Associated Students of the University of Utah’s (ASUU) freshly elected student body president, Connor Morgan, aims to break the barriers between traditional and non-traditional students and kick the “bad reputation” that has followed ASUU in the past.
“ASUU has had a reputation for being Greek-dominated, kind of an old boys’ club,” Morgan said.
He plans to take student government in a new direction by working toward more inclusivity.
“ASUU has always said we represent all the students at the University of Utah — really they’ve represented a very small fraction,” Morgan said. “We’d like to expand that.”
Majoring in biology and political science, the 21-year-old honor student pushes for more events catered to all students, non-traditional and traditional alike.
“ASUU would put on events [in the past] catered toward 1,000 to 2,000 traditional students, just the traditional 18 to 20-year-old student who lives on campus who can go to events on a Friday night, who doesn’t have kids to worry about,” Morgan said. “I see being in ASUU as an opportunity to try to cater not to just those 2,000 students, but to the more than 32,000 students that we have here at the U.”
As president, Morgan encourages events like RedFest, but also champions other events like the upcoming family movie night planned by ASUU’s Student Immersion and Outreach Board. It is meant to cater toward non-traditional students who have spouses or children.
“ASUU is paying for this so you have a college experience and you can enjoy that college experience with your family and with your community,” Morgan said.
Morgan is taking on the ASUU presidency — a duty that requires at least 40 hours a week and service on the Board of Trustees — along with heading up the U’s Club Swimming and Diving team all while balancing out his 16-credit hour class load.
“It’s a full-time job,” Morgan said. “Some weeks [the ASUU presidency] goes beyond that.”
His answer to handling these responsibilities is to stay ahead of the game.
“[I prefer to] take a more proactive approach in dealing with solutions rather than a reactive approach,” said Morgan, “deal with things before they happen.”
The new policies Morgan is looking to enact range from preserving the student voice in the U’s Retention Promotion and Tenure (RPT) proceedings, to protecting graduate students’ stipends.
Although only one party running for ASUU administration remained on the ballot on election day, the road to the presidency wasn’t easy, but he felt it was a necessary path to make moves that better student welfare. The rules governing ASUU executive campaigns are strict. In order for Morgan to run for president, he had to resign from his position as attorney general (AG) on the first day of fall semester.
“That week before, I was really waffling,” Morgan said. “I didn’t have my ticket put together so I didn’t know if I would be able to find two [vice presidents] who would want to do it.”
On one hand, he could continue being AG — a position he enjoyed. On the other hand, he could risk his position and be removed from ASUU for one-year — a rule for candidates who lose the election. Morgan felt this could be devastating to the rapport he had built over the summer.
“If I were to win there would be tons of potential to help the students,” Morgan said. “I had been thinking about it for so long. I knew I wanted to do it and basically I knew I would regret it if I didn’t run.”
Morgan resigned after serving three semesters as attorney general in August 2017. Before the presidential race started, Morgan was able to find two solid vice presidential candidates to run with him — now Vice President of University Relations Maggie Gardner and now Vice President of Student Relations Xandra Pryor. After a strenuous campaign the race was getting down to the wire.
“A couple weeks before the election started [the opposing party] dropped out of the race,” Morgan said. “So by the time the election started it was just us running.”
What sounds like a slam dunk, though, wasn’t quite. Students could still vote against Morgan and his ticket by giving a vote of “no confidence,” which would put a hold on the presidency until a search committee interviewed applicants and selected the next year’s president.
“I was still nervous about [the election],” Morgan said. “Luckily, we won the vote easily.”
His party, Rise, was elected March 16, 2018. Morgan’s inauguration was held April 25, 2018.
Although ASUU models itself on federal and state governments with an executive, legislative and judicial branch, its mission is to provide for the general welfare of students attending the U. The difference between politics outside of the university and ASUU is it is a non-partisan government.
“We are team ASUU,” Morgan said. “we don’t say we love this side or we love that side, we try to come down on whatever side best helps students.”
ASUU presidents serve only a one year term, which is an arguably short amount of time to fix long-term problems within student government.
“One year is enough to get a lot of things done, but to solve institutional issues, not really,” Morgan said.
Therefore, Morgan is responsible for creating a strategic plan for the next president, whether that be a five-year plan or something as simple as just making sure the transition for the next president goes smoothly.
“I think we need to set the stage for solving any problem between now and next April,” he said.
Morgan stressed his administration’s main goal is “just trying to be better at advocating for students. It may sound trite, but I do enjoy and appreciate having the opportunity to help people.”