USG Tempe senators balance personal politics with parliamentary protocol

The proper way to address President Trump was a point of contention in a student government meeting this month

 ASU Undergraduate Student Government Tempe (USG) found itself fighting about how to address President Donald Trump while making a legislative decision earlier this month — even though the body tries to isolate itself from national politics. 

On Jan. 16, the senate was voting on a bill that would send a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey asking him to join the "We Are Still In" movement, which is made up of U.S. politicians and business leaders who are dedicated to addressing climate change. The movement arose following Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement over the summer.

The bill referred to the president as 'Mr. Trump' rather than President Trump, a distinction that caused division between the USG senators.

USGT Sen. Ryan Magel, a sophomore political science and economics student,  disagreed with the language used and decided to act. He stood up and said the language should be changed to something more official — from "Mr. Trump" to "The Honorable Donald Trump."

“My job on the government operations committee is to ensure that legislation is written correctly, and part of that includes proper titling,” Magel said. 

Magel's fellow senators did not support his idea — but despite USG policies to the contrary, the senator stated his personal political beliefs.

"I did vote for Donald Trump and fully support our president," he said. "Make America great again."

A recess was called immediately after. When the senators returned, they decided to use "President Trump" rather than "Mr. Trump" or "The Honorable Donald Trump."

Although Magel said he knows USG's rules against partisan speech, he said he felt it was important to make his position known.

“The look of actual disgust on many of the senators' faces, as well as the senate president’s face, when I made the motion to amend the reference to President Trump correctly pushed me over the edge a little bit,” Magel said.

USG senators aren't supposed to bring up their personal political opinions during debates or votes because they are representing students other than themselves, said USGT President Brittany Benedict, a marketing and business senior. 

Benedict said it's difficult to keep personal bias out of USG, but at the end of the day, members have to focus on their role as a neutral representative. 

"It is difficult, but you do have to represent the students, whether you personally agree or not," she said. "It's what the student body wants, and you have to advocate for that."

Senate President Breonn Peoples, a senior educational studies major, said that USG members have to put away their own bias as they work with those of different political positions.

"We all work with the legislators that are from both parties, and we have never really had issues as far as working with Democrats and Republicans," Peoples said. "It doesn't matter what party people are in, it matters what they are doing."

Peoples said that USG members are at the end of the day still students.  

"A lot of our members are really young so we, even myself, are still learning what exactly it means to be nonpartisan," she said. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @tinamaria_4 on Twitter.

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