This is a letter to the editor written by a student at the University of Utah. To submit a letter to the editor, email [email protected]
The Associated Students at the University of Utah are one of the lesser-known student organizations here on campus, which I do find odd, with it being the student government. I have given the past year of my life to making sure that that organization fulfills its purpose: to serve students. However, due to members of President Connor Morgan’s Executive Cabinet and President Morgan himself, it failed that in critical ways.
Personally, I served as the assembly parliamentarian for two semesters, as the campaign manager for the Barnes Ticket and as an executive branch board member of the Government Relations and Student Resources Board. I know where we failed and where we succeeded.
The executive branch of the government, I feel, has the most issues. The first and most critical failure of the Morgan Presidency was to allow a culture of favoritism and gossip to bloom within their ranks. On favoritism, there were numerous examples of myself and many others within the organization voicing serious complaints about the job performance of some of the directors managed by the Chief of Staff, and often we would see our complaints disregarded and even would be punished ourselves, because those individuals that we had a problem with were friends with the Chief of Staff. For example, I personally saw my fellow board members become disheartened and disenchanted with being involved and leaving because of the performance of a director, and when I voiced this critical problem to President Morgan, absolutely no action was taken and, in fact, myself and co-workers of mine were later reprimanded for voicing what we saw. I have also seen directors, because of their friendship with Chief of Staff [Lilly] Kanishka, be afforded numerous opportunities and second chances when they should not have and directors who did not have this affiliation saw immediate and just punishments for their actions and mistakes. I do not mean this to be a “hit” or anything of the sort. In fact, President Morgan and his chief of staff have always been quick to rightly criticize the actions of the Legislature, I just wish that they would’ve applied that same level of criticism to their own hires.
On the topic of criticism, I would like to explain a recent situation that crystalizes the outgoing administration’s attitude toward students voicing their opinions. There is a private meme group on Facebook called “Amazon Presents: UofU Edgy Memes for Salty Skis.” Shortly after the attempted impeachment of the VP of Student Relations, I decided to post a meme in the group that poked fun at the proceeding’s nature, and received a text from President Morgan, a call from an administration official affiliated with me academically, and I and the moderators of that group were blocked on all social media by the Chief of Staff. Personally, I feel that this reaction was brought on by the executive leadership taking a joke way too personally, and instead of admitting fault or at least letting a student’s opinion stand, they decided to attack myself and my friends personally. All this distills down into a toxic culture where students don’t feel like they have a place within the student government and those within are pressured into being silent and complicit, even when egregious abdications of duty are occurring.
Now, that was relentlessly negative, so let me expand upon the great things that members of the Morgan Administration did for students, chief among them registering thousands of voters to participate in the 2018 midterms, organized by the Government Relations Director, Michaela Lemen and her board. This was the quintessence of what the government should be doing: giving you the tools and ease of accessibility to have your voice heard in higher forms of government. I also think that the mental health initiative that was passed by the Legislature and Executive was a great step toward truly advocating for students and making sure that their needs are met and voices heard. Lastly, I think that the VP of University Relations, Maggie Gardner, and the rest of the directors excelled at their duties. I personally saw Vice President Gardner take and manage the entirety of Stress Buster week, and work in coordination with various university departments and involve our First Year Council, another massively successful board managed by Director Michelle Valdez, as volunteers. The executive has the power and capability to do amazing things for students and has done over the past year. However, where they have succeeded was not due to the leadership of President Morgan — it should be owed to the exemplary initiative shown by a group of ASUU executive officials to break through the toxic and limiting culture that President Morgan established and Chief of Staff Kanishka maintained.
— Greg Boisvert, ASUU Government Relations board member, ASUU Student Relations board member, former College of Engineering ASUU Assembly Representative
In an earlier version of this article, Greg Boisvert’s title within ASUU did not accurately reflect his current positions. We regret the error.