ASWU budget proposal: more for them, less for you

Colleen Bell | Copy Chief

The ASWU  budget proposal was prepared entirely behind closed doors. During the budget committee meeting, each chartered club was allotted five minutes to propose their budget, after which they were escorted out and the door shut behind them.

There are also no minutes for the budget committee meeting posted on the ASWU website.

According to financial vice president Chelsea Shearer, “we don’t take public minutes of budget committee because it’s a private meeting in order to protect the members of the committee.”

“This isn’t out of the ordinary as far as I know,” she stated.

The privacy of budget committee is not, however, included in ASWU’s financial standard operating procedures document, which can be found at https://whitworthaswu.com/files/ASWU_FSOP_Spring_2016.pdf. In this case, anonymous minutes could be posted with no issue, and there would  be at least a little transparency around the whole thing. Without minutes, we are simply presented with a spreadsheet of numbers and no explanations.

As it stands, the whole process seems to be set up for corruption and thoughtlessness, and I believe the budget proposal reflects that.

First, the clubs facing budget cuts represent a wide variety of clubs, and includes some of the most active and visible clubs on campus, including Jubilation Dance Ministry, H.O.L.A., Bangarang, Business Club and En Christo.

One might think these large cuts were made for purely financial reasons. If a club has surplus on their account, it rolls over into next year and they don't need more money. But there's no correlation. Most of the clubs had surpluses this year, and only three finished in the red: En Christo had a deficit of $280, the International Club a deficit of $96, and the Pep Band a deficit of $123. Of these, En Christo is taking one of the biggest cuts.

There were also clubs with very large surpluses which received budget increases: the Association for Computing Machinery finished the year with more money than they started with, and were still approved for a $255 (57%) increase. With no correlation between surplus/deficit and budget adjustments, we cannot consider that as a possibility for why certain clubs are taking budget cuts. There's just no rhyme or reason to it.

The cut to bus passes is unprecedented: according to the Spokane Transit Authority, they more than reached their goal this year, a fact brought to  the attention of the Whitworthian by President Beck Taylor. Even if we had used it less than projected, we would have only paid for what we used. The $21,000 budgeted for it is a maximum, according to junior Alex Mowery, who was one of the students responsible for the initiation of the program.

As reported in an article in October’s print edition of the Whitworthian:

“The more people who use the cards, the more the school pays – but only to a point.
“‘We’ll get charged the total operating cost up to $21,000. So, if the bus is used significantly less than we project, then we’ll pay significantly less, but if it’s used significantly more we’ll still only pay that agreed amount,’ Mowery said.”

Many of the users were faculty, but students still used the passes, and more students would have if it were better advertised. I believe that ASWU, even if inadvertently, set the program up for failure by simply not making it known. There were no emails sent out, no posters, nothing except a whiteboard notice written in almost-dead marker by the info desk—”Bus passes here!” Many students I've talked to simply weren't aware that bus passes were available, which is just plain unacceptable.

The bus pass decision is also one that disproportionately affects international students, lower income students, and freshmen. These are groups that we should be focused on helping,  not disadvantaging.

The abandonment of the newspaper readership program is also uncalled for. I took it upon myself to check the news racks around campus—most had very few newspapers left. Even the HUB rack, hidden behind the whiteboard by the info desk, had only a few newspapers left as of 6:30 p.m. Monday evening, May 6. In Weyerhauser, there were none left. If these newspapers are being taken by students, what reason does ASWU have to take them away?

Professor Ron Pyle was worried about the possible effects this decision could have on campus.

"It’s possible that there are good reasons behind the decision," he said. "That said, I do think it’s unfortunate that we are removing one of the ways that our campus community can be in touch with important local and national events. If our community is less informed, the quality of our thought and discourse may be adversely affected."

With these proposed restrictions to transportation and information, the proverbial Pinecone Curtain is becoming more real.

Taking into account all of these cuts to programs that affect the student body at large, we’d expect ASWU’s executive operations budget to be decreasing as well, right?

Wrong. It’s doubling. One of the largest increases is to ASWU’s fall/spring retreat budget, which is proposed to be $4500. The cost of a retreat doesn’t have to be in the thousands, though: the music department does their retreats at nearby St. Luke’s Lutheran Church or St George’s School on a very low budget, and they still have the team-building experience that is the purpose of a retreat. Residence hall leadership retreats are taken from each hall’s respective budget. These budgets are based on the size of the residence hall, and are supplemented by any revenue from hall events such as Mac’s Haunted House or the various residence hall dances. This money then goes to such things as PrimeTimes, other hall events, et cetera—and any leadership retreats. This year, the largest hall, Warren, has a budget of $908, plus revenue from the Monster Mash, a budget of which their leadership retreat will only be a small fraction. ASWU does not need $4500 for a local retreat.

The marketing and PR budget for ASWU is also increasing, by $13,000, or a factor of 500%, with this increase apparently going to a new smartphone app. This is an absolutely unnecessary expense, as there is already an ASWU app that exists. This app, while still available for download, has not been updated since fall of 2017.

The proposed app is, apparently, one that Gonzaga uses. Gonzaga’s website contains no mention of the app they use, not even on the Gonzaga Student Body Association page in the “Connect with GSBA” section or in the Student Activities page under “News and Events”, which both contain links to social media accounts. This does not bode well for how popular and effective the app is.

The app used by Gonzaga may function better than the one we currently have, but it would take very little money to bring our existing app up to the standard. The computer science department’s capstone class, Software Engineering, is a project-based class that focuses on software development and maintenance, and any organization can contact professor Pete Tucker about pitching a project to the class. ASWU could quite literally improve upon the idea of the existing app for free, using this $13000 one as inspiration.

With the minimum wage increasing in January and several new positions in ASWU, there are some things that simply needed more money, and there needed to be a way to balance it, even with an increase in overall revenue. Something had to be cut. However, it is extraordinarily irresponsible for ASWU to be making so many cuts to student programs and services, and to then turn around and more than double their own budgets.

Overall, ASWU seems to be making unprecedented cuts and frivolous increases in this year’s budget proposal. Why are clubs and student programs facing so many cuts? Why are ASWU's own retreats and a redundant app being prioritized? For a student government that claims to be meeting students’ needs, I see a whole lot of self-service. I encourage you to urge your representatives to vote ‘no’ on this budget proposal, and to attend the ASWU meeting to make your voice heard.

Call to action for students who feel misrepresented

Hannah Howell | Guest Writer

The opinions editor of The Whitworthian, whose articles I’m always eager to read and whom I respect, wrote in the most recent issue of the paper that “ASWU does not accurately represent the student body.” Her argument was founded on the recent ratification of a resolution by the Associated Students of Whitworth University (ASWU) and lack of constituency outreach by ASWU senators and representatives to garner input about this resolution. I’m writing now because I am one of three off-campus representatives, and I helped craft the resolution. I care deeply to hear, digest, and thoughtfully respond to this feedback, because it pertains unequivocally to me.

I want to begin with a sincere apology to all off-campus students who feel their elected representation is failing them, followed by an invitation—or an exhortation, rather—to work with us. On February 23, six days before the vote on the resolution took place, off-campus senator Gracie Meiners sent an email to all 1,000-1,200 off-campus students explaining the resolution. Her email explicitly stated that it would express “Whitworth University students' support of our undocumented students, immigrant students, and students with immigrant families here at our university,” and invited feedback either through email or at the next meeting.

We want to do our best by our off-campus community, but we simply can’t represent the opinions we don’t hear. The fact of the matter is that of those who responded to our email, all but six urged us to vote yes on this resolution, which segues into another valid concern. It’s not lost on me that perhaps few people vocalized opposition of the resolution because they felt that they couldn’t. In the words of a contemporaneous article (“Conservative opinions overlooked at Whitworth”), a swath of the off-campus community might not have reached out to us because they experience Whitworth as a place that “cannot conceive nor respect the fact that there are many students who have different political views than those in leadership.” They may fear we (off-campus leadership) will “criticize [their] way of life and thinking.” The author of the opinion editorial to which I’m referring says, “we are the minority,” and he personally is “not the sort to openly lament and complain” until catered to.

Consider our dilemma. On the one hand, the conservative contributing writer who clearly states he does “not support DACA” says he and like-minded students are in the minority and reluctant “to cause commotion to get [themselves] heard.” Fair enough. On the other hand, the Opinion Editor says, “A leadership that requires more outreach and better representation of all students must be put into place for all students to feel as though Whitworth reflects majority opinions.” (Emphasis added). A valid point. Now let’s reexamine the resolution ASWU passed. The vast majority of what was heard both on and off-campus from students was support of the resolution. We did “reflect majority opinions” by adopting the resolution. So, our dilemma is: if a quantitative majority calls on us four off-campus representatives in ASWU—three Reps and one Senator—to vote one way, are we to assume that the minority of what we hear is actually a quiet majority disinclined to speak their mind, and vote the other way? It’s a Catch-22.

I truly empathize with the editor's frustration—in which I know she’s not alone—that a smorgasbord of valuable voices doesn’t have a seat at the table when it comes to ASWU decisions. That is indisputably a problem that needs fixing. All things considered, I propose a small step toward addressing the problem and navigating the aforementioned Catch-22. When it comes to achieving more accurate representation of off-campus students, we need suggestions about how to better confer and receive information if email isn’t working (which it evidently isn’t). Would off-campus students like to give us their addresses and receive a physical newsletter in the mail? We can make that happen. Would they like information through texts? We can do that if they give us their numbers. Should we set up a Facebook page that off-campus students can like or follow? If that’s helpful, we’ll make one immediately.

Off-campus students can and should tell us how to do our jobs better for them. I propose that off-campus students engage. Writing an op-ed expressing disappointment in ASWU is an excellent first step and I commend the Opinion Editor for doing so, but to see any change moving forward, we need concrete suggestions for solutions from the rest of the off-campus community. Students do “deserve the opportunity to be heard.” They do deserve to “have their opinion be expressed in ASWU.” They do “deserve the chance to speak up.” Now, it’s time for them to seize that opportunity.

Contact Hannah Howell at hhowell18@my.whitworth.edu.

ASWU does not accurately represent the student body

Abby Nye

The Associated Students of Whitworth University (ASWU) made a decision to write a resolution that would express the stance of Whitworth’s student body on supporting DACA recipients in late February. This decision was called into action by a few ASWU members. The decision was passed unanimously within ASWU. As an off-campus student, I was uninformed that this resolution would reflect the opinion of ASWU, which strives to represent the student body, according to this resolution.

Resolutions are a rare occurrence, and the ASWU bylaws give no information as to how they are passed. I would have expected this resolution about DACA to come with a more personal outreach in order to get an understanding about where all students stand, both in support and against. However, many students didn’t receive any information that this decision was being made to reflect the stance of the student body.

ASWU is made up of both elected officials and hired members. According to the job description,  Residence Hall Senators elected from each residence hall are expected to “Insure that all constituencies of the residence hall student population… are well represented and informed.” However, the ASWU bylaws state that senators and representatives are not obligated to vote according to the majority opinion of their constituents.

Many ASWU leaders have expressed liberal political and social views. To some, the passing of this resolution seemed like a part of a personal agenda.

“There are plenty of people on this campus who do not support DACA and would disagree with ASWU speaking for them or not getting their input,” said junior Ali Forbush. They have, as a result, created a leadership that appears unapproachable and biased toward their personal views.

Whitworth is a diverse campus. With this comes varying opinions, and there are many students that would disagree with the decision to support DACA. The lack of information regarding this decision seems to have intentionally overlooked students who would have disagreed. Because they are not required to vote with the opinion of their constituents, residence hall senators and representatives can carry out a leadership that doesn’t actually reflect the majority opinion. It’s difficult to express support of an opposing view because there isn’t any reward for it.

“I think that this just perpetuates the problem that many conservatives on campus feel that they cannot speak their mind to ASWU or other students because they either will not be listened to or their opinion is not valued,” Forbush said.

The lack of information regarding the passing of resolutions, and that they will reflect the opinion of the student body, brings to light the many ways that ASWU is not an accurate representation of the student body. Residence hall senators and representatives are allowed to vote in their own interest, which can easily overlook many opposing opinions. I believe these senators and representatives should be required to take their constituents opinions into account more.

A leadership that requires more outreach and better representation of all students must be put into place for all students to feel as though Whitworth reflects majority opinions. Students deserve the opportunity to be heard. They deserve the chance to speak up, and have their opinion be expressed in ASWU. It’s time for ASWU leadership to set aside their personal opinions to develop a student leadership in which all opinions can be safely expressed.

Contact Abby Nye at anye19@my.whitworth.edu