ASPSU’s new structure will encourage more effective student advocacy

As a result of high rates of student leader turnover, the proposal to restructure ASPSU was put to a vote on Sunday. The result? A 16-1 victory for the Vision and Reform Committee.

ASPSU’s new structure will encourage more effective student advocacy

As a result of high rates of student leader turnover, the proposal to restructure ASPSU was put to a vote on Sunday. The result? A 16-1 victory for the Vision and Reform Committee.

VARC’s brainchild really got rolling in winter term when the committee was instituted by student body President Adam Rahmlow. Each branch appointed members to achieve a representative approach to the change, with Nick Rowe and Donovan Powell at the helm as chair and vice chair, respectively.

It’s high time that these decisions were being made, too. The former administration’s inability to retain officers last year led to decreased communication between branches and poor follow-through on student issues, among other things.

“It was really this amalgam of discontent,” Rowe said. “There were problems of accountability and communication…When you’re not coming into close contact with people, it’s very, very hard to develop a rapport and work together collaboratively on issues.”

There was also the issue of service awards (compensation for student leaders’ service) that had no system in place to regulate or encourage advocacy on behalf of students. Essentially, student leaders could get the award without the level of responsibility that is expected by VARC, which requires four senators to sit in on every advocacy committee. This stipulation will evenly distribute the amount of work and enable more efficient delegation and participation.

Previously, ASPSU consisted of five branches: the student senate (25 members), the elections board (five members), the judicial board (five members), the student fee committee (five members) and the executive staff (10 members). The problem was that this model didn’t encourage cross-branch communication, meaning senators and the executive staff often worked on similar issues without joining forces. Not only was that redundant, it was messy—even the depiction of the former structure (available at looks disjointed.

Another huge problem was that senators were either under-worked or overwhelmed. By having individual senators work on separate constituencies, the former model resulted in some senators trying to come up with problems where there were none, while others had multiple issues that needed tackling. Again, this was compounded by the lack of communication between branches that led to high attrition rates.

“The new system allows for people to work on issues as they arise,” says Rowe. “Instead of dividing student advocacy work into highly specific segments, you allow student leaders to work together in genres of problems.”

This way, the division of labor can be broken into more manageable tasks and senators can reach a wider array of students.

The new model consolidates the five branches into the senate, with seven student advocacy committees headed by the executive staff working in close contact with four senators. Also in the senate is the student fee committee, now with eight members, and the president and vice president.

The new judicial review board (which combines the previous judicial and elections boards due to an overlap in function—both review policy) will still retain autonomy in order to institute checks and balances. The executive branch will consist of the executive staff (four members) and the executive cabinet (eight members, each representing one committee in the senate) that will aid the president in hearing and addressing student issues.

The main decision to reduce the number of senators from 25 to 15 in the newly passed structure has been a point of contention, raising questions about the potential problems of decreased representation of student issues and less control over the executive branch’s decision-making.

But, while the number of senators will be reduced, more members will be added to the senate, offsetting this concern.

Of course, total re-haul of a government system takes time and doesn’t always look exactly like the vision that’s been projected. Rowe, who accepted the position of vice president over a week ago, does have some concerns. “This looks good on paper,” he said. “My only concern is how many people will be involved…The proposed senate will have a lot of members, and larger bodies can have problems with regard to facilitating communication.”

But in terms of the reduction of senators and the anxiety about less student representation, the new structure seems as though it will foster more collaboration and more efficiency. Said Rowe: “I want people to communicate more.”

Now it’s just time to listen to David Bowie—turn and face the strain.