ASUU had its ups and downs

Tyler PetersonStaff Writer

Adam BensonAsst. News Editor

The story of this year’s Associated Students of the University of Utah’s administration is a study of balance. Success marked with sporadic tension and strained relations defined the terms of President Adrian Johnson and Vice President Anthony White.

Initial campaign promises like strengthening diversity and spearheading the early stages of a comprehensive recycling program ran side by side with long-term projects such as overhauling funding methods for the Presenter’s Office and giving RedBook-ASUU’s policy and procedures manual-its first major facelift since 1996.

But something unexpected settled into the mix, and by the close of Fall Semester, Johnson and White’s executive cabinet was already different from its original makeup.

Staff Relations and Accountability

With the peaks come valleys, and Johnson’s administration had its fair share of them. By the end of the term, Johnson gave three of his original 24 member Executive Cabinet the opportunity to resign in lieu of termination.

Those members were Student Advocacy Board director Maryam Basmenji, Public Relations Chairperson Mary Cobb and Director of Presidential Affairs Alisia Abegg.

“We want all students to get the best,” Johnson said about why he tendered those offers to his staffers.

Cobb, who resigned citing ethical concerns after being told Johnson planned to split the board into a separate service component and dismantle her staff, left under a cloud of controversy.

Though she petitioned Johnson for her job back a week after she resigned, he stood by his decision to let her go.

“Her performance as a cabinet member was less than subpar,” he said.

If that was the case, White and Johnson should have done a better job recruiting for the position, but if Cobb was the best person for the job, the administration should have made their vision for the PR board clear before the beginning of the school year.

Instead, a student leader was left out to dry and ASUU never looked back. That didn’t send a good message to other student leaders and left the administration with a black eye.

Cobb wasn’t the only one who was disenchanted with the executive decision-making.

Emily Justice, the Presenter’s Office student director, also had a bone to pick with the Johnson administration.

“Early on, they were kind of demanding. They seemed to want the glory of what we were doing but not the responsibility of it,” Justice said.

According to Justice, Johnson and White demanded to announce things at events at least some time during her events.

“I feel like they weren’t looking out for what was best for ASUU, but more trying to pursue their own agenda,” she said. “I’m not even saying I’m right, it’s just how I feel. It’s all a matter of perspective.”

Alicia Taase, director of campus relations, said that Johnson and White are good guys and make mistakes just like everyone else.

Grade: D

Student Group Relations

The administration’s rocky relationship extended outside ASUU’s offices as well.

Chad Dilley, director of Crimson Nights, which up to now has been run by the Union Programming Council but funded mostly by ASUU, said he had a difficult time working with Johnson, White and Chief of Staff Jeffrey Mathis. “There was a lack of a common goal. They were competing with other organizations,” Dilley said.

Johnson called the collaboration efforts between ASUU and the UPC “one of the most frustrating things of the year…They were the most difficult people to work with” and they were “very concerned” with who got credit for Crimson Nights, he said.

At the beginning of the school year, UPC asked for $200,000 from ASUU to help run Crimson Nights. Johnson’s administration complied with $20,000 in cash and $20,000 in programming from the Presenter’s Office. It also provided another $20,000 for the UPC’s “One More Day” event held Tuesday outside the Union. The $60,000 total is more than any other non-ASUU group received the entire year, according to Johnson.

“That’s the best we could do,” White said.

But after allocating the money, the ASUU logo did not get the exposure Johnson and White had hoped for in UPC advertising of Crimson Nights. “We want the students to know where their student fees are going,” Johnson said.

The groups, along with the Student Alumni Association, also butted heads over Johnson’s idea of beginning the tradition of a Midnight Muss at the U, patterned after Texas A & M’s Yell Practice.

“They didn’t want to do it the way we wanted to,” said Jason Barlow, SAA president.

Barlow said he thought it was “a pie in the sky” idea and “didn’t think it would be all that successful.” He said Chris Hill, director of athletics, felt the same way.

“They were more worried about showing students about what ASUU was doing rather than supporting things already successful on campus,” Barlow said.

The three groups never agreed about how to run the activity, and the Midnight Muss fell through.

“The whole thing kind of alienated SAA toward ASUU,” Barlow said.

Johnson and White stayed true to their diversity campaign promises, allocating $10,000 for the Diversity Board for events such as International Week.

White also garnered $4,000 in guaranteed money for the student groups in the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs.

This year’s administration continued former ASUU President Jess Dalton’s efforts at creating a central location for student groups to meet and plan events, resulting in the opening of the CORC Room.

Grade: B-

Financial Accountability

On the other hand, the administration replaced those they let go with effective leaders who netted results, and students were the better for it.

“We’ve demanded excellence from our board directors, and we were going to make sure we got it,” Johnson said.

That meant docking up to 35 percent of stipends for board directors, Senate or assembly members who didn’t perform up to par. According to White, just five out of the 52 members of the student Senate and assembly received their full pay.

That’s taking a stand and backing it up, something future administrations should live up to. However, a last-minute March trip to Boston by Johnson, White and their chief of staff Jeff Mathis to see other student groups in action took $2,500 out of ASUU’s coffers. “I won’t apologize for Boston. We wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t think it would benefit students. We were working and we knew what to ask,” Johnson said.

White agreed.

“To get things done you have to see them, and that’s exactly what we did,” he said.

Despite Johnson and White’s best defenses, it was an irresponsible and unfair use of student money. Students really would have benefitted if that money was spent on sending ASUU President-elect Alex Lowe and Vice President elect Bobby Harrington on that trip instead.

Grade: C+

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