Sonnenberg: What Do You Know About ASUU?


The ASUU executive branch for the 2018-19 academic year. From left to right, former vice president of student relations Xandra Pryor, president Connor Morgan, vice president of university relations Maggie Gardner. Courtesy of the Morgan ticket.

By Kristiane Sonnenberg


To some on campus, the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU) seems like little more than a glorified party-planning commission. While it is true that ASUU plans RedFest — the annual spring concert that draws big-name artists like B.o.B and Migos — it provides many more resources to our campus. ASUU supports registered student groups and sponsors Plazafest, the tabling festival at the Union that kicks off fall and spring semesters.

However, ASUU is so much more than concerts and student groups — it is our student government organization. Yet, while they may see the candidate posters for the executive branch elections each spring, most of my friends know little about ASUU, and none of them have voted in any ASUU elections. This is unfortunate, because while ASUU may not dictate policy to President Watkins, it does fund programs that make attending the U more accessible and has significant input on issues that affect every student at the U.

ASUU runs a lot of programs that I wish I was aware of when I was a freshman. The Tutoring Center offers cheap individual and group tutoring in a variety of subjects, and its flexible availability allows non-traditional students to use their services. The Student Services Board saves students money by negotiating UCard discounts with local businesses like The Pie, Microsoft and Bed Bath and Beyond. Students can also read major newspapers like The Salt Lake Tribune and The New York Times for free through the Collegiate Readership Program.  

ASUU also funds essential services for students and their families. The ASUU Childcare Program offers part-time care, non-traditional hours and a tiered fee scale for students who are balancing parenthood and education. The Student Homelessness Task Force provides “short-term assistance to help alleviate the effects of homelessness so that students can achieve long-term sustainability and pursue their education and goals … These services assist in providing temporary housing, assistance finding funding resources and food, and more.” The Feed U Pantry serves students who suffer from food insecurity.

While these programs serve students in these particular challenging situations, ASUU’s Student Advocacy Board advocates on a larger scale “for all students in need of unbiased assistance, including: legal referrals, emergency loans, University of Utah academic and behavioral issues, sexual violence, intimate partner violence, renter’s issues, food insecurity, and miscellaneous advice.” The attorney vouchers and emergency loans are particularly helpful to students who cannot otherwise afford representation or other financial challenges.

All of these programs help students on an individual level, but ASUU also affects change on a collegiate and state level. Each College Student Council participates in Retention, Promotion and Tenure processes for the college. This means that students may have a say in which professors stay at the U and which get tenure. On the state level, ASUU’s legislative branch has lobbied state legislators on topics as varied as Sexual Violence Protective Orders, Student Loan Forgiveness and Firearm Violence and Suicide Prevention.

While ASUU also plans a lot of events, they aren’t just parties. The Diversity Board plans the annual Conference on Diverse Excellence, which “[creates] dialogue and [builds] consciousness around systems of oppression, privilege, and solidarity through a social justice lens.” The Government Relations board runs the Campaign Carnival which invites students to meet local politicians and candidates, connecting them to campaign volunteering opportunities. Every board runs events like these to build a relationship between students, their university and the broader community.

Given that ASUU runs so many programs that benefit students and the university community, I am appalled by my own lack of knowledge of and involvement in our student government. I can make a lot of excuses about why I’m not involved, but the biggest one is that I just didn’t know that ASUU has such a big role on campus. Perhaps this is a problem with ASUU’s marketing, but it may also be indicative of the way many new students see the U. I thought that the U was so large as to be impenetrable to normal undergraduate students like me — after all, 24,735 students were enrolled as undergraduates at the U as of last fall. Now, after learning what ASUU has to offer, I have no excuse for thinking that I cannot impact our campus. ASUU is far more than a party-planning organization, and it’s time to realize that we students do have a voice on campus and should use it.

[email protected]