The Kum Administration: Setting a Precedent in Unprecedented Times


The Kum Administration says goodbye to the University of Utah. They served in an unprecedented year focusing on accessibly and safety for U students. Photographed on April 3, 2021. (Photo by Ivana Martinez | Daily Utah Chronicle.)

By Kayleigh Sliverstein


In a year defined by changing circumstances, four University of Utah students and their team in student government consistently worked towards achieving one main goal for the campus community: accessibility. 

“We were constantly working towards that goal of accessibility in a year that we could honestly argue that we suffered with that issue the most as far as reaching the student body,” said Mihali Sergakis, a senior studying finance and the chief of staff for the Kum administration. 

ASUU Chief of Staff Mihali Sergakis said one of the most important things they focused on was accessibility for students. He said they were constantly adapting to the needs of the student body. (Photo by Ivana Martinez | Daily Utah Chronicle)

Sergakis said the administration started out thinking they would be able to have some in-person interaction with students, but that possibility faded as the pandemic worsened and classes were moved entirely online. 

“We had to adapt, and it made us constantly think outside of the box in how we could ensure our goal is on track,” Sergakis said. 

The Kum administration’s platform goal of accessibility served as an umbrella term encompassing safety, connectivity and affordability. 

“Obviously it shifted a little bit after the pandemic and accessibility started to become things like closed captioning in zoom rooms or accessibility to PPE,” said Michelle Valdes, a senior studying writing and rhetoric and the vice president of student relations. 

ASUU Vice President of Student Relations Michelle Valdes said one of her biggest accomplishments was providing safety wear for students during the pandemic. (Photo by Ivana Martinez | Daily Utah Chronicle)

One of Valdes’ proudest accomplishments was organizing a free mask initiative where ASUU was able to supply over 600 masks to students in need.

“The most important [thing] was making sure that students had access to safety to not get COVID,” Valdes said. “That was really what we started with and then went down the line and made sure their mental health was in check, trying to ensure that they had access to things like hotspots.”

Mental health was a main priority for student body president Ephraim Kum.  He worked closely with Maeve Wall, the senator for the college of education, to craft a joint resolution in support of student wellbeing.

“It took a lot to get that resolution out there because of the concern students were facing and they were almost a bunch of separated voices but putting that together in a joint resolution really helped us to get that message out there to faculty and administrators,” said Ayana Amaechi, a senior studying biology and the vice president of university relations.  

Redefining Safety

In addition to student mental health, the Kum administration wanted to address campus safety concerns, which have been heightened following the murder of Lauren McCluskey, a student killed on campus in 2018.

ASUU Vice President Ayana Amaechi said safety was a top priority during her term. She established the Lauren McCluskey annual walk, to remember the former student-athlete. (Photo by Ivana Martinez | Daily Utah Chronicle)

During her term, Amaechi said she was most proud of developing the Lauren McCluskey annual walk, which was put on by ASUU in collaboration with the Lauren McCluskey Foundation. It is meant to honor McCluskey’s life and raise awareness about domestic violence.

Additionally, Valdes chaired the public safety advisory committee and said she thinks it has been successful in making the department more transparent. 

“I think that there’s a lot of progress being made, but students still have to push that,” she said. “We’ve worked with UnsafeU and other students that have a safety focus, and that kind of work has to continue.”

While the U has to address these systemic public safety concerns, Valdes said the pandemic caused her administration to focus on the many factors safety encompasses. 

“We had to really shift our safety thinking into those two buckets of we have to keep students safe from disease and we also have to keep students’ mental wellbeing up enough that they’re able to continue their lives,” she said. 

Valdes hopes the safety issues of COVID will continue to be addressed by the next administration, as the pandemic runs its course. 

“Unfortunately, COVID is not going away and it’s still going to be a huge safety issue for the next administration,” she said. “We’re really hoping that the next administration, and we already know they will, is taking a holistic approach to safety.”

Connecting to the Student Body

One of the many challenges created by the pandemic was the barriers it posed to the administration’s ability to connect to the students they aim to serve. 

“We had a team who is dedicated to serving students through a time that has been almost the hardest to reach them,” Amaechi said. “I think that’s what we’re most proud of throughout the year, collectively speaking.”

Sergakis said every decision made throughout the year was made as a team. 

“I think that coupled with the fact that we came in as a unique situation, we’re all friends and I genuinely don’t think we would have been able to survive this year if we weren’t friends,” Sergakis said. 

Difficulty connecting to the student body was not unique to the pandemic. According to Amaechi, ASUU has always struggled to explain to others what goes on in student government.

“I know how easy it is to look at it externally and say that people aren’t trying, or that they don’t really care, but I would implore anyone who feels that way maybe just to set up a meeting and ask,” Amaechi said. 

She continued to say as students themselves; they share the same frustrations, even about their own organization. 

“Hearing negative things has been really difficult from students that we’re trying to help this year,” Amaechi said. “We’re just trying our best at the end of the day.”

Valdes said constantly hearing what needed to be changed at the U deeply impacted her. 

“All of that stuff goes to bed with you at night, you know,” she said. “There are students who are literally so worried about their safety or their mental health or something, and you sort of have to be in those meetings and you have to push for that.”

Valdes wants students to know each member of the Kum administration is in their role because they genuinely care about student success. 

“We’re not in these roles because we want to add something to our resume. We get paid like $7 a week. I promise it’s not because we want to make money,” she said. “We honestly care about student progression and student success.”

Looking into the Future

Amaechi said they are already in contact with the Wojciechowski ticket to ensure a continuation of their current efforts and help them as they move forward in leading the U student body. 

“I think that some areas of improvement that will be more permanent or long-lasting are things like closed captioning, making sure that that’s a service that’s always provided for students, land acknowledgments and complete ASUU transparency in terms of spending,” Amaechi said. 

As the first presidency comprised all students of color, the Kum administration is happy to see more firsts within ASUU. The Wojciechowski ticket is the first all-female administration, and three first-generation students will also be joining student government.

“We want to exude inclusivity, by being inviting first in the space and then hopefully embodying it with encouraging student leaders who feel comfortable entering it after we’ve already taken a step-through and made that known,” Amaechi said. 

While the pandemic and other salient global issues made for a stressful term, the Kum administration feels successful in their accomplishments and is proud of leading with an equity mindset.

“Just having equity at the forefront of everything we do, not just with us and within the presidency, but our directors were very equity-minded as well,” Kum said. 

ASUU Student Body President Ephraim K. Kum reflects on the last year. “I especially learned that I was capable of being in this role even during such a difficult time and I’m grateful that I was able to,” Kum said. (Photo by Ivana Martinez | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By successfully leading a student body in the middle of a global pandemic and other social and political movements, Kum said he overcame typical impostor syndrome in leadership roles and learned he is much stronger than he previously thought. 

“I especially learned that I was capable of being in this role even during such a difficult time, and I’m grateful that I was able to,” Kum said. 

Valdes stressed the importance of people reaching out to ASUU if they have any questions or concerns. 

“We also want to have more people understand what we do and why we do it, but it sort of is a two-way street,” she said. “We can only do so much and get so much information out there if people aren’t really willing to take it in.”


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