ASUA has to consider all students' opinions
Last week, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona failed to fulfill its primary mission of representing the UA student body.
At their regular Wednesday meeting, ASUA members discussed a resolution supporting the Student Health Advocacy Committee’s Tobacco-Free UA Policy Implementation Plan. In the plan, SHAC members presented the findings of a 2012 Health and Wellness Survey administered by UA Campus Health Service, where 70.2 percent of undergraduate students said they supported making the UA campus tobacco-free.
Five senators voted against the resolution, two voted in favor and one abstained.
ASUA President Morgan Abraham said he plans to collect student survey data and hold forums to hear what students have to say about the issue of smoking on campus, by October. Abraham also said he made the Senate aware of his plans to gather student input, which would indicate that the Senate cast its vote prematurely before hearing from students.
“My office has been planning these focus groups, so I’m not quite sure where the disconnect was,” Abraham said.
This premature vote exposes a serious problem with how the Senate is operating. The Senate’s actions directly conflicted with its job description, which states that “each one of the senators is elected at large to represent the 40,000 students at the University.”
Although the Senate doesn’t have the final say in whether the UA becomes tobacco-free, its vote will be considered when Faculty Senate discusses the issue. Now, the Faculty Senate will be considering a vote that, in actuality, isn’t representative of the student body.
Students cannot be fairly represented if no one considers their opinion.
“It was definitely frustrating seeing the Senate kind of ignore [the survey’s results] and do what they think is best, instead of what the student body has clearly stated,” Abraham said.
ASUA Sen. Christopher Chavez said that he asked smokers about their thoughts on the resolution in the days leading up to the vote, but a few smokers around campus are a blatantly biased sample and only represent a fraction of the student body.
This was a pathetic attempt to engage students and must not set the precedent for the rest of the year.
If the Senate is unable to work with its own president, how can it be expected to work with and for students? The communication breakdown is evident, not only with the campus, but within ASUA itself, and the issue is larger than one vote.
ASUA Sen. Grant Suman said senate members looked into current university policy and reached out to SHAC to discuss its plan. However, SHAC Director Stephanie Kha said only three senators approached her to discuss the implementation plan.
Kha said she plans to meet with the senators to discuss how SHAC members can revise the policy in such a way that senators would be more open to voting yes to a tobacco-free campus. The Senate has also indicated that revoting on the proposal at a later date is a possibility if the SHAC policy is revised.
It is the responsibility of our senators to go beyond polling a few students they happen to encounter around campus. Students should feel represented, not ignored. Either the senators need to engage with students through surveys, forums and other means of communication, or they need to consider changing their job description.
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