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ASUU Presidency Discusses Work this School Year – The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Xiangyao Tang

The 2022-2023 ASUU Presidency flashing the U at the “State of ASUU” event at A. Ray Olpin University Union in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov.17, 2022. From left to right:
Benvin Lozada, Vice President of University Relations. Taylor VanderToolen, ASUU President. Ashlee Roberts, Vice President of Student Relations. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

Sitting in his office, ASUU President Taylor VanderToolen gestures to an old campaign sign which reads “Inclusivity, Community, Advocacy.”

Those three words, VanderToolen said, were the pillars of his campaign, and now presidency, alongside Ashlee Roberts, ASUU vice president of student relations, and Benvin Lozada, ASUU vice president of university relations.

“Specifically, I guess my pillar is community,” VanderToolen said. “Benvin’s is advocacy and Ashlee’s is inclusivity.” 

As they approach the halfway point in the school year, each member of the presidency has worked towards goals in their respective “pillar” such as addressing campus safety and fostering community.

Advocacy

With campus safety an issue constantly on the minds of students, it has become a focus for Lozada in his role as vice president of university relations, where his purpose is to “advocate for students to university faculty, staff and administrators.” 

Starting out, Lozada prioritized creating and heading the Campus Health and Safety Committee, a space to “bridge the gap” between students and administrators on campus safety issues.

“The goal of the Campus Safety Committee is really to help to spark that dialogue, to create that [discourse] between students and administration and really, to help, you know, kind of shine a light on campus safety here at the university, from a lens of not only what are students thinking, what are students concerned about, but also what is the administration doing to help it,” Lozada said. 

He said the committee typically has about 15 members with representatives from places like Greek Life or the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention, as well as various student leaders. Lozada explained anyone in the campus community is welcome to attend committee meetings.

Recently, the committee has been preparing to send out a campus-wide survey to the U community to get feedback on campus safety, which Lozada said should be sent out in the next couple of weeks. 

His plan is for the committee to take the feedback provided and work with the appropriate administrators to address issues. For example, if there are complaints about lighting on campus, Lozada said, the committee can help facilitate change with Facilities Management.

Inclusivity

“The way that we imagined inclusivity this year, the way we like kind of brainstormed and brought it to the table, is the ASUU Student Leaders Council,” Roberts said.

This council is made up of around 30 student leaders as well as university leadership. 

Through this council, ASUU receives input and reaches out to many different areas on campus to discuss issues students are facing, and discusses these issues directly with university leadership. 

In one recent council meeting, Roberts said the U’s chief experience officer, Andrea Thomas, posed the question of how to make campus more accessible and inclusive and asked student leaders for their feedback and suggestions.

VanderToolen added he believes the Student Leaders Council also helps to “build bridges” between students and administration, another goal of his presidency when running for office.

Community

For VanderToolen, much of his work with the concept of community has been internally within the student body government, facilitating a collaborative environment where ASUU leaders can exchange ideas and pursue initiatives. 

He noted many students involved with ASUU last school year didn’t enjoy their experience and chose to leave, but with new members coming in, they’ve worked to create a “really inclusive community where everybody feels, you know, welcomed no matter their background.” 

Past ASUU administration members have shared that between the difficulties with working with the U administration and the negative impact the positions had on their mental health, carrying out their purpose as student representatives were onerous.

In addition to fostering community within student government, VanderToolen said they as a presidency have worked to increase student participation on campus by bringing back traditions that were lost during the pandemic. 

One lost tradition was Recycle Rice-Eccles, a program where students gathered recyclables during football games, which VanderToolen said was brought back at the Utah vs. Arizona game.

VanderToolen also hopes to get more students involved in student government as many of the ASUU candidates this year ran uncontested, including the VanderToolen ticket.

Applications for student government positions for the 2023-2024 school year close on Nov. 28 with open positions in the Judicial, Legislative and Executive branches — including the student body presidency.

 

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