ASA adds senate position, sees record number of candidates in election
The Augustana Student Association kicked off its political season this week by holding its annual fall elections.
The election saw what ASA President Mason VanEssen described as a “record-breaking” amount of candidates running.
For VanEssen, the large election and increase in competition is exactly what ASA wants and needs.
“With so much interest, we’re going to get the best leaders possible, and I can’t express enough how exciting that is,” he said.
The increase in attention is, in part, due to adding a second international senator seat and increased awareness of the long-standing off-campus senator position.
For the international senator position, the change comes not because of present under representation, but a safeguard for the future.
Though in recent years international students have successfully been elected into multiple ASA positions, that has not always been the case. In past years, international students have been left with only one seat or none at all.
The original international student senate seat was created to ensure that those students had a voice. However, the percent of international students has increased since then, prompting ASA to incorporate the second position.
During the implementation of the second seat, an amendment to add a third international senator seat was proposed but voted down, 7 to 2.
ASA junior senator Spencer O’Hara proposed the amendment. He said that ASA’s decision to reject the additional seat was wrong.
“I don’t feel like there’s any legitimacy as to why we need to have two instead of three,” he said. “I think if [international students] were made aware of the vote, they would want more representation instead of just increasing it by one position.”
Senior senator Adam Guthmiller, who voted against the amendment, said increasing to three seats was unnecessary when international students are winning general senate positions.
“I felt that increasing from one to three was too much to do at one time,” he said. “Especially if they are winning general elections like this year and last year, which I can see continuing in the future.”
Senior David Morales said the additional seat will be beneficial for ASA and his fellow international students.
“I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “Not only will another international student in ASA bring more representation for the other international students but more ideas to the table as well.”
By adding the seat, ASA hopes that if there are years when international students are not elected into traditional senator positions, those students will still be represented fairly.
In this year’s election, five candidates bid for the two seats, breaking the record set in 2014 when three candidates ran.
As for the off-campus senator position, ASA election commissioner Katie Romano said that recently the position has received little-to-no attention from potential candidates, forcing ASA to sometimes make appointments to fill the position.
“It’s always ideal to have an election rather than appointing,” she said. “So this year we wanted to bring the position to the face of Augustana [students] and say, ‘there are opportunities here for you if you want them.’”
This August, Romano reached out to off-campus students, and nine candidates heeded the call and ran for the position, which, according to VanEssen, is a another record.
Romano said that the number of candidates is a success for ASA but pointed out that with more applicants comes more non-electees.
“The thing about having nine people run for one position is that there will be eight people that don’t get it,” she said. “But I still want those eight people to know what a difference they can make on campus, and [that] there are a lot of possibilities as the years go on.”
Former alternative housing senator Eli Yackel-Juleen said that he hopes more candidates yields more attention for off-campus students.
“I think it’s great that they are reaching out to off-campus students, and I think it’s about time these students are getting the representation they deserve,” he said.
With the new senators, VanEssen hopes to carry out the overarching goals he and vice president Abbie Sell ran on last spring, which include increasing communication and transparency between ASA and students, promoting diversity and inclusion and promoting energy efficiency on campus.
“These are just starting points,” VanEssen said. “We have an absolutely stellar group of leaders. We have a number of people that have such great ideas, and I’m excited to see where they go.”