The impact of a non-governing student government

Skyler Leonard
Skyler Leonard

What is ASCSU?

Before my junior year, I would have answered this like a reporter should: It is CSU’s student government.

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But as times change and events happen, my answer has shifted to that of a columnist: ASCSU is a non-governmental entity that attempts to represent students.

This switch in thinking was gradual. When I was offered the job as ASCSU Senate Beat Reporter freshman year of college, my first question truly was, “ASCSU? What’s that?”

For most students, I think the idea of student government is an after thought. Between classes, homework, stressful jobs and separate social lives, most students have neither the time nor the energy to care about the issues of their student government. During last year’s ASCSU election cycle, only 16.62 percent of students voted.

Ever since I was a freshman, it seemed clear that one of ASCSU’s main challenges is representing students properly. And as part of a student media group, I can relate completely to this challenge.

Yet, my empathy went away when ASCSU became an illegitimate governing body.

ascsuLast fall, the ASCSU Senate decided to impeach a senator during a closed door executive session. Before they could move into the session, all non-voting members were told to leave the room.

I refused to leave my seat in the senate gallery, alongside other members of the Collegian because we believed we were in the right. No other entity that calls themselves a governing body can impeach an elected official behind close doors. Voters have a right to know why a person they elected is being impeached.

As we later learned from the University administration, ASCSU does not qualify as a governing body, so they are not subject to the same sunshine laws. So we left the senate chambers, and were unable to properly report on the evidence and reasons behind the impeachment of a senator who was supposed to represent students.

This was the first time ASCSU really had to handle an impeachment. And given the fallout of it, it’s no surprise that they want to re-write the procedures surrounding impeachment.

At Wednesday night’s senate meeting, the procedure changes will be debated, discussed and then possibly voted on. What’s notable about the proposed changes is that the rules would legitimize the behind-closed-door procedures Senate used to impeach a senator in the fall.

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I know that there is a lot of good work that ASCSU does and is capable of, but if they are going to fix their public image, passing legislation that proves they do not model a genuine government is not going to help.

What’s the point of an election if a government can impeach those elected behind closed doors and without proper oversight?

When ASCSU goes through its election process this spring, “your student government” will have to face this question head on.

Collegian Columnist Skyler Leonard can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @skyler_leonard.