NEWS

A lackluster year for UA student government

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Caitlin Claypool | The Daily Wildcat

The Associated Students of the University of Arizona logo painted across the wall at the ASUA office in the Student Union Memorial Center.

The Associated Students of the University of Arizona is the UA’s undergraduate student governing body. However, throughout the duration of the 2021-22 academic year, the body hasn’t done much governing. As the ASUA election season approaches, the Daily Wildcat took a look at the past seven months of activity of the UA’s student government.

Senate seats

The 2021-22 ASUA senate began in September with five vacant senate seats, four of which were later filled. The four appointed senators were sworn in on Nov. 3, 2021, after an application process consisting of an application on Handshake and a series of interviews with executive officers.

These senators were Abby Hauser from the College of Humanities, Anne Zlatow, a graduate student in the College of Veterinary Medicine, Ziana Collins from the College of Pharmacy and Edda Anderson from the College of Public Health.

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Neither the ASUA constitution nor the bylaws mention a senate seat for the College of Veterinary Medicine. However, there is a seat for the College of Medicine, which is not currently filled. Sylvester Gaskin, associate dean of students for student governance and programs, confirmed to the Wildcat that the College of Veterinary Medicine senator was hired by mistake, and no seat exists for the college. Zlatow is also a graduate student, while ASUA is an undergraduate student government. 

The senate was also missing representatives from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Optical Sciences, which will go unfilled before next school year.

Attendance

There have been 23 meetings of the 2021-2022 ASUA senate. Five senators have missed a quarter or more of total ASUA senate meetings.

Jack Haskins, senator for the College of Fine Arts, and Elsa Ayon, senator for the College of Education, missed the greatest number of ASUA meetings so far, each with six absences. Jiselle Lugo, senator at-large, Louise Lalescu, senator for the College of Science and Swathi Ramkumar, senator for the College of Engineering, missed five meetings each.

Article V of the ASUA bylaws states, “automatic impeachment charges will take place after the fifth unexcused absence.” According to ASUA’s own records, only one senator has accumulated five unexcused absences: Sen. Lalescu.

At one meeting on Nov. 10, 2021, a third of the senate – five senators – were marked absent. There has only been one meeting in which the entire senate was recorded present.

Only one senator has a perfect attendance record: Lauren Heath, senator for the College of Architecture Planning & Landscape Architecture.

Outreach, transparency and accessibility

According to Article V Section 5.03 of the ASUA senate bylaws, the Senate Projects and Outreach Committee (chaired by Sen. Haskins) bears numerous marketing and outreach responsibilities. These include updating the senate website and all ASUA Senate social media accounts, presenting a monthly senate report regarding current campus issues, inviting guests to attend senate meetings and maintaining a strong relationship with the Wildcat.

Four senators and two executive officers campaigned off of either transparency and accessibility or student body outreach. Senators Ayon and Lady Elli both mentioned outreach during their campaign, while senators Jack Healy and Lalescu promoted transparency and accessibility during their campaign.

Sen. Healy explicitly stated during last year’s ASUA Senate debate that it was a personal goal to have every business major know his name, a feat he would achieve through a mix of social media and in-person outreach.

The ASUA senate Instagram has only posted three times this academic year, and ASUA’s Twitter account hasn’t posted since April 2021.

In July 2021, Student Body President Noah Vega was invited by the Wildcat to write a letter to the incoming class of freshmen, the class of 2025, to be published in the first print issue of the 2021-2022 academic year. Vega agreed but never delivered the letter.

In February, the Wildcat reached out to Executive Vice President Alexandra Devereux to inquire about the excused or unexcused status of senate absences. Devereux declined to provide information on the grounds that it was unnecessary to make public, citing Arizona public records laws. 

At ASUA's March 16 meeting, Devereux released the number of excused and unexcused absences for ASUA senators. No explanation was provided for why the information was previously withheld.

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Sustainability

Three senators and one executive officer mentioned sustainability during their campaign. A resolution passed in Sept. 2021 calling on the university to completely divest from fossil fuels was the one and only resolution to be adopted during this session of ASUA. The resolution was sponsored by UAZ Divest and Administrative Vice President Kyle Kline, but was largely authored by the University of Pennsylvania Undergraduate Assembly and the Student Sustainability Association at Penn.

Vega spoke with the UA Foundation about divestment following the passage of the resolution but was met with resistance. It refused not only to set a hard date on divestment, but also to make a concrete commitment to divestment at all.

The UA Foundation suggested that it would consider letting fossil-fuel investments fizzle out, but Kline said they wouldn’t be able to fully divest until 2029. The divestment resolution passed by ASUA called on the foundation to completely divest endowment funds by 2025 and publicly announce by 2022 that it will not make new investments in fossil fuels.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

Five senators and one executive officer made campaign promises to improve diversity, equity and inclusion at the UA. Sen. Elli, who was among the aforementioned senators, explicitly stated as a candidate for student body senator that she would seek to “promote and improve DEI initiatives by creating resolutions that would cater to the needs of cultural and resource centers.”

ASUA hasn’t passed any DEI-related resolution this academic year and hasn’t done so since Feb. 2021.

Constitution and bylaws

The ASUA Constitution was amended by referendum in March 2020. The updated constitution was never uploaded to the ASUA website; instead, the prior version of the constitution, last updated in Oct. 2017, is still on the website.

The ASUA bylaws haven’t been updated since 2018. They also include outdated references, including mention of the senate whip, a position that was abolished in Jan. 2021. The structure of the bylaws is inconsistent. For example, bylaws pertaining to “ASUA Senate” are listed in the table of contents as Article V, but in the body of the document, it is labeled as Article IV.

There is currently no way for students to access the current, up-to-date constitution.

House of Representatives

In 2020, students at the University of Arizona approved, by referendum, an amendment to the ASUA constitution that established a House of Representatives, among other revisions.

In a Q&A with the Wildcat, President Vega said, “I think a very big factor and variable that's going to really change doing government this year is going to be the House of Reps. The House of Reps is going to be so, so big.”

“The House of Representatives will be formed this year under the direction of EVP Devereux and the representative selection processes will be determined after coordination with the respective student populations/organizations,” AVP Kline told the Wildcat last fall.

ASUA has not communicated any updates on its progress with instituting a House of Representatives since it was approved.

ASUA compensation

Elected and appointed ASUA officials receive compensation for their service to the UA student community.

Each senator receives a stipend of $1,250 for their service, totaling $20,000 paid to the fifteen senators collectively. The administrative and executive vice presidents receive $5,500 each and the president receives $7,000, totaling $18,000 between the three executive officers.



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