ASNMU has a lot of potential. Recognized as the voice of Northern students, the Associated Students of NMU has the ability to change the way the university operates in favor of students’ desires.
There’s no doubt that ASNMU has that ability. The people on ASNMU are driven individuals, most of whom I know personally, and they are spending their time on the board not because they have nothing better to do but because they actually feel like they can make a difference. The only problem is there’s a clear lack of initiative and leadership in this year’s student government. To have a strong general assembly, there really has to be a motivated president and vice president.
Unfortunately, students made that harder last semester when they voted against paying an extra $1.98 a semester with the student activity fee to pay the executive board. With an overwhelming vote 1,756 no to 444 yes, students said they wouldn’t foot the bill. While this is understandable, especially with money as tight as it is, we can’t expect our student government to be as attentive and aggressive when the people we expect the most out of aren’t getting paid and literally can’t afford to spend their time in the office.
For a long time, up until last semester, every member of the executive board was paid. Last semester, they were told that the university would no longer provide that money and were encouraged to put it up to referendum, or students’ vote. ASNMU gambled when they asked students to fund the pay for every member of the executive board. When students voted no, ASNMU was left with nothing.
The consequences of this are already clear. Lucia Lopez, president of ASNMU, has to have another job in order to pay her rent, which takes away from time she could be spending in the office. I spoke to Lopez about the change in the beginning of the semester, and she acknowledged that she wouldn’t be able to be as thorough as other presidents have been.
“Mostly I’m scared for the student body,” she said. “When we’re not paid, it kind of limits what we can do. And I think that affects the student body more than it affects me personally just because it’s less time that we can put in.”
Lopez said then, and I’m sure she would say now, that doesn’t change how important she knows her job is and she wants to spend as much time as she can in that office. But without being paid, she logically can’t. Carissa Waters, now a nurse in Lombard, Ill., was ASNMU president from 2002-2003 and was paid in that position.
“It would have been difficult to be an effective ASNMU president without financial compensation,” Waters said. “It is a very time-consuming position, and it would have been impossible to do the position justice if I also had to have a job on the side.”
For the benefit of Northern students, at least the president of ASNMU should be paid. It would make it so that students would see him or her in the office more, around campus more, and it would increase the likelihood that ASNMU would be more effective.
Where that money would come from is the problem. Lopez and ASNMU treasurer Andrew Foster worked this summer with administration to find some compensation for the president, but supposedly nothing was there. Lopez was told that it was either ASNMU executive board pay or a full-time university position, and of course students were cut.
With a special referendum already called for this semester, I hope to see ASNMU ask students to increase the student activity fee in order to pay the president.
If we want a capable student government, and not just a president as effective as one voted by a bunch of first graders, ASNMU needs to take advantage of the referendum opportunity they have this semester and try again, maybe with a more reasonable request, and ask for students to pay a bit more each semester.