ASA continues advocacy despite challenges

Members of ASA encourage students to vote with their Vote Naked campaign on Oct. 1 on Hayden Lawn. (Photo by Kurtis Semph)

The Arizona Students’ Association has a continued presence on ASU campuses despite some negative backlash resulting from the resignation of several ASU board members earlier in the semester.

Four ASU representatives remain on ASA’s board of student directors: Graduate and Professional Student Association Vice President of External Affairs German Cadenas, Undergraduate Student Government Tempe representative Megan Riley, USG Tempe Vice President of Policy Brendan Pantilione and GPSA President Rhian Stotts.

The Tempe, Polytechnic and Downtown campus undergraduate student body presidents stepped down from the board in late September, citing mismanagement of student money and dissatisfaction with the way the organization is run.

Cadenas, a counseling psychology graduate student, said volunteers and interns with the organization have continued to work hard since the resignations, but the situation has taken its toll.

“It has created very unhealthy tension,” Cadenas said.

ASA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for higher education issues, is funded by a $2 student fee each semester and directed by a board composed of students from each of Arizona’s three public universities.

Interns and volunteers carry out most of the fieldwork for the organization’s initiatives and campaigns around the University.

Since the USG presidents began speaking out against ASA, Cadenas said the way some students react when they talk to ASA members or see them tabling around campus has changed.

“(ASA members) have been given very negative stares,” Cadenas said.

He said he hopes students will seek out information and form their own conclusions about ASA despite negative rumors.

ASA intern Kate Nelson, a Spanish and philosophy sophomore, said most negative reactions about the group are based on ignorance.

“They don’t know who we are as an organization,” Nelson said.

Students who have conversations with ASA representatives often leave with an improved opinion on the organization, Nelson said.

“We’re still doing wonderful, great work,” she said.

ASA wrapped up a successful voter registration campaign on Oct. 9, the Arizona deadline to register to vote in the November election, Nelson said.

The organization registered about 7,000 voters from the three public universities, nearly tripling its previous records, Nelson said.

At ASU, ASA registered 3,447 students, Cadenas said.

ASA is now shifting its focus to voter education, and is partnering with GPSA and the project ASU Votes 2012 to provide students with the materials to make informed voting decisions, Nelson said.

Stotts said ASA plans to travel to Washington, D.C., during the next couple of months to lobby against significant potential cuts to higher education.

Stotts said the board is brainstorming ways to become more transparent and increase student awareness of the fee.

Pantilione said operations at ASA have not changed much with the resignations of the USG presidents.

However, ASA moved its Tempe student headquarters from the USG offices in the Memorial Union to the GPSA headquarters in the Center for Family studies to avoid negative influences from USG, Pantilione said.

Pantilione said the average student still does not have an opinion regarding ASA.


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