ASA discusses student issues at first-ever “State of the U”
The Augustana Student Association presented its first-ever “State of the U” in the Siverson Lounge before a crowd of roughly 30 students Nov. 30.
ASA president Mason VanEssen and vice president Abbie Sell, along with other ASA senators, discussed the long-term agenda for ASA and many issues involving students, notably a commitment to increase transparency between ASA and students.
ASA has implemented mandatory office hours for senators to be more available to students. It also redesigned the ASA office to make it feel more inviting.
“In the past, you’d walk in and [the senator’s] back would be turned to the door and they’d be doing homework,” Sell said. “We are trying to be more approachable with the office redesign.”
Senators also updated students on the developments of the new wellness center, the new Summit apartments, and trayless dining in the cafeteria.
“We focused on topics that had the most direct effect on the students of Augustana,” Sell said. “Ideally, we’d like to see more students attend these events, but it’s tough to plan an event like this with it being such a crazy time of the year for students.”
VanEssen and Sell also explained the status of the measure to ban tobacco on the Augustana campus.
Former ASA senator Eric Vander Lee, who graduated last year, proposed the ban in the fall of 2015. ASA passed the measure in March and sent it to Augustana President Rob Oliver for his approval, but more than eight months later, the policy remains in limbo.
“That is still on his desk,” VanEssen said. “That has not gone away.”
VanEssen said Oliver has been working with the ASA to gauge student opinion while conducting research on the matter and that a decision is not imminent.
Senators also highlighted current initiatives in action, including the live tweeting of ASA meetings and posting of recap videos, a bulletin board outside the Huddle with news and meeting minutes and periodic events where ASA members hand out treats in dorms—another way for students to more easily give feedback.
“Our duties are important, and we do have an impact,” VanEssen said. “A lot of the projects the ASA takes on aren’t big-picture projects that students can go out and see. We aren’t renovating rooms every day; these things take time. The things ASA does can get lost on the student body.”
This was the first of two “State of the U” events planned for the academic year, with the second slated for this spring.
In the meantime, senators hope students actively engage them.
“We really encourage students to reach out to us at any time.” ASA senator Rylee Kulka said. “Connecting with the students of Augustana is our main job.”