The power of ASUN: What’s happening behind closed doors
Jaedyn Young and Michael Rubio report on the ASUN Senate from an outsider’s point of view, looking in to see what’s actually going on behind the scenes of one of the most powerful organizations on campus. An abrupt resignation rocked a meeting this week, but the show of force went on.
Clayton Greb was done with the “political and cutthroat” environment of ASUN, the student government of the University of Nevada.
Greb was first elected in the special elections this last spring. After a couple months into the position as the Associated Students of the University of Nevada Senator for the College of Business, Greb walked into the weekly Senate meeting on Oct. 19, announcing his resignation within the first 12 minutes.
“ASUN is the only organization that did not feel welcoming and does not feel like a place where I can grow,” Greb said in his resignation speech.
As he spoke, the entire mood in the room shifted. People looked shocked, a couple of Senators were laughing and had to keep quiet to maintain the seriousness of the situation and spectators in the audience of the room whispered amongst one another.
The norm for the Senate
Every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., when school is in session, ASUN holds a Senate meeting in the Rita Laden Senate Chambers on the third floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union and on Zoom.
Currently, Speaker Andrew Thompson leads the meeting as the head of order, just like the speaker in the real U.S. Senate. He calls the meeting to order, controls the gavel, leads the senators through each agenda item and adjourns the meeting.
Throughout the meeting, there are plenty of procedural items the Senate works through. Committee chairs and members of the executive and judicial branches give reports on their work. Time is given for public comments and the senators discuss legislation that they plan to pass in the meetings.
Typically meetings range from one to two hours, based on their past published audio minutes and this meeting seemed to be no different, even with Greb’s resignation and little longer than usual.
There are a total of 25 senators proportioned by the population of each college. For example, the Reynolds School of Journalism, one of the smallest schools on campus, only has one senator, while the much larger College of Business has four.
Other members of the senate include the speaker pro tempore, the parliamentarian, and the senate secretary.
Positives of the Senate
Not everyone felt the same way that Greb did. He stated in an interview that ASUN “wasn’t the department for him,” but it seems to be a good fit for other students.
“One of the best parts of being a senator is that I get to not only try and make improvements for my community, but I actually get to experience and see the returns from them as well,” Nathan Noble, Senator for the College of Liberal Arts and Chair of the Committee of Budget and Finance, said.
Senator Noble explains that he pushed for a piece of stricter regulation and prevention policies on campus sexual misconduct which led to the culmination and funding of the pilot program of the NevadaCARES Advocacy Center.
Speaker Thompson said his responsibility here is to help people get things like this project done.
“I think that the association is really productive,” Thompson said. “Our body has the ability to really make statements on behalf of the entire students to the university administration, which is one of our biggest responsibilities.”
The speaker explained that ASUN senators started the discussion of open educational resources. Students pay an extra, hefty cost for textbooks, something that ASUN wanted to help stabilize and bring attention to for UNR students.
The University Libraries, as a result, used some of their budget to train some professors to switch their course content into an open educational resource-based course.
Jaime Gonzalez-Aguirre, the senator of the Reynolds School of Journalism, has the goal of leaving the campus at least a bit better than what it was before.
“The point of ASUN means well, it does,” Gonzalez-Aguirre reassured. “It has the chance to do so. From what I’ve seen from this body, things are moving in the right direction.”
Gonzalez-Aguirre has pushed for a lot in his role as senator for the journalism school, even in his short time working for ASUN Senate.
For example, he’s recently brought back the Journalism Student Council, which is a group that meets every few weeks to talk about students’ wants and needs in the Reynolds School of Journalism. He also plans to push for legislation to add a fee per credit to raise money for student media organizations.
The controversy surrounding ASUN
ASUN has done great things, but with a rash of other resignations last spring and the resignation of Greb on Wednesday, who didn’t feel welcomed in the community, there’s a question of whether ASUN is as effective as it wants to be.
“The beautiful thing about ASUN is that any one person can be replaced,” Noble said. “It’s really the institution, the mechanisms, our governing documents and our colleagues who keep us accountable, keep us honest.
Senators also receive a stipend from the ASUN budget to represent the subsection of students in their college.
“If senators are not upholding their responsibilities, in my opinion, they don’t deserve to have a position in our body,” Thompson said. “You have students that are paying into you and you’re not doing anything to give back to the students.”
Thompson also said that if senators are leaving this body, it’s for a good reason because someone more committed to the position with more passion has the ability to run for the open seat.
“The controversy that you’re seeing, that is the system working. That is us being transparent, open and real with the students and taking care of business and admitting when we make a mistake,” Noble explained. “Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The real power of ASUN
The ASUN budget is supplied by a student fee of $6.10 per credit. That adds up to a budget of nearly $2.5 million for the organization.
“ASUN has immense power at this university,” Greb said. “I feel like the only people within ASUN that have power are this small clique of people.”
Most of the time, when Greb would present student feedback to the ASUN Senate, he said it was often shut down. He said some senators are pushing their own personal agendas to maximize their future career opportunities rather than actually focusing on giving the students a better experience.
“It all comes down to the culture of what comes with being in a position of power,” Gonzalez-Aguirre said. “It leads to not cool moves from certain people sometimes and leaves other people very demoralized.”
However, the journalism senator said it depends on the mindset in which you enter the Senate, which essentially determines how committed you are to your student body.
Regardless, the organization does have quite a lot of power. They occupy a large section of the third floor of the Joe building and control a lot of events at the university.
“I would encourage anyone who’s passionate about making a change on campus or getting involved in their university community to give us a look and maybe stop by the senate sometime to say hello,” Noble said. “We always love hearing from you.”