ASA removal of the adult learner senator position was a step backwards

I was elected to the Augustana Student Association in September 2020 as the senator representing students 23 years of age and older, tallying more than 300 votes — a clear nod from the student body that nontraditional students deserve a seat on the senate.

Entering my fifth semester as a double major and ninth semester as a Campus Safety officer, my election to the senate was worthy and natural. Still, from that day forward I served with respect and integrity, completing all required responsibilities that come with being a part of the finance committee and a student body senator.

Working collaboratively with numerous senators and those of the student body, I fulfilled the wishes of students no matter how insignificant my peers perceived the initiatives, nor how long it took to bring bold ideas to fruition.

For three semesters I advocated for changes that were repeatedly met with loud opposition by my peers. Often through no real fault of their own, they weren’t willing to work with others to achieve the best possible outcome with the resources at the senate’s disposal.

Yet that opposition, no matter how loud, was met with a voice — my voice — given to me by students who expected equal representation for the AU community. Young or old, athlete or academic, systemically non-dominant or not, as an adult, it was my responsibility to stand up for all those who aspired for a better AU.

In my time on the senate we were able to achieve and pursue things previous groups had failed to do. Together, we established a sixth committee to the senate — the diversity committee — once and for all recognizing that Augustana is a predominantly white institution. We implemented policy to ensure senators represent not only those similar to us, but those who are different yet equally important and necessary to a strong student body.

We passed legislation to compensate Viking Days co-chairs, who’d been wrongfully unpaid for their 100+ hours of work — often at the direction of campus officials — to ensure Viking Days was a welcoming, exciting and unique celebration of school spirit. We created mini-grants for students with unique goals and objectives, we brought feminine product dispensers to buildings on campus and we donated ASA funds to sponsor youth in Kenya who couldn’t afford to attend school on their own — a move that brought tears of pride to the eyes of professor Sally Mallowa and me.

But on Feb. 23 the very same senators — who turned to me for my advocacy efforts, will to do good and my desire to do more for the community — slammed the door on the senate position for those 23 and older with a resounding bang.

Spearheaded by a first-time senator and supported by long-time senators, ASA voted to remove my former position in unanimous and unusual collaboration.

Although the decision to nix my former position was done “due to lack of interest” and “ambiguity,” the explanation is superficial. And it was done without concern for myself or others, or for those who held the position before me.

Moreover, the move questions the integrity of the ASA Senate, which, in its governing documents, states that the senate “strives to guarantee the rule of the majority, the right of the minority and the freedom of students to inform and be informed as their conscience dictates.”

Dismantling the legislature that allows for any student 23 and older to be a part of the senate, to voice their concerns, to support the few as opposed to the many and to better provide representation for Augustana as it grows in size and accessibility is, in fact, egregious.

Though one of my favorite professors once told me not to tire in my efforts, I’ve grown quite tired. And although the will of the senate was fulfilled through their vote on Feb. 23, the removal of my former position was a step backward for the student body, and for the Augustana community as a whole.

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