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Profile: the Last Senator Standing - Athena Marvitz discusses senior events week, ASWU

Piper Lehr

Contributing Writer

Photo of Marvitz courtesy of the Willamette website

Athena Marvitz (‘22) has been the only senior Associative Students of Willamette University (ASWU) senator for a majority of the 2021-2022 school year. This raises questions about how senior events planning has been going, since those responsibilities fall under the ASWU senior class. The Collegian sat down with Marvitz to discuss not only Willamette University (WU)’s upcoming senior events week (May 9 - 13), but also to ask her about her ASWU experience more generally this year, and finally to collect some advice for those interested in running for ASWU next year.

Marvitz was not the only Senior Senator for the entire year. For a couple weeks she had Clara Nithiaparan (‘22), who is also a writer for The Collegian. However, Nithiaparan, who was appointed and thus had to run in a special election, [did not continue on with ASWU]. “She decided not to do it again because it’s stressful,” stated Marvitz. Nithiaparan is still serving on the senior events committee and has been helping out with that process quite a bit. Marvitz has also received help from ASWU Treasurer Michael Burke (‘23), their “big budget guy,” and two of her friends, whom she convinced to join after realizing how much they’d actually been helping her out behind the scenes. Members of the senior events committee are paid, making Senior senators the only paid senators. Marvitz asked her friends, “you’ve been helping, want to get paid for that?” and they said yes. Finally, the events committee has been “working closely with our advisor Emily Morris,” who has been a useful resource for them. Marvitz stated that she was thankful for the help that she has garnered this semester, and the fact that it hasn’t been left just up to her to plan out this entire week has helped her remain energized about the process. “It’s been really nice to be able to bounce ideas off of other people, and I really like event planning. I was really excited that I could do this.”

When asked about the budget for this project, Marvitz stated the funds come from both the ASWU budget and the Student Engagement and Leadership Office (SEAL). “We have been encouraged to use as little money as possible,” Marvitz also mentioned. This is largely because [ASWU has been under a lot of financial stress for most of the year]. “That money, it is there for us, it has technically been allocated for us, but if we have any left over it goes into next year’s budget, which is crucial for, like, funding next year’s clubs and a whole bunch of other things,” she explained.

In terms of numbers, Marvitz stated that she received $5,000 per semester, which she was unaware of at first. “I was under the impression that it’s one senior event at the end of the year. But I have been told recently that it could've been multiple senior events throughout both semesters.” Had Marvitz known, she could’ve had $10,000 to play around with, and if she didn’t use the full $5,000 for the first semester, the carry-over could’ve counted towards the second semester as well. “That was news to me,” she stated. As it stands, there is currently only one senior events week planned for this year, and it will happen during second semester, specifically the week of May 9 -13. This is the week directly after finals, and ends two days before Willamette’s College of Arts and Science’s (CAS) scheduled graduation, May 15.

There are currently two event days planned: one for Tuesday, May 10 from 7 - 10 p.m., and one for Thursday, May 12 from 2 - 5 p.m. The Tuesday event is a “bonfire, time capsule and movie night” and the Thursday event is entitled “Chill at the Mill Stream.” According to Marvitz, the first event will be a lot more structured than the second, and is exactly what it sounds like: there will be a bonfire, movie screening (which will be either Ponyo or The Princess Bride, depending on polling information), and time capsule activity offered. Time capsules are where you put a bunch of objects related to your current year into a box and leave it in the ground for future people to discover and reminisce over. On the nature of the time capsule endeavor, Marvitz stated: “the biggest piece of feedback we received from surveys is that most of what students wanted to do was hang out with their friends and just like reflect on time spent here. So we thought that the time capsule would be a fitting thing for the reflection aspect of it.” The chill at the Mill Stream event will be a lot looser, and, as the name implies, consist of much more chill activities like relaxing, eating popsicles, playing board games, etc. “Emily [Morris] came up with that one,” stated Marvitz.

Marvitz then reflected on being the only Senior Senator for this year. “I mean, unfortunately I feel I’ve been a pretty inactive member in ASWU. I’ve supported things in the background - like this, and I’ve voted for other things. But I’ve had no time on my plate,” she stated, further explaining: “I haven’t rewritten any bills, things that I've seen a lot of the other senators do. I feel it would be easier to do stuff like that if I felt like there were more people behind me.” She also mentioned feeling a bit saddened because one of the biggest reasons she joined in the first place was that she wanted, “to have a connection with people, and there aren’t many people to do that with.” Besides the community aspect of it, Marvitz decided to join ASWU last year for a variety of reasons: her friends who happened to be involved in ASWU the year before asked her to, it helps keep her busy, and she can use her involvement to “hopefully help the school a bit.”

Marvitz also talked about how one of the unfortunate side-effects of being the only senior senator is that she’s been a lot more visible to the student body than she initially anticipated. One of the reasons that she didn’t run for an executive position last year, besides the fact that, “I didn’t think I’d have the time,” was that, “I didn’t want to be super public.” Signing up for pro tempore of the senate (filling in for Vice President Angel Park when she’s unable to make it) felt different, like a more structured way of “challenging myself with public speaking and just leading an event like that.” But with no other ‘22 senators, all her thoughts are highly visible - there’s no people to run things by beforehand, or group vote to cushion behind in the event of any major disagreements. “Definitely, it would be nice to have more senior senators, more people in ASWU generally,” she concluded.

Her general thoughts on ASWU are that it’s fun when it’s fun, but when it’s not, it’s a mess. “I do enjoy it when it’s not until 10 p.m. or something…it’s not always bad,” she stated. That said, she thinks that, “unfortunately it has devolved into something else.” It’s her opinion that part of what’s made ASWU messy this year has been out of their control - incidents like the [College Republicans disaffiliation], for example. But, “there were also things in our control” that she didn’t think they handled well. Marvitz said there were times she got really upset by ASWU. “It was just frustrating to see, like, people do things in such a way that it seemed like they wanted it to be more than just student government, but it is just student government…I want it to be something that everyone can enjoy, and some people seem not to be on same page as that,” she explained. Despite the messes, Marvitz decided to stick around because she has friends in ASWU, and because, “I’ve committed, and I would feel bad if I decided not to do it anymore. I’m the only class of ‘22 senator. If I wasn’t going to do it, nobody would, and I don’t want that.”

When asked if she had any advice for future senior senators, Marvitz stated, “I would say meet with Emily [Morris] early on and know your full budget, because I found out that our budget could've been a bit larger if I had done that ‘multiple events spread out’ thing.” She also said that collecting information from a wide range of sources has been critical and helpful in her process: “get as much feedback about what people want as possible. Talk to your friends, do some surveying.” Finally, she stated: “I’d also say go all out. I’d encourage them to use all of the resources that they have in order to make it as spectacular as they can.” When asked to give advice for those interested in running for ASWU next year more generally, Marvitz stated: “have fun doing the things that you do. And like at the end of the day, it is just a community to be a part of. I think that making community bonding one of your priorities makes it easier and more enjoyable to work with them [your fellow ASWU members] overall.”

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