ASWU approves new justices, discusses free speech on campus, welcomes new dean
Updated: Feb 17
On Feb. 3 the Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) approved two new justices, reviewed a report on the Oct. 19 College Republicans meeting, and discussed free speech on campus with the new Dean of Community Care and Inclusion, Olivia “Oli” Muñoz.
Colby Alexander, formerly a senator for the class of 2024, formally resigned from his senatorial position in order to serve as a justice. Justice Hollis Mantle (‘25) delivered her letter of resignation from the Senate last week. In an email, Alexander said justices are responsible for ensuring ASWU executive and senate are “being held accountable to the ASWU constitution and bylaws, as well as mediating conflicts between elected representatives in ASWU.”
During public comment, several speakers from The Collegian spoke against a proposed resolution that would have amended The Collegian’s charter that was removed from the agenda several hours before the meeting.
Dean Olivia “Oli” Muñoz, the [new] dean of students for community care and inclusion, gave a guest presentation on her goals in working with ASWU. Muñoz said she “brings not just my experience and my education- I bring my community with me, I bring my people with me, and I come with a holistic perspective,” and that she appreciates the passion and dedication of the students at the meeting.
The next section was officer reports. President Giovanni Bautista (‘22) said the application for ASWU press secretary had been extended until Wednesday, Feb. 9 because there hadn’t been as many applications as desired. He requested that each graduating class caucus designate an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) officer so he can form the ASWU EDI committee. ASWU’s EDI committee did not meet last semester. Bautista also reached out to student members of university committees asking for feedback and updates on the work of their committees.
Treasurer Michael Burke (‘23) asked each graduating class caucus to designate a finance officer so he could organize the finance board for next week’s meeting, which is a funding round. Funding rounds are when student clubs and organizations send funding requests to ASWU. Burke also noted that the state of ASWU’s overall budget is alright, and has almost exactly the budget and expenses he predicted last semester.
Vice President Angel Park (‘22) announced that Smullin 130 is the new permanent location of ASWU meetings for this semester unless a different room opens up. Park also announced that Senator Athena Marvitz (‘22) will run the next two ASWU meetings as pro tempore, but that Park will continue with all other parts of her job as vice president.
Chief Justice Alexander Knorr (‘22) announced ASWU judicial is now fully staffed, and that he was going to work to get new staff up to speed as quickly as possible and that he was beginning looking at work.
The next portion of the meeting is Senate Reports. Senator Inéz Nieves (‘24), speaking through their proxy Ainsley Moench (‘24), thanked colleagues and other students for their feedback on the charter resolution. Nieves expressed “regret and remorse” that the charter was “so concerning to so many of the students on campus, all of whom I strive to consider when weighing such important legislation.”
Senators Eliza Gonzalez (‘25) and Amanda Padgett (‘25) said they were meeting with a prospective candidate to fill the seat on their caucus left vacant by Mantle’s move to Judicial. If the candidate agrees to serve, they will go through the process to be approved for appointment to the Senate.
Senator Athena Marvitz gave an update on the planned Senior Event, and said that due to ongoing concerns surrounding holding formal events during the COVID-19 pandemic, she and staff advisor Emily Morris decided on a more informal event that Marvitz said might be similar to Willamette Events Board (WEB)’s Grab-and-Go’s.
Senator Gus Gunter (‘23) said he had recently talked to student organization and club leaders who “felt somewhat concerned or disappointed with” a recent implicit bias training. “They felt that it was of an unnecessarily short length and that the material covered was very limited and didn’t really approach actual implicit bias that would exist within the community. The thing that I kept on hearing was essentially that people felt that it covered the very basic stuff that people sort of were aware of and would take steps to approach, but the types of stuff that, like, leads to microaggressions or toxic environments for marginalized students was not properly addressed within the hour-long segment.” Gunter said that those student leaders requested that future trainings be more extensive and thorough. Senator Cameron Cole (‘23) added that it could be useful in the future for implicit bias trainings to be “more geared towards writing the anti-racism plan, which is a lot of what it was supposed to help with” and for the training to be given by someone “who potentially has a greater understanding of the Willamette community and the climate here.” Bautista thanked them for the feedback and said he hoped to work with the ASWU EDI committee on making an improved training that was “tailored to Willamette” and “improve this experience for student leaders going forward.”
Senator Forrest Derr (‘24) spoke about the proposed charter resolution, saying “the discourse around it took a direction that I didn’t initially expect” and that they heard a lot of feedback and concerns that they have taken to heart. They said they had reconsidered some elements, but that others had been “grossly misinterpreted”: “I do not believe the resolution increased ASWU’s authority or oversight of The Collegian- in fact, it was designed to diminish that and to create democratic control.”
Next, the Senate discussed the Report from the ASWU Review Committee, which will be covered in a separate article to be linked [here] once posted. The report was initially scheduled to be released before fall break 2021, but was pushed back three times.
The final section of the meeting is For the Good of the Order. Dean Muñoz thanked the review team for their work, and spoke about the need for holistic appreciation within the community. She said she had reviewed the findings of the review, and stressed the importance of freedom of expression while using student conduct processes to oppose harmful behavior. Muñoz read a section of the student conduct code that affirmed Willamette’s belief in “freedom of expression, open discourse and an exchange of ideas” through the curriculum and related programs. She said that in cases where students engage in harmful behavior with intent, action can be taken, but that the review did not show that that happened in the case of the Oct. 19 College Republicans meeting. Muñoz said the Willamette administration is working on a codified freedom of expression policy, for which they want student input, to establish parameters for students and create opportunities for “skill development for civic discourse.”
Muñoz asked if anyone had questions: Senator Nieves, speaking through her proxy, said “there’s a difference between free expression that is welcome on this campus” and transphobia and antisemitism, which “should not be tolerated.” Muñoz agreed. Nieves said the people present at the Oct. 19 meeting “obviously had freedom of expression, but that does not mean that this campus has to like what they say, and ASWU was completely within its right to disaffiliate them” using existing internal procedures. They also said the removal of senators by petition last semester was similarly justified. “Freedom of expression was not violated for that,” they said. “Free expression does not mean that it’s free from consequences.”
“Thank you,” Muñoz responded. “This is an example in which we have a difference in how we’re going about this.”
Senator Gunter mentioned to Muñoz that constituents had expressed frustration with how slowly and non-thoroughly her predecessor had handled bias reports and expressed a hope for improvement in the handling of that process.
Proxy Moench said that, “A freedom of speech policy is hollow when we barely protect trans existence as it is.”
Andrea Griffin (‘23) thanked Muñoz for her presence and said most students would say there is an “extreme disconnect” between administration and students, and that administration is frequently inaccessible. Griffin said they once had to sit outside an administrator’s office for three hours before being able to talk to them about one of their classes not having an instructor for weeks. She said she resonates with Muñoz’s message that “ultimately, we need to be understanding individuals as they are” and “creating space for open discourse. That does not mean that I support hate speech, but I do think that we need to consider the meaning of that.”