ASA removal of the adult learner senator position was a step backwards

I was elected to the Augustana Student Association in September 2020 as the senator representing students 23 years of age and older, tallying more than 300 votes — a clear nod from the student body that nontraditional students deserve a seat on the senate. 

Entering my fifth semester as a double major and ninth semester as a Campus Safety officer, my election to the senate was worthy and natural. Still, from that day forward I served with respect and integrity, completing all required responsibilities that come with being a part of the finance committee and a student body senator. 

Working collaboratively with numerous senators and those of the student body, I fulfilled the wishes of students no matter how insignificant my peers perceived the initiatives, nor how long it took to bring bold ideas to fruition. 

For three semesters I advocated for changes that were repeatedly met with loud opposition by my peers. Often through no real fault of their own, they weren’t willing to work with others to achieve the best possible outcome with the resources at the senate’s disposal. 

Yet that opposition, no matter how loud, was met with a voice — my voice — given to me by students who expected equal representation for the AU community. Young or old, athlete or academic, systemically non-dominant or not, as an adult, it was my responsibility to stand up for all those who aspired for a better AU. 

In my time on the senate we were able to achieve and pursue things previous groups had failed to do. Together, we established a sixth committee to the senate — the diversity committee — once and for all recognizing that Augustana is a predominantly white institution. We implemented policy to ensure senators represent not only those similar to us, but those who are different yet equally important and necessary to a strong student body. 

We passed legislation to compensate Viking Days co-chairs, who’d been wrongfully unpaid for their 100+ hours of work — often at the direction of campus officials — to ensure Viking Days was a welcoming, exciting and unique celebration of school spirit. We created mini-grants for students with unique goals and objectives, we brought feminine product dispensers to buildings on campus and we donated ASA funds to sponsor youth in Kenya who couldn’t afford to attend school on their own — a move that brought tears of pride to the eyes of professor Sally Mallowa and me. 

But on Feb. 23 the very same senators — who turned to me for my advocacy efforts, will to do good and my desire to do more for the community — slammed the door on the senate position for those 23 and older with a resounding bang.

Spearheaded by a first-time senator and supported by long-time senators, ASA voted to remove my former position in unanimous and unusual collaboration. 

Although the decision to nix my former position was done “due to lack of interest” and “ambiguity,” the explanation is superficial. And it was done without concern for myself or others, or for those who held the position before me. 

Moreover, the move questions the integrity of the ASA Senate, which, in its governing documents, states that the senate “strives to guarantee the rule of the majority, the right of the minority and the freedom of students to inform and be informed as their conscience dictates.” 

Dismantling the legislature that allows for any student 23 and older to be a part of the senate, to voice their concerns, to support the few as opposed to the many and to better provide representation for Augustana as it grows in size and accessibility is, in fact, egregious. 

Though one of my favorite professors once told me not to tire in my efforts, I’ve grown quite tired. And although the will of the senate was fulfilled through their vote on Feb. 23, the removal of my former position was a step backward for the student body, and for the Augustana community as a whole.

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  1. ASA should have just reworded the position to make it available to grad students as well as non trad students if there was “lack of interest” (at this point) instead of just flat out getting rid of it. Embarrassing that this decision was unanimous.

  2. It seems like this year’s ASA has far too many unanswered promises. All those campaign ideas for only free coffee, too many feedback forms to count, and the deletion of senator positions. No wonder everybody’s quitting. As a junior, this year’s ASA is a huge disappointment compared to last year’s. Disappointed is actually an understatement. Hopefully next year’s group is able to lead and actually follow through with their promises.

  3. Aren’t these the same people that bitched about not having enough spots last year – and now they take away spots when it’s easier for them? Gotta love when selfish people get elected lol

  4. Watching ASA do nothing this year has been painful. Keep up the great work guys…

  5. Courtney Chrystal Avatar
    Courtney Chrystal

    Currently, the Adult Learner position has only been removed from the Election Code as it has traditionally been a non-competitive and appointed position. The ambiguity and interest issues will be addressed at our last March meeting when we will go over the Constitution, your thoughtful arguments will be considered there and folks are always welcome. Our primary concern is making sure this important position is full and fully understood.

    I’m so sorry for a lack of clarity in the meeting minutes and other channels about this decision and it’s current implications. You did incredible things with the position, we just want to continue that legacy.

  6. Looks like it’s time for the annual ASA roast! MY FAVE! Regardless of whether I liked last year’s folks or not, at least Cole and Hannah did stuff. Like actually a lot of stuff. Now this year wants to cancel those Lyft rides to fund what exactly? Another diversity event where the same 20 people show up every time? Oh right, ASA is too busy taking safety walks around campus. With well over 1/3 of us being athletes, I see absolutely no effort to do anything for us. And to be honest, I see no effort to really do anything at all… Live, laugh, love Augie.

  7. I would like to echo the post by Anonymous at 11:05. There have been so many opportunities this year for ASA to make differences in the community and even more promises that haven’t been made. It is quite disappointing to see that there is never any new or old business to be discussed by this year’s senate at any of the past meetings (Per the Mirror’s live tweeting). Lack of involvement in the community and just not even being able to hold a quorum is something that is just terribly sad. Leadership should step up and get something done this year and not continue letting their year go to waste.

  8. This years ASA has been one of unfulfilled promises. Looking back at their campaign platform not one of their ideas has come to fruition. They have had only a small handful of meetings with virtually no new business. This is the first thing I have heard of ASA doing this year besides feedback forms and free coffee, and it goes against everything they ran on. They advocated for giving everyone a seat at the table, but instead stripped seats. This is not what the student body wants. Do better.

  9. I’m glad I’m not the only one that thinks ASA is a waste of space this year. I’m so glad I paid hundreds of dollars in my student activity fee for this.

  10. Lmaoo…..ASA being performative this year?

  11. diversity? never heard of her. thought this admin valued opinions from all. the hypocrisy is unmatched. do better.

  12. Of the tangible things that this administration ran on, they have accomplished none of them. They:
    – have not ensured scholarship retention for living off campus even though on campus housing is still limited due to construction
    – have not ensured a dead week prior to finals/midterms
    – have not made a partnership with Grubhub (and want to alter the one with Lyft)
    – have not made attending counseling count for WB credit

    Of the untangible things that they ran on, well, they’re not doing too good at that, either. You do realize that excluding non trad students from being on ASA decreases it’s diversity, right?

  13. Henry Van Bemmel (First time senator) Avatar
    Henry Van Bemmel (First time senator)

    While I can agree that the meeting minutes did not provide a very comprehensive or convincing explanation for this decision, that’s not exactly what they are supposed to do. Any student is welcome to reach out to anybody serving on the ASA, or attend the meetings, if they want to ask questions or speak up.

    The rest of the argument falls pretty short of being convincing. Removing this position does not go against the ASA’s declared purpose of ensuring rule of the majority while protecting the right of minority. Anybody 23 and over is still welcome to run for one of our four at large seats. The students are then welcome to vote that individual in if they think that they bring a valuable perspective to the Senate. I agree that you served your position with respect and integrity, and I’m sure the students would have elected you as an at-large senator for two terms as well.

    The specific differences between a 23 and over student and a “traditional student” are also narrowing each year. We are all, even freshmen, adults. Many of us have jobs and commute from off-campus housing. I think you are greatly overestimating the unique value of a perspective that anybody older than 23 has over anybody under 23 (if they do have one, though, they can feel free to run for at large and be elected if the students agree)

    Finally, our Senate is 28 people, which is 8-10 Senators larger than other regional, comparably sized schools. The reduction of one position means our Senate is still fairly large and therefore has plenty of room for adequate student representation, especially since those who would fill the removed position are still eligible to run for one of four at-large seats.

    I am sorry that you feel that this move was premature and poorly-argued, but I couldn’t disagree more. I do not regret my vote to stop electing this position, and I’m looking forward to proposing removing it entirely from the Constitution at a future meeting. Please feel free to attend in person if you have some thoughts to share.

  14. Senator, get your own platform.

    Ironic how the reply misses student feedback. “Hypocrisy,” “terribly sad,” “painful,” selfish,” “this is not what the student body wants,” “embarrassing,” and “Do better.”

  15. Senator Van Bemmel, as a recently-graduated student that is 22, I can say with complete certainty that I am a very different person than I was at 18. With age comes experience and perspective. Additionally, if all of the minority views of the student body can be represented by the 4 at-large positions, I ask you, why not get rid of the new affinity positions as well???

  16. Slater Dixon (the spearheading first-time senator) Avatar
    Slater Dixon (the spearheading first-time senator)

    In light of this article and the response, I’ll be moving an amendment to reinstate the position at our next meeting. I’d encourage those who feel strongly about the issue to attend the meeting and provide feedback, hopefully with less acerbity. In terms of the broader disappointment surrounding this year’s ASA, I think most of the critiques are fair. I’d love to have a conversation about what ASA should do differently with anyone who posted here. My email is sjdixon20@ole.augie.edu

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