Serving as a longstanding member and current president of the Augustana Student Association this school year, I have witnessed and been part of a truly trying year for Augustana’s students, attributed to the growing pains of the expanding student body.
Students have faced challenges in the form of the introduction of Chick-fil-A, the sudden removal and just-as-sudden restoration of the Commons Interfaith Reflection Room, the abrupt beginning of the Commons renovations, and the unanticipated professional leave of dean of students Mark Blackburn.
The ASA Senate has tried to act as the venue for students to voice their opinions in these trying times. In attempting to do so, several issues have come to light that have led us to call for faculty, staff members, administration and students to act.
The power held by the ASA Senate is mostly symbolic. We can allocate money to senators’ passion projects and raise our voices about issues we view as important, but our ability to create change on campus will be limited by the bounds placed on us by administration.
We are proof that the pen is not mightier than the sword. We can write and pass resolutions and legislation, but anything we do or wish to accomplish depends on the will of the administration.
Senators from current and previous years have spoken of feeling helpless, ignored and minimized when faced with sudden changes or underlying, slow-to-be-addressed matters of the university.
As a result of our limited powers, ASA is entirely dependent upon devoted faculty and staff to accomplish our goals. We should not be a messenger that relies upon others to accomplish the things that need to be done to make this university safe for all of its students.
In light of this realization, ASA challenges faculty, staff and administration to act. We challenge you to step up and engage in our oddly mutualistic relationship by being the sword to our pen. We challenge you to engage with students and advocate for their needs when our words fall on deaf ears.
We challenge you to be transparent in all your efforts so students do not feel blindsided by the very organization that is supposed to support them as they enter into the real world.
We see the strides that faculty and administration have made over this past academic year. We praise you for your effort and courage, but room for improvement remains. We commend all administrators that have reached out to us in an attempt to raise awareness, but we also urge others to follow suit.
At a time of incredible upheaval, we need more visible advocacy. Talking about students behind closed doors is not visible advocacy, even if you are supporting us. We need to hear it. In fact, we would welcome you with open arms to speak to the ASA Senate on any matter that impacts the student body.
We do our best to slowly enact change by working within the system in which we have been placed, but our 35-member Senate cannot do it alone. We now challenge students to join in this chaotic dance. If you have a concern, voice it to the university by bringing it to an ASA meeting, writing about it in the Mirror or to an administrator, or running for an ASA Senate or executive seat.
Advocacy is not complete until those most impacted play a role in spearheading positive change. So bring your passion, your drive and your voice, and join us in this adventure to, as U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar would say, “make good trouble.”