Reflecting on the year: ASUU President Anna Barnes looks back


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Outgoing ASUU President Anna Barnes said addressing campus safety was the biggest challenge of her term. (Illustration by Alex Garcia | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Joseph Moss, News Writer


The University of Utah campus, which normally has about 24,000 on a regular school day, now seems barren. The end of the semester approaches with the A. Ray Olpin Union building closing, and the end of the 2019-2020 school year is almost here — yet not the way most might have hoped. With all of this going on, it has not stopped ASUU President Anna Barnes from looking back at her term with positive thoughts.

“Successful, but not without great challenges,” Barnes said. “The biggest [challenge was] campus safety. It’s a very volatile topic because we’ve had the deaths of Lauren McCluskey in recent years and ChenWei [Guo], who was an international student.”

Barnes remembered that this year many students were vocal about safety, some feeling that the university wasn’t doing enough, or what they had seen the university doing wasn’t what they felt was needed.

“So, bridging the gap in that really, really critical and challenging conversation, was one of the biggest things we navigated this year and overcame,” Barnes said. “Just because safety is such a critical issue. And like Maslow’s hierarchy of things you can’t study or apply for scholarships or even apply for grad school if you don’t feel safe where you’re going to school.”

Although all her cabinet’s work was not out in the open for everyone to see, Barnes clarified that much of it took place behind closed doors. Much of that was her being, as she puts it, an “advocate for students.”

One example she shared was when the U’s leadership watched a video regarding campus safety with Barnes. While it played, she felt the video wasn’t correctly addressing student concerns, even to the point of feeling very rehearsed.

“I know the intention behind it was positive, however I don’t think the video contributed to student safety at all,” Barnes said. “So, before it went out to students, I contacted the department that made that video and expressed my concerns. Because of that it never went out to students.”

She continued saying there was many conversations like that regarding campus safety throughout her term. Even at times when it was a challenge or a struggle, it always felt like something that needed to be done. Barnes also recalled what she took away from her experience in the presidency role.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot of things. I think that I have learned that there are a lot of really, really good people on campus. As well as good people in ASUU who are change-makers and want to better our community,” Barnes said.

“But I think that a lot of times, since we are students and this is a part-time thing for us, we don’t always know the best way to do it,” Barnes said.

ASUU President Anna Barnes speaks to students, staff, and friends for a vigil in remembrance of Mackenzie Lueck at the University of Utah Student Union lawn in Salt Lake City, UT on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Her biggest pitfall of her time at ASUU were people who did not appreciate the work as well as others — specifically those who “let their own agendas or biases get in the way of important work,” she said.

At the end of it all, her experience was “excellent, I’ve been part of a lot of work that’s excited me and that has made a lot of changes around campus,” she said.

A sentiment that was echoed by one of her Vice Presidents, Gabe Martinez.

His view on his time under Barnes was “really well overall. I think we started off hiring the people that we needed too. And professionally I think things have gone really well,” Martinez said.

He remembered them meeting at a conference and having a small chat. After some time and making some decisions about his spot in ASUU, they met again to have lunch at a Cafe Rio. Since that lunch, working with Barnes has been “really really good,” he said.

“Overall, I think she has done a lot of things internally that have made change collectively. Again, overall, I think she’s done a pretty great job,” Martinez said.

Though as their time comes to an end, they both share the same wish on wanting to see certain projects through to the end. One specifically involves transparency.

“[Martinez] is spearheading a big transparency audit, to find all the ways ASUU can be more transparent and more accessible,” Barnes said.

Although she said it was something that would be carried over into the next presidency, “it is the one thing I would say I would have liked to see,” she said. Otherwise almost everything she set out to work on was completed, according to Barnes.

Would Barnes take on the position again? She firmly answered yes, even with the knowledge she acquired on the job.

“I would for a number of reasons. I think that we all expressed leadership that was very necessary this year. We all [the cabinet] are very vocal, very thoughtful and very compassionate leaders. And I think that is what the campus community needed this year,” Barnes said.

“They needed people that were willing to be accountable. They needed people that were willing to step up and take on difficult situations regardless of the personal outcomes,” she said.

Her final message to students is, “I would like to stress that a lot of people think that student government is trivial. In some ways I think that is true. But it is more of a safe place to fail, it’s not totally like a real government, right? But it is extremely important,” Barnes said.

“I don’t think students know how powerful they are. Being a student is a huge privilege,” Barnes said. “Because you’re a student there are so many people that will be willing to listen to you and work with you to change things. And that’s just hard to know when you feel powerless, but students have a very, very powerful voice and I would encourage them to use it more and use student government more.”


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