ASUA President Michael Finnegan reflects on a year of representing student concerns
2016-2017 ASUA President Mikey Finnegan sits in the ASUA office on March 9, 2016. Finnegan will hand the reins of student advocacy over to Matt Lubisich at the end of the spring semester.
Michael Finnegan, Associated Students for the University of Arizona president for the 2016-2017 academic year, had an expected range of achievements and challenges during his term.
Finnegan’s greatest achievement was his work on tuition and fees, and how he kept the discussions healthy and robust, said Andrew Comrie, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and Provost. Finnegan worked closely with Jude Udeozor, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council to bring down the cost of the athletics fee.
“He was really instrumental in helping keep discussions to where we got a really good set of compromises,” Comrie said. “I think, in particular, he cared a lot about not only the regular fees, and had some thoughts on those, but also on the athletics fee. He worked really well with the GPSC and Jude.”
Anna Woolridge, ASUA senator and a sophomore majoring in MIS, also pointed to Finnegan’s work on tuition as his biggest achievement.
“I think he brought a lot of awareness to tuition and fees,” Woolridge said. “He got a lot more people to be concerned and informed than has happened in the past. I think that’s really important and I hope that continues.”
While Finnegan thought his greatest overall ASUA achievement was his part in restructuring the senate his sophomore year, he was also proud of his work with fees, calling it a move in the right direction.
“On our discussion of fees and tuition and setting parameters for that, Jude and I are really proud we brought light to the regents and students the total reach of fees and differential tuition,” Finnegan said. “We’ve definitely made significant steps in how student involvement will be in the future.”
Comrie said Finnegan’s drive to save students money went as far as messaging faculty, reminding them to get textbook selections in on time. Early textbook adoption saves students money, as the bookstore can decide what they need to buy back and give better deals.
As for challenges, Woolridge said Finnegan’s passion sometimes made him impatient with the pace of ASUA.
“Because he was in ASUA so long, he knows what it can be and he knows a lot about pretty much everything in the office,” Woolridge said. “I think his biggest challenge was getting frustrated with people who weren’t as informed as him or didn’t quite share his same vision.”
Finnegan said this year, he learned how to work well with others and that he could only do so much.
“ASUA finally realized we can’t expect the university to adapt to our government all the time—we sometimes have to adapt to the institution,” Finnegan said. “I think my time in ASUA really made me more of a cooperative group leader. There are so many things that go on on the campus that you have to be able to lean on others.”
Comrie said most years, ASUA presidents have to deal with a curveball issue, but this year, he didn’t see one.
“There’s almost always a wildcard each year, that comes out of left field, and you never expect it,” Comrie said. “It’s just the way the year unfolds, but there was no really big, out-of-left-field surprise this year.”
The only issue, Comrie said, was with election turnout.
“I think he had the same challenge everyone has, with getting student turnout in elections to be higher,” Comrie said. “We have the same problem in faculty elections, frankly, so that’s not his so much as a general problem.”
The athletics fee stood out to Finnegan as his greatest challenge this year. As it had been in the works for a few years, he said his best option was to work with President Ann Weaver Hart, as opposed to trying to block the fee entirely and likely failing.
“I don’t know if I have second thoughts, but I think the deal we were able to reach was amazing for grad students in particular, because they shouldn’t have to pay at all,” Finnegan said. “I think the compromise we came to was in the best interest of keeping the cost as low as possible.”
Woolridge said the best part about working with Finnegan was his depth of knowledge and his constant availability.
“I would say Mikey is someone who is always available and that’s something I really appreciated,” Woolridge said. “Whenever I needed him, I knew I could call him, I could sit down in his office and say ‘I want to work on this’ and he would just have so much knowledge about how to get something done.”
Comrie most appreciated Finnegan’s efforts to continue the tradition of collaboration and shared governance between ASUA and the administration.
“It’s super easy for people to rile against the administration or the administration to just say ‘student’s aren’t getting it,’” Comrie said. “We go out of our way, all of us, to not do that and Mikey really carried that torch forward.”
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