The Council of Presidents released its priorities for the 2021-2022 academic year in the form of five pillars aimed at guiding the advocacy of Undergraduate Student Government and the Graduate and Professional Student Association.
The five pillars – transparency, basic needs, diversity, health and wellness, and pride and tradition – were created with input from students, faculty and University administration. They each have one council member assigned to oversee action items. A list of collaborators is mentioned which the council hopes to consult in accomplishing goals.
The first pillar, transparency, is overseen by John Hopkins, president of USG Tempe. The expectation from this pillar is to educate students on the inner workings of USG and the University.
"The transparency pillar came about because the Council of Presidents believes that ASU has an obligation to be transparent with everything it does, and especially to its students," said Hopkins, a senior studying finance.
The main goals of this pillar include updating the student fee description and adding additional support for international students on MyASU with the help of the Office of the President and the University Technology Office. The council hopes to provide monthly USG and GPSA budget updates.
"We wanted to give international students more updates and more reminders specifically on things like visa expiration, other documentation, yearly things that expire or tend to be of issue," Hopkins said.
Basic needs investment and education
Cecilia Alcantar-Chavez, USG Polytechnic president, oversees the second pillar: basic needs investment and education, which plans to address food insecurity, housing and safety.
Alcantar-Chavez, a junior studying engineering, said the pillar was deemed a priority after the council spoke with students who were running out of meal swipes and were unable to find affordable housing.
"It's really to get students the help that they need, that way they can focus on their classes and getting involved on campus and experiencing college instead of worrying when they'll have their next meal or where they're going to sleep," Alcantar-Chavez said.
The main purpose of this pillar is to educate students on the resources the University has, such as the Dean of Students office, which may connect students to scholarship opportunities.
"A lot of students don't know that the Dean of Students office can offer them a lot of support with unmet basic needs if they don't have enough money for groceries, if they don't have enough money for gas, if they're not able to pay the rent," Alcantar-Chavez said.
Alcantar-Chavez is hoping to lay the groundwork for a basic needs app which would feature an A to Z directory of resources for students who need assistance with food, housing, clothing and any other basic needs. The app won't be completed this academic year, but Alcantar-Chavez wants the project to continue on with the next council.
Diversity, equity and inclusion
The third pillar, diversity, equity and inclusion, will focus on four goals and initiatives: prioritizing land acknowledgment, improving accessibility, completing work on the Multicultural Student Center and establishing a diverse mentorship program.
Elizabeth Chilton, USG West president, said goals and initiatives were created by the council but they want students and faculty to be the ones executing them.
"We're not in charge of leading these practices, these are things that we want to support the right people to do," said Chilton, a senior studying business. "It was our idea for a mentorship program, but we want to make sure the right people are creating that."
The mentorship program will include a collection of data on the diversity of faculty and staff at ASU in order to match students to mentors who represent their culture.
New land acknowledgment plaques already appear on all four campuses.
Student health and wellness
The fourth pillar, student health and wellness, is overseen by USG Downtown President Renuka Vemuri, a senior studying medical studies, and will focus on COVID-19 vaccines, sexual health resources and updates to student health insurance.
"As we're coming out of the pandemic, we want to make sure that students feel safe, and just make sure that they understand what resources are available to them," Vemuri said.
A priority for the council this year is getting a commitment from the University on what they’re willing to do to support survivors of sexual assault and prevent sexual assault on campus.
"(Students) deserve a sense of direction from the University on where (it) is planning on moving with that, because there's been so many meetings, petitions, proposals and I think students deserve clarity on what direction ASU is deciding to move with that," Vemuri said.
Spirit, pride and tradition
The final pillar – spirit, pride and tradition – is overseen by GPSA President Nicole Mayberry, and will advocate for programs encouraging undergraduate students to continue higher education at ASU, such as accelerated masters degrees and graduate student scholarships.
The council encourages students who have any questions, concerns or ideas about the 2021-2022 priorities to reach out to USG members.
"These are always a work in progress so, if anyone has feedback or wants to learn more, we're always open and available to hear," Chilton said.
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Reagan Priest is a managing editor, overseeing and working with the six digital desks at The State Press. She previously worked as a social justice reporter for Cronkite News and as a digital production intern at The Arizona Republic.