Letter to the Editor: ASWU is Killing Itself - Thoughts from a Whistleblower
Submitted by Hollis Mantle
Current ASWU justice, former ASWU senator
After every ASWU meeting, I usually call my dad to debrief. We talk on the phone about what happened, the bills that are being passed, how my latest project is coming along, and if my class senators are doing well. It’s my comforting Thursday night routine, which is frankly ironic, because ASWU and comfort are not words I tend to associate with each other anymore. I’m sick of hearing about ASWU drama, my dad is sick of hearing about ASWU drama, and the student body is tired of hearing about ASWU drama- for good reason. It’s pervasive and exhausting. More than exhausting, it’s overcomplicated, filled with twists and turns and corruption. Most people don’t understand it because of those complications, which is entirely logical and incredibly embarrassing for ASWU. Sometimes I wait outside of the meeting and wonder what new issue will crop up this week. I’m sure my dad wonders the same thing. But it’s important that you can understand what has happened to ASWU, so I figured I should give somewhat of a summary and then let you know where we stand today.
Let’s go back to last semester, the very beginning. When signing up to run, I was told ASWU had a popularity problem, which was puzzling to me. Student government had been a big deal at my previous school and the state student council convention was often the highlight of my year. ASWU so far has failed to yield that same effect. After the meeting where the College Republics were disaffiliated with ASWU, that’s where our timeline starts to get messy. That meeting marked a turning point, where things got incredibly petty and corruption started to rear its ugly head. Bills failed, insults flew at meetings, and the newer senators were never shown the ropes. Vendettas were held and people could not put aside their own political views to try and listen to their constituents. At every meeting it seemed as though no one understood the rules we were operating under. The Executive, Judicial, the Senate, and Admin were not reading the same book, let alone the same page. Bill after bill has been shoved through the executive and judicial branch often without proper examination or research. The language in our constitution is outdated and confusing, and the ASWU bylaws are incomplete.
After the reformation of the senate following winter break I had so much optimism regarding ASWU. New, passionate senators were involved, the judicial branch had fresh faces as well, and we gained a new advisor. It took exactly one week for that fantasy to fade entirely. The Collegian Charter was hastily made with no oversight (I do appreciate the redaction and the following letter to the editor), the College Republicans report has no repercussions from admin, and senators were still grappling for the spotlight rather than trying to shine it on their constituents. This failure is on all of ASWU. All of the senators, all of the executive branch, all of the judicial branch, the advisors and administration. I am sorry we won’t function properly.
In the interest of transparency, I want to tell you exactly what is happening in ASWU right now. A removed senator has their fingerprints all over ASWU legislation, the current chief justice has faced no repercussions regarding their role in the College Republicans meeting, the executive board says one thing in the senate but changes their tune behind closed doors, senators are failing to show up to meetings and can’t even send proxies. ASWU has a clear accountability problem among many other issues. Admin refuses to engage with us (although I do want to commend the new dean for working to change that), our advisor stays silent in meetings, discord servers are filled with messages from non-senators regarding senate business and new members are often left in the dark. As of now, every single class has an open senate seat because no one wants to be on ASWU. And the people who do want to be on ASWU? What about the senators who signed up to really help Willamette? They can’t hear themselves talk over all the melodrama. ASWU is not a platform for you to live your political fantasy. It is a governing body, not a theater. We need to treat it as such. We need transparency and we need it now.
I’m sorry I can’t end this letter on a more positive note as I am an optimist by nature. I don’t have any clear cut solutions. I’m not even sure where to start. What I can suggest is that you, the students, hold ASWU’s feet to the fire. Don’t allow us to keep functioning like this. I will continue to fight for transparency in a system that is sorely lacking. I hope you will as well. I’m ashamed you have to fight at all. I don’t know what I would tell myself to do if I had the chance to go back in time, if I would tell myself to still run for senate. I honestly have no idea. But I do know if our student government keeps functioning like this it’s only a matter of time before no one will be able to call their dad to talk about how the ASWU meeting went.