ASWU Debates creating Press Secretary position on executive board
Updated: Nov 17, 2021
Disclaimer: Two ASWU senators, Inéz Nieves and Clara Nithiaparan, are also writers for The Collegian.
The Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) debated an amendment to the ASWU constitution to create a Press Secretary position. The amendment was debated during the Nov. 11 ASWU senate meeting and will be voted on at the Nov. 18 meeting. The Press Secretary would be responsible for: Overseeing public outreach and communication from ASWU; sending out a weekly newsletter update on ASWU senate business; an outreach project every semester; holding press conferences and more. Press Secretaries would be nominated by the ASWU President with Vice Presidential approval then confirmed by ⅔ of the senate. The Amendment also amends the constitution for the Executive Officers: President, Vice President, Treasurer and Press Secretary, to be referred to as “the Cabinet” something Senator Colby Alexander (‘24), author of the amendment, admitted is “purely aesthetic.”
Alexander gave a speech on his amendment, opening that ASWU has an [engagement problem], something he said there was no denying. Concerns of low engagement have led to [previous restructuring changes]. Alexander called the amendment a “good first step” to solving the problem for two reasons, with the first being that there tends to be more interest in executive positions than being a senator, so he had no doubt the role would be filled. “Second, a role that is entirely dedicated to making people aware of ASWU and what ASWU is doing, I think that will be a good way to make the student body more involved, because I think a big reason why a lot of people aren’t involved is because they just don’t know what we’re doing. So I think the Press Secretary and all the duties that I assigned to the press secretary are tailored made so that the student body will know what we’re doing, they’ll be able to trust us, they’ll be able to hear from us and they’ll be able to communicate with us and we’ll be able to communicate with them. So I think this is a first step in turning a page to a new ASWU that has more accountability, more transparency and more involvement.”
Senator Ainsely Moench (‘24) asked if the responsibility of publishing Senate agendas, from a bill passed earlier in the meeting, could be something given to the Press Secretary. Senator Kasey Englert (‘23) later brought up concerns about taking the agenda from the Vice President, before Moench clarified she meant having the Press Secretary simply publish the agenda, not make it. Alexander said there are merits to both roles doing it, and that it could be decided as the Press Secretary role is in action next semester. Alexander then added that a lot of precedents will be decided as the role progresses.
Senator Inéz Nieves (‘24) thanked Alexander for putting the amendment together, stating that it solves one of the major issues of engagement and allows ASWU to build public relations with the community. Nieves then proposed adding that the Press Secretary carries out their duties in accordance with equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility, serving as the ASWU contact for accessibility as well since ASWU has become inaccessible in the past.
Englert brought up concerns about press conferences not being defined and the Press Secretary being used as an excuse by the rest of ASWU to not be reachable. Alexander thanked him for the press conference concern, saying he will work on that during the next week. Addressing Englert’s second concern, Alexander said he envisioned the Press Secretary to be like a switchboard, connecting students with the relevant members of ASWU.
Another question brought up by Nieves was if the Press Secretary was going to be responsible for posting the minutes or running the official instagram, something the ASWU Clerk currently does. Alexander responded that this came up when he met with Chief Justice Alexander Knorr (‘22) about the amendment, explaining that the Press Secretary would not take any duties from the Clerk, since it is one of the last remaining student leader positions paid hourly, so taking work would mean taking pay. Alexander then added that running the social media is something they could look at as the role’s first semester progresses.
Lisa Holliday, ASWU’s advisor, spoke with a concern regarding the duty of sending out a weekly newsletter of the amendment getting too specific, saying that after years of being the advisor she’s seen specific rules be difficult to keep up down the line. Holliday brought up examples of a Press Secretary preferring to do a biweekly letter, or another Executive officer handling the letter, before asking the senators to consider if the student body would want the newsletter. Moench responded that she believes when the bylaws are too vague it’s hard to enforce, so it won’t get done. Moench added that the student body should be kept up to date on ASWU and that one more email would not cause an uproar. Alexander thanked Holliday for the concern before saying that he liked it being specific and while the student body may not want the email at first, they could over time. “It’s communication from student government, that’s a good thing.”