Fourteen former ASUA presidents, including current ASUA President Morgan Abraham, gathered at Pasco Kitchen & Lounge on Friday to welcome president-elect Issac Ortega.
According to Ben Graff, Associated Students of the University of Arizona President from 2000-2001, having dinner with former ASUA presidents to welcome the president-elect was a tradition in the late ’70s, but grew less common in the early ’90s. However, Graff and two other former presidents felt that something was missing, and worked to bring the tradition back.
“A few of us, Cisco Aguilar and Alistair Chapman … and myself said, ‘Well, that was a great tradition,’” Graff said. “We wanted to get the newly elected president to know about the history, know about all the people involved, so we decided to reinitiate this about five years ago. We’re just here to support him [Ortega] if he needs anything.”
Many of the attendees, such as Doug Ehrenkranz, who was ASUA President from 1978-1979, reminisced about their terms as president, and compared the current issues to problems they dealt with as president.
“We were, I think, much more radical, because it was still the ’70s,” Ehrenkranz said. “It was just a different time. We were fighting for basic student rights, things that we take for granted today.”
Some of the things Ehrenkranz said he and his administration worked to change were having control over student fees, being able to offer birth control on campus and putting a student on the Arizona Board of Regents. Though much progress has been made since the ’70s, Ehrenkranz said he believes there is still work for Ortega and ASUA to accomplish.
“My perception is some of the student governments have gotten … too close to the administration, which I don’t think is real healthy,” Ehrenkranz said. “I think it needs to be more adversarial.”
Ehrenkranz also suggested revisiting past student issues over the decades to see if there is still unfinished business.
James Allen, who was president from 2011-2012, said he believes that Ortega possesses the qualities necessary to succeed.
“I think Issac is somebody who is passionate, he’s sincere, he’s genuine, and that’s really critical in a leader because he actually cares,” Allen said. “[He’s] inclusive and reaching out to people. It’s hard, but it’s something that you have to do. Having those qualities that he has make him uniquely
able to do this.”
Allen said the UA is going through a time of change, and offered some advice to Ortega.
“Trust your gut, be sincere and reach out,” Allen said. “If you put those three things together, the rest will come.”
Despite the former presidents’ confidence in him, Ortega expressed some trepidation about his upcoming term, but said he is nevertheless determined to succeed.
“Honestly, I’m really afraid to let everybody down,” Ortega said. “Everybody who voted for me, Morgan, who’s been doing a great job of transitioning me, and people who really helped me — I’m just afraid to let people down. That’s what’s driving me right now, that and the fact that maybe I wasn’t a typical candidate … that’s the stuff that keeps driving me.”
Ortega will officially be inaugurated into office on Thursday. Abraham said he has been working with Ortega to prepare him for next year over the past month and a half. The two have been focusing on making sure that Ortega will be ready for the transition, and Abraham said he feels Ortega is more prepared for his term than Abraham was last year.
“I am so excited for Issac,” Abraham said. “He’s got a great year ahead of him, and I just can’t wait to see what things he accomplishes next year.”