Several months ago, a student with three years of experience in ASUU — Jack Bender — created the SLC party while running for Student Body president. His campaign, hinging mainly upon reducing fiscal allocations to various departments, promised to reduce student fees and increase transparency. Since the inauguration ceremony on April 27, there have indeed been notable changes under his leadership, with the aid of several new leaders.
When Bender first entered ASUU, he closely witnessed a historic event within the organization: the first impeachment of a president. Unable to maintain the required 2.5 GPA, former president Nick Ferre was succeeded by his vice president, who later told the Salt Lake Tribune, “…[ASUU] lost a little focus.” While there was overwhelming agreement on the verdict, a less apparent issue existed within ASUU’s rulebook.
Redbook, a 70-page document, contained the entirety of ASUU’s constitution and regulatory bylaws. Untouched for years, it became riddled with inconsistencies, typos and numerous loopholes; moreover, it allowed departments to receive excess funding, a problem that deeply affected student organizations.
This is where ASUU’s legislative advisor Melanie Lee and Attorney General Connor Morgan have come into play. When asked about reforms to Redbook, Morgan eagerly responded, “On the first day, Melanie went through and changed every typo in the document.” Since that point, both have spent countless hours editing a document that should’ve initially been written in Comic Sans. At least then, anyone who opened Redbook would’ve realized it was an utter joke.
Yet, grammatical editing has not been Morgan and Lee’s only focus; additionally, they have worked to add regulations to campaigning for office. Attempting to keep the promise of increasing transparency, Bender is enthusiastically pushing for reforms that get candidates “more engaged with why they want to run.” These changes, perhaps most apparent within election policies, stipulate that a party may only consist of a president and their two running mates. This differs drastically from years past, which allowed for conglomerations of students to campaign together, which resulted in a system rewarding those with connections.
Moreover, the newly revised Redbook stipulates that those in the legislative, executive and judicial branches must resign their position before running for presidency. This extends further, detailing that legislative officers must now run independently, a move that reduces the power of political parties in future races. These changes, alongside SLC’s promise to provide more than just funding to student groups, leaves a single pertinent question unanswered: why should students care?
Simply put, the rent is too damn high.
More specifically, the fees that we pay as students are too damn high. During his campaign last year, Bender made the promise to reduce charges in excess of $85, which fund the U’s athletics. Yet, as Bender acknowledged in an interview last year with the Daily Utah Chronicle, “….Most likely the student fees will not be changed this year…but this is something we can propose for next year and forward.”
Perhaps it’s this realist mentality that helps to define Bender’s optimism for the future of ASUU.
Through drastic changes of the Redbook, which extend beyond fixing typos, work has been put toward regulating campaigns. This eliminates a system that performs inside favors, and allows those running for office to engage with the students they’ll represent, creating an atmosphere that benefits those with the clearest message, giving students more choice. And despite the unchanging nature of student fees this year, work done by leaders such as Morgan, Lee, Chase Grover, Jessica Patterson, Matt Miller and Bender is a sign of better days to come.
Long regarded as an elitist student organization, ASUU hasn’t always been transparent. Nor has it provided the student population with much past funding. Yet, as the academic year begins to swing into motion, the already significant work done by SLC has shown promising signs of reform. Whether the party is able to keep its word regarding each campaign promise, however, is something that only time can tell.