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Jan. 27 meeting: ASWU swears in new senators, passes Transgender Solidarity Statement

Emma Innes

Managing Editor

The Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) held the first senate meeting of the Spring semester Jan. 27. During the meeting, Vice President Angel Park (‘22) read letters of resignation from three senators, three other senators were sworn in and two former senators were approved to serve on ASWU judicial. The senate was also visited by a Willamette alumni and former ASWU President, Tej Reddy (‘12), and passed a statement on Transgender Awareness Week that previously [failed] [twice].

Park read the three letters of resignation before roll was taken, starting with former Senator Ainsley Moench (‘24). Moench’s letter read, “Dear Senators and Comrades, It’s with a heavy heart that I am leaving ASWU this semester.” Before assuring that it was not due to any of the events of the previous semester but that she had an opportunity that would have significantly reduced the time she could spend on ASWU, “which is unfair to all of you and to my class.” Moench closed stating she believed ASWU’s work was vital and admired the commitment to the student body.

The next letter was from former Senator Hannah Purdy (‘24). Purdy explained that the decision to resign was not made lightly, as quitting does not come easily to her, but after discussion with friends and classmates she decided to put her own well being ahead of ASWU. Purdy said she is grateful to those who trusted her to help ASWU’s purpose of supporting students and student organizations as well as the opportunity to interact with several student organizations. Purdy then addressed events of the previous semester, which included the [disaffiliaton of the College Republicans] and the [twice] [failure] of a statement on Transgender Awareness Week, which Purdy voted no on both times. Following the second failure of the statement, two senators who voted no were [recalled] by the class of 2023 with the third [resigning]. The letter said: “I regret the disagreements that came out last semester between classmates, Though I still stand by the decision I made. I want to encourage everyone to remember we are part of the same Willamette community. We don’t have to agree and be best friends. That’s an unrealistic expectation. However we can be respectful in our disagreements with each other. While I won’t deny it’s difficult, discussion across differences is possible.” Purdy then addressed “my former ASWU peeps” telling them to not make ASWU the center of their life before thanking each member of ASWU Executive for their work.

The final letter was from former Senator Hollis Mantle (‘25), who was resigning to be appointed on Judicial. Mantle’s letter read: “Hi all, as Courtney Robertson said on Season 15 of The Bachelor, I didn’t come here to make friends. ‘I didn’t come here to make friends.’ While Robertson was perhaps the most iconic reality tv villain of all time and my hero, her sentiments could not be more different than my time in ASWU.” Mantle thanked everyone for a great first semester and said she was proud ASWU elected officials who “will always advocate for the transgender community and all other marginilized communities at Willamette.” Mantle said she is excited to serve as a Justice and closed by telling everyone to take care of themselves.

New senators then took the oath of office. Senator Gus Gunter (‘23) previously served during the 2020-2021 academic year. The two new senators are Billie Henderson (‘24) and Forrest Derr (‘24). Later in the meeting the Senate approved Mantle and Senator Colby Alexander (‘24) as Justices. Alexander is expected to resign by the next meeting. Currently there are remaining: three seats for the class of 2022, two seats for the class of 2023, one seat for the class of 2024 and one seat for the class of 2025. Any new senators will have to be appointed.

Following the oaths of office, former ASWU president and Willamette Alumni Tej Reddy (‘12) spoke to ASWU. Reddy told the Senate about his childhood, immigrating from India as a child and moving all over the United States, he never felt like he belonged in a community. Reddy said this changed when he came to Willamette and ASWU was the first club he fell in love with and ASWU Senator was his first public office. Reddy then told senators about the oath of citizenship which he took his sophomore year of college, and his favorite line “perform work of national importance.” Reddy said if he had one message for them it was: “even though things might seem darker than we would like, there’s always a place, always a role, doesn't have to be senate or president to count, there’s always a time or opportunity to perform work of national importance.” Reddy then talked about his career since Willamette which includes being a high school math teacher, living in Greece, becoming a Fulbright scholar, working for Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and starting a business.

Following their guest, ASWU officers gave their reports. President Giovanni Bautista (‘22) stated that he checked in with students serving on university committees to create a report. Bautista said he attempted this last semester but learned many committees had not met. During her report, Park told the Senate they did not have a meeting space yet as all the “traditional spaces” they usually pick were not available to them.

The only piece of legislation was a third attempt at [The Transgender Awareness week] statement, which was added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting. Statements require unanimous approval from the Senate to pass, including no abstaining votes. There was very little discussion on the statement. Senator Cameron Cole (‘23) said that the statement was unchanged from initial attempts, except for the second paragraph that was changed to reflect that it is no longer Transgender Awareness Week, which was Nov. 13 - Nov. 20, 2021, and to say that the [failure] of the [previous Senate] to pass it is evidence of its necessity. Alexander then spoke to say “It’s about time that we pass this statement and show the Willamette Community that we support our Trans classmates.” The statement passed unanimously.

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