Hobie Webster won last spring’s election for Associated Students of Northern Michigan University (ASNMU) president on the strength of the Eleven Point Pledge in which he promised to better Northern students’ everyday lives. He has been working to accomplish these things ever since.
“There’s certainly room for improvement; there always is . but I think we’ve done really well,” said Webster, a senior political science and philosophy major.
Webster said that though he often tends to break off onto tangent projects, the 11-point plan and the high expectations he ran on have helped him more than hurt him.
“I think it’s important to challenge yourself and challenge an organization,” Webster said.
Others in ASNMU, especially the representatives who do much of the event planning and executing, are not working specifically to fulfill his plan, but feel that the plan has given them an idea of where to focus their efforts.
“I don’t know how many representatives have looked at the plan and sat down and said, ‘I’m going to fulfill number seven,’ but I think everything on the list people are really working with and working towards,” said Amy Hickey, senior international studies major and ASNMU off-campus representative.
Hickey, however, said she believes communication between representatives and those they represent could be improved to make representation of students more adequate, which is something that Webster had hoped to improve.
“I think we just need to take the initiative to get out there more and communicate,” Hickey said.
Neal Glatt, a senior marketing and Spanish major and student affairs chair in ASNMU, believes that students outside of ASNMU can help make student government better by voicing their concerns. Glatt ran against Webster in the election last spring, and though he lost, he still works as a representative.
“I’m really . excited to hear students tell us what they want to see. You hear a lot of students complaining for this or that, but nobody ever goes to ASNMU. I would like to see ASNMU educate students about who we are and what we do, and I would like to see students take action on their own,” Glatt said.
Below is the pledge Webster made and his evaluation of the work that has been done on each point.
1. We will work to create a textbook list to be made available on the ASNMU Web site one month before each semester starts.
“I wouldn’t put this in the ‘success’ column; I would put it in the ‘work in progress’ column,” said Webster.
He is currently working with the bookstore to have the list available a month before the start of the semester. The bookstore, he said, does not like to post it so far beforehand because so often professors change the books they are using for their classes and students become upset after they have already purchased their books.
2. We will collaborate with the university authorities to expand available study space for students throughout campus, particularly in the Hedgcock Atrium.
According to Webster, creating a late night study space in Hedgcock is not plausible because there are too many confidential documents that are not secure enough in nearby offices. This encouraged Webster to consider other options.
“Looking into that, we were able to get enough traction that no matter how much the building is open, we still don’t have enough space,” he said.
With that in mind, Webster began considering a student union complex. He has begun looking into funding, spoken to people about the actual construction of the building and surveyed students about whether this is a real possibility. Webster is also gathering more support from people around Northern, including President Les Wong.
3. We will create a grant-writing team to seek funding for student projects.
“That’s the one thing that I would call a failure, but I don’t think it’s a failure in terms of attempting,” Webster said.
Webster has begun to look at tying different grant resources together, rather than creating a team of grant writers. He has spoken to the grant-writing office at Northern briefly about working with them to make this an option for undergraduate students as well.
“It’s an important thing and I haven’t forgotten about it, but there are only so many hours in the day,” Webster said.
4. We will work towards making NMU a paperless campus.
Currently ASNMU is leading by example by making applications, minutes, agendas, and meetings completely paperless – everything is in a digital format.
“We have the most immediate control over what we do. With the exception of posters, we’re almost entirely paperless,” Webster said.
5. We will ensure that the ASNMU Web site is edited, updated, and expanded to make it more useful.
Webster believes the Web site is something that has been an obvious success for ASNMU as they have created a more functional site that offers much of their upcoming events and organizational information.
“The navigation is simpler, there’s more information available, it’s easier to update. With the new Web site, it opens so many more doors for us. It’s much like my job; there’s always room for improvement, but it’s up, it’s better placed,” Webster said.
6. We will create a constituent database so representatives can regularly update the student body on ASNMU’s activities.
Webster had initially planned on sending a mass e-mail to every student with updates about what ASNMU is doing, but instead he has decided to use a blog on the newly updated Web site to allow for instant feedback.
He said it accomplishes three things: ASNMU can post about what events it is hosting, students can give feedback, specifically approval and disapproval, and also students can offer suggestions for events or ways to improve.
The Web site and blog can be found at asnmu.nmu.edu.
7. We will promote the establishment of Martin Luther King Day as a campus-wide holiday.
Webster is speaking with people at the University of Michigan-Flint who celebrate Martin Luther King Day by participating in a “day-on,” which is a day of mass volunteerism. Classes are still held on that day, but professors can cancel class if they choose or any student who wishes to volunteer can have a form filled out and be excused from class.
Webster believes that this option will be more successful than the events that have been held in the past, which have been poorly attended.
“If we can start a precedent where we have a day-on mentality where people are not sitting in a classroom like they normally would, but they are cognizant of the fact that it is Martin Luther King Day and they are out volunteering, that makes them active members in what his message was,” Webster said.
8. We will refine and clarify the ASNMU Election Bylaws.
Due to ambiguities in ASNMU elections in 2007 and 2008, such as having to recount votes and misinterpretation of the election bylaws, this is something that Webster wanted to clear up. Also, Webster hopes to make a greater effort to get students excited about voting.
According to Webster, during an election the tradition has been for ASNMU to step aside and let the candidates encourage people to vote, but he believes this responsibility should be ASNMU’s.
“The student government needs to take an active role in informing people, and I don’t think that was done as well as it could have been . but I think we need to be involved so that students know there is an election,” he said.
Webster hopes to achieve greater turnout by spreading the voting process over an entire week to allow more people the opportunity to vote.
9. We will improve the ASNMU Constitution in regards to simplicity and effectiveness.
Webster said that this is something that was the concern of many people who were running last winter. The ASNMU constitution is not very clear in its interpretation, and he wanted to make it a priority to make it very clear what was to be expected of the student government.
They failed to complete this task thus far.
10. We will promote increased professionalism amongst ASNMU representatives and executive board members.
“The office, I hope, looks like a place where things are taken seriously, that students are taken seriously, (and) where people have the opportunity to interact in a professional manner,” Webster said.
Changing the physical makeup of the office was a large part of increasing professionalism. During the summer, Webster and Holly Kasberger, a junior economics and political science major and ASNMU chair of the assembly, revamped the entire office including new furniture, donated by Steelcase company, and a fresh coat of paint.
11. We will expand the involvement and influence of ASNMU in campus affairs.
A large priority of ASNMU this semester has been to make the student government more active on campus, and Webster believes he has made this happen.
The creation of the External Affairs Committee, an ASNMU group that works with local and regional matters, is a way to make the community aware of Northern and ASNMU.
Webster believes that ASNMU has created a great presence on campus with programs like giving away free “green books” and the Online Syllabus Program, both programs that students can use.
“I don’t think there’s any way to gauge the amount of influence we have on campus . but I think it’s better,” Webster said. “That’s one of those things that people will have to judge for themselves.”