Take a moment to imagine that you’ve just handed over hundreds of dollars of your own money to an organization that is meant to improve your neighborhood. There is a committee of people that you voted to represent your opinions, and they are more than happy to do so; however, for some reason, you can’t seem to name a single person on the committee. They post their public meeting times online and all over the street signs in your neighborhood, yet nobody seems to care or even understand where all of their money is going.
You’re probably thinking, “That’s ridiculous. I would care enough about how my money is being spent by others!” Now, unless you’ve attended a senate meeting of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, I’m not inclined to believe you.
Believe it or not, ASUN has a $2.3 million budget. Not only do you pay a $15 per credit fee to ASUN but the Association also benefits from sales at the student government-owned Nevada Wolf Shop. The point is, you pay quite a bit of money to ASUN, which essentially makes you a stakeholder in just about everything the members of the student government do.
This is typically the point where students protest such a large sum of money being distributed to ASUN, but to be fair, the student government is behind a majority of the events students enjoy on campus. Every concert, Homecoming Parade and Mackay Week event you have ever participated in has been a result of ASUN. Many impactful speakers (including Jon Ralston and the upcoming Laverne Cox event) have come to our campus on ASUN’s dime. And all of the aforementioned examples only represent ASUN’s programming efforts.
As a freshman 3 1/2 years ago, I remember hearing about a club called “Abolish ASUN.” I found the organization intriguing and was excited by the idea of using a club to demand that my voice be heard by ASUN. I understood very little about the role of the student government at the time and felt that the abolitionist club could be empowering. However, my opinion quickly changed the first time I attended an ASUN Senate meeting.
The senators were debating a contentious resolution that would ultimately be sent to the Nevada State Legislature as a symbolic representation of the campus’ opinion. Instead of making their own opinions clear, the senators discussed the beliefs that a variety of students had expressed to them. Each person recognized the complexity of the issue, yet the senators did not waver in verbalizing the concerns and beliefs of the students they were elected to serve.
For the first time, ASUN made sense to me. It did not exist as an entity to usurp my voice and steal my money; ASUN existed to empower students and give them a chance to make a difference regardless of how little authority they actually had.
Many people tend to overlook the fact that ASUN has a strong reputation of respect and authority. When divisive bills such as Campus Carry are introduced to the state legislature, many elected officials look to ASUN as a legitimate body of student leaders. In essence, ASUN can be one of our greatest lobbying forces if we take advantage of it in the right way.
Moreover, ASUN is responsible for actualizing change on our campus with faculty. Did you know there is currently an ASUN-sponsored petition going around advocating for transparent course evaluations? As a student government, ASUN is able to more effectively take action on issues that matter to students most. Not to mention, your elected ASUN officials consistently meet with the highest-ranking university officials, including President Marc Johnson. If you really want something done on this campus, ASUN has the means to achieve that goal.
Inevitably, there are going to be times when students become upset with ASUN. After all, it is a government and nobody is going to be happy with their elected officials all of the time. However, we cannot let our qualms with certain decisions affect the overall purpose of ASUN, which is to serve the University of Nevada, Reno.
Without ASUN, there would be no Campus Escort; there would be no club funding; there would be no Wolf Pack Radio, Insight Magazine or Brushfire Literary Arts Journal. You may not realize it, but ASUN is the basis for nearly all programs and services on our campus. For that reason, you should choose to change it when you’re upset with the way it functions — not ignore it.
ASUN elections are coming up and they are extremely important. Nevada continues to grow each semester and ASUN will need to serve more students moving forward. With $2.3 million at stake, you will be deciding the fate of your club, favorite publication or university service through your vote. It is critically important that you inform yourself about the true nature of ASUN and the goals of each candidate.
Ignoring ASUN will not make any of your concerns go away; rather, you will only be making the problems you see much worse. Talk to the candidates from your college and ensure they will represent your vision for the university. You only get one chance a year during elections to affect the future of the student body — don’t let that opportunity pass you by.
Daniel Coffey studies journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.