James Allen, a graduating political science senior, was the president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona from the fall of 2011 to the spring of 2012. The Daily Wildcat caught up with Allen to ask about his experiences during his year in office.
Daily Wildcat: How was the beginning of your term after being disqualified from the election and going through a special election?
Allen: Looking back on it, I think I was able to show how much I wanted this presidency. To this day I will defend my reputation and say I should not have been disqualified, and winning by an even larger margin during the second election demonstrates that. More importantly, I realized how much passion I had for this position. The election process demonstrated that for me and showed how far I was willing to go to serve students. After a successful year, my record speaks for itself.
Looking back on your term, what accomplishments are you most proud of from ASUA?
A big thing ASUA focused on this year was diversity. I had an amazing diversity director who made connections with our campus cultural centers, something that was once a completely dead relationship. Our diversity program had an internship program and students from all areas of campus were involved. We held ethnic studies forums on the UA Mall and sent the interns on conferences across the nation. I was able to allocate some funds to the cultural centers, who used the money to hold student banquets, end-of-year events and a giant step tour. We really needed to help improve their mission, since they were so hard hit with funding cuts.
ASUA saved quite a bit of money this year and had more freedom to choose where to spend it. We expanded our marketing team and implemented a program where all clubs on campus could get materials like flyers and posters done professionally for free. We also did a great job in trying to identify the most vital issues students face. We held guns on campus forums and surveyed about 3,000 students to prove that students did not want people to carry at the UA.
What about from yourself?
I made it a point to travel to Phoenix, anywhere from five to 10 times, to lobby against the guns on campus bill. I testified at the Capitol and even went up against the bill’s sponsor. I made it a point to emotionalize the argument, which made it hard for the legislators to vote against an issue we were so passionate about fighting.
I did the same thing with the minimum tuition bill, which would have charged students an extra $2,000 if they were not on a certain academic or athletic scholarship. It got to the point where I was telling the Legislature, “Look, I’m a Republican, but this is insane.” The bill never even saw the House floor. These were real victories for students.
I was also the only president that ever took a $0 increase stance on tuition. I told our administration that I have the UA’s financial statements and that it’s simply a matter of deciding how we allocate our money. Fighting it was the right move, and it changed the conversation about tuition forever. We should never propose anything more than a 5 percent increase unless we are looking at giant cuts again.
Additionally, every time I met with an administrator, I brought up the issue of bringing Spring Fling on campus. I told neighborhoods that opposed the idea that I would “shave off” Thursday of Spring Fling so that it’s not noisy during a weekday and that we would clean up their neighborhoods after the fact for free. We got Parking and Transportation Services, the University of Arizona Police Department and UA Athletics on board. Now, we just need an answer from incoming UA President Ann Weaver Hart and to convince one last neighborhood and a few academic individuals.
What’s your next step now that you graduated?
Every former ASUA president goes through a moment where they struggle and feel inferior. They ask themselves, “How can I top my presidency?” I felt pressure to do something great, but now I’m in the real world and I can start over.
After building a relationship with the vice president of Student Affairs and the UA’s chief financial officer, I was able to design a job working with them next year. I will be working and traveling with them while doing a series of projects. We want to make a Groupon for the UA and offer deals like a two for one Pinkberry and create customer access to the UofA Bookstore through a UA app. I’ll think of myself as sort of an executive coordinator.
I’ll also be applying to the MBA program at the Eller College of Management. I know I will go to some type of graduate school. In addition, I’ve harbored some interest in the Arizona Board of Regents’ student regent position that will open up next year.