were neglecting the student body, Hertzog said.

    “”ASUA is kind of like (the U.S.) government,”” Prunty said. “”You can’t really talk to a senator, and you have to go through all these other channels to get your voice heard. And it still might not work.””

    Brittany Grambo, an accounting junior, said that she rarely sees the effect that ASUA has on her life as a UA student.

    “”I see them more as a club or something cool to put on your resume,”” Grambo said. “”They need to make it more obvious that they’re doing things.””

    In order to bring ASUA into the consciousness of the students for positive reasons, every ASUA project will have student outreach at the base, Hertzog said.

    “”Part of the problem is we offer so much stuff for students, but we can’t expect them to come here to contact us,”” Hertzog said. “”Our biggest goal is to let students know we’re still there for them, and we never quit working for them.””

    One example of student-outreach-based programs and services from ASUA is the women’s resource center, a place for women to receive information and support on various issues, which is being revamped under the direction of Administrative Vice President Jami Reinsch.

    Hertzog said that she and Reinsch have been in the ASUA office throughout the summer to prepare for the next academic year and to begin speaking with student groups that have been neglected in the past by ASUA.

    “”There’s a lot of groups on campus, and I can’t speak properly for those groups if I don’t know what those issues are,”” Hertzog said.

    “”We met with Native American student affairs the other day and they said, ‘We’ve never met with anyone in ASUA,’ and we were like ‘What?’,”” Hertzog said. “”Basically we don’t want to be this elitist organization. We want to reach out to all the organizations on campus.””

    If ASUA is going to be a successful student government, reaching out to all students is vital, otherwise it is impossible to properly represent the student body, Hertzog said.

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