ASWU: Were promises kept?
It’s halfway through spring semester, and ASWU executives are preparing to help search out their replacements for the coming year. As a new batch of students makes promises in hopes of leading ASWU, President Josh Boyden, Executive Vice President Shannon Eshoff and Financial Vice President Lindy Tep have been asked to reflect on the promises they’ve made, what they’ve accomplished and what they still have left to accomplish.
Boyden focused his platform on gathering the views of students and addressing the issues they were concerned about. However, he did specifically have two issues he proposed working on.
“I’m aware that students are worried about both the cost of tuition and the change in university leadership, and I plan on addressing both those issues,” Boyden was quoted as saying in the Whitworthian’s 2010 ASWU Voter’s Guide.
Over the year Boyden did a lot of work with University President Beck Taylor, meeting with him one on one and in group settings, and arranging town hall meetings to facilitate Taylor’s relationships with students.
“I think I did a good job helping Beck get involved with students,” Boyden said.
That was made easier by Taylor’s desire to be involved, Boyden said.
While Boyden met with Brian Benzel, vice president of finance and administration, within the first few weeks of school and brought up tuition, he was informed that it would not be possible to address the issue in the way he had hoped.
“I didn’t do very well with the tuition issue,” Boyden said.
Benzel explained that it was necessary to the university’s financial health to increase tuition each year as other universities do, Boyden said.
“I really should have done a better job explaining that to students. That was completely my responsibility and I let it fall,” Boyden said.
However, Boyden is also involved as a student voice in the creation of Whitworth’s 10-year Strategic Plan. In this venue, Boyden was able to remind the council of students’ concerns about high tuitions.
“We looked at tuition and enrollment increases and all of that, and I got to make comments on how I viewed students’ opinion on it,” he said.
Eshoff proposed more team-building activities among ASWU members to help them work better together, as well as holding meetings occasionally in a more visible place to engage students outside of ASWU more.
Along with events such as a Christmas party in December and a breakfast at the beginning of spring semester, Eshoff organized an ASWU volleyball team to compete in the challenge Intramural league.
Eshoff spoke with assistant dean of students Dayna Coleman about having ASWU meet in a more open area such as the Hixson Union Building Multipurpose room. Coleman explained that it had been attempted before, but not many outside students came and it was difficult for people to hear one another in that space, Eshoff said.
Though the meetings have remained in the ASWU chambers, they are as always open to students.
“We love when our guests give input because it’s an outside perspective, someone who doesn’t have ASWU always on their mind,” Eshoff said.
The financial vice president is a position that does not leave room for many new ideas or proposals, Tep said in the Voter’s Guide. One goal he did state was to make sure decisions regarding the budget were made keeping the students’ best interests in mind. This became both more challenging and more important in the face of the unexpectedly high unallocated budget.
“I’m not here to help people spend money; I’m here to facilitate making sure that what the money is spent on is what the students want,” Tep said.
Challenges and accomplishments
Having such a large amount of money in the unallocated budget was not ideal, Tep said. One consequence of having such a large amount of money was that deciding how to use it was time consuming.
“Our mission is to serve the students of Whitworth University, and I think that with every single requisition that came in that was in the front of ASWU’s mind,” Boyden said. “Since we were so careful about how we spent it and made sure it directly benefited students it took a lot of our time.”
Early in the year ASWU was presented with a challenge in leading Whitworth’s response to the Westboro Baptist Church protests. Boyden felt that the response was something that he and the other members of ASWU organized well.
“We got a lot of student input in,” he said. “I felt like we responded appropriately.”
While ASWU avoided a great deal of controversy on that issue, others were more difficult.
“Personally the biggest challenge has been being the mediator when we do have discussions that are hot topic types of things,” Eshoff said.
The proposal to get lights for the Cutter Courts was one such issue.
“Some people were really invested in it, hoping that it would be successful, and others were really against it,” she said.
More recently, there was some disagreement when the position description for the new marketing and public relations position was released. Eshoff had not realized this issue would be controversial. This time, however, they recognized earlier that there could be problems and stuck to parliamentary procedure to avoid heated comments, Eshoff said.
One thing that Boyden found to be difficult was finding a balance between overwhelming students with information and not giving them enough.
“Students have a hard time expressing how they want to receive information,” Boyden said.
However, in a temperature survey ASWU conducted recently, most students said they were able to find the information they wanted. ASWU does post all of its minutes online.
Goals for the rest of the year
Although executives are already looking to next year, they still have things they want to accomplish before this year ends. Both Boyden and Eshoff said one of their goals was to continue to listen to students’ concerns and respond to them. One way they are doing so is through the survey.
“Most people are pretty happy with what ASWU’s doing; we didn’t get too much negative feedback,” Boyden said. “We’re definitely changing up a couple of things, e-mail policy is one example, we have a whole slew of statistics about what events people would like to see so we’ll look at those, and then one of the questions was what issues we should look at spring semester and we got a whole bunch of data on that.”
Remaining consistent to the end of the year in spite of the business of being a senior is important to him, Tep said.
Eshoff, whose job deals a lot with ASWU members, also had a goal of helping ASWU members remain excited about their jobs and avoid burning out, she said.
One thing that may help them achieve their goals is the support network they have created among themselves.
“I think we have been able to work really well together and we also have fun,” Eshoff said. “It helps to create that supportive network so that when we do come across a difficult issue we’re able to talk genuinely.