Discussing the disconnect within SPU leadership and the community

Katie Ward

In the last Associate Students of Seattle Pacific’s (ASSP) election campaign for next year’s student government, the outcome of voters was low. With the turnout of 799 voters in total for the 2018-19 general election and 391 voters in the primary election.


Although not surprising, these turnouts tend to leave a sense of confusion for those within student government. In reality though, much of the student body were not aware of when voting begun, when polls opened or where to find them.


I admit — I have never voted. I know those four words can fire up a rally of groups within our own country in times of political elections, but honestly, I haven’t felt the same passionate dedication within the community of SPU when it comes to voter turnout.


Throughout my time at SPU, I have only had a vague idea of what ASSP does. I can give you directions on where to find their offices or on how to follow their Instagram. However, without much actual engagement, I continue to find myself at a loss in regards to what they do and how one can become more involved.


Upon asking around and doing more intentional research, I find that there are many things I have been unaware of these past years in regard to our student government and I begin to wonder how this huge disconnect between leadership and the rest of student body has come to be?


Tori Hoffman, current communications manager of ASSP and fellow opinions columnist an The Falcon mentioned that, overall, there is a huge national decrease in student turnout for most events held on campuses.


It’s fair to say that SPU isn’t the poster school for displaying intense school pride or unity amongst the community. Yes, we’re friendly in engaging our fellow peers in lectures and resident halls, but there remains a divide in our engagement and intentionality to be more involved with changes and activities we’d like to see on our campus.


This brings up many questions. For example, how involved is student government in creating awareness in regards to being informed and excited to participate in leadership?


ASSP is a small government comprised of yearly elected undergraduate students to serve the student body and “promote positive growth and engaging experiences at SPU.”


While you can find their neatly stated message on the school’s top most agitating website, OrgSync, most of the information that includes campus discussions and events is out of date. And getting in contact with any member of the team has been only answered with silence.


Currently, no student who isn’t now or was once affiliated to some sort of leadership position attends the weekly student senate meetings, because many do not know when it is, where to find the information and what actually happens during the meetings.


As Abbey Brandt, a junior and a current senator at large, put it: it’s more behind the scenes of operational work of voting for proposals, funding and additional key factors that not only benefit clubs and events, but in hopes of benefiting all students’ time while at SPU.


People know these groups exists, they just don’t really know all that goes into it, Brandt explained.


“I’ve been on Senate for the last two years and have seen that the group has grown,” Brandt stated. “The problem last year was we didn’t really have a clear idea of how to make these changes happen.”


As the university becomes more diverse each year and if students do not feel represented by ASSP, then demand representation because as students, we hold a lot more power, yet it goes unnoticed, Nathan Bennett, ASSP’s vice president of finance from 2016-2017, expressed.


The lack of involvement can also be seen in the funding of events, lack of promotion, the hosting of quality of events and so on, Bennett explained.


“I personally believe that the student body demographics are shifting and leadership needs to evaluate who their events serve,” he said. “I believe the incongruence between the student body and ASSP is a product of the incongruence of the administration and the changing student demographics.”


Within this past year, Brandt and other members of Senate have founded a committee dedicated to creating a petition to, in hopes, make a A.S.L program or course here at SPU because currently we are the only university in the state of Washington that fails in providing this language course.


But before this can even become an enforced into our universities curriculum, admissions needs to do a study of student interest, which can grow into a very time consuming process.


Brandt and others hope to bring awareness the need and interest  through the signatures of students, and hope to promote this cause through online advertisements on social media, but also getting out on campus to engage and talk to peers.


“I think if people see this is kind of a ‘model’ for how things can happen, I think that it could be a really valuable way to get people to come to Senate,” Brandt expressed her hopes of bringing more engagement with leadership.


While it is evident that much of the student body has become blinded to the effects and resources ASSP and student government can provide through the lack of providing such information, it is also the responsibility of students to seek out their student government, too.


“Rather than be behind the somewhat behind the scenes at SPU, I think it’d be really beneficial for the ASSP officers to be introduced at the new student orientation each year. . That way they could open themselves up to all students, and share their goals so students can hold them accountable,” Hoffman said.


It may have taken me four years at SPU to finally ask the five W’s on ASSP and leadership, but it’s not too late for others.