ASNMU engages in image repair

Emma Finkbeiner

The administration is closely watching ASNMU’s accounts – even counting the cost of paper clips – while many student government positions remain open.When ASNMU President Katerina Klawes purchased paper clips for their office and forgot to email the Dean of Students, it was closely followed by an account inquiry from the Dean. According to Klawes, the purchase totaled $1.33.

ASNMU met twice since the new school year began, talking about topics such as homecoming. In the most recent meeting, four new members were sworn in: Briana Wright, Anne Marie Wellman, Sara Spragg and Teala Howell. (Anthony Viola/NW)
ASNMU met twice since the new school year began, talking about topics such as homecoming. In the most recent meeting, four new members were sworn in: Briana Wright, Anne Marie Wellman, Sara Spragg and Teala Howell. (Anthony Viola/NW)

Because of the unfilled positions, a mere nine members and one student speaker made up the ASNMU meeting held Friday, Aug. 29. Despite the gaps, Klawes is expecting to have a full board, 22 members including executive board, within the next two weeks. According to Klawes, a full board has not happened in many years.

“We have two applications for every open spot, so there is a lot of competition,” Klawes said. “We’re using a little more scrutiny when interviewing applicants this year.”

During the meeting, many appointments were approved, including the appointment of Klawes to four committees: the food advisory board, the Jamrich dedication, the LRC programming committee and the facilities committee. Off-campus representative Rachel McCaffrey, senior social work major, was appointed as the student organization liaison, Danielle Schafer, senior double major in biology and Spanish, was appointed as the chair of academic affairs and Mitchell Sevigny, senior political science and economics major, was appointed as director of external affairs.

A main discussion item at Friday’s meeting centered around the recent protestors on campus. Concerns were raised regarding ASNMU’s presence in the academic mall Thursday, Aug. 28 by the graduate studies representative, Alex Nye.

Concerns arose when Klawes, along with other members, gathered student opinions and written statements by hosting a table in the academic mall. These statements were shared with Christine Greer, the dean of students. Greer’s response clarified the university’s level of censorship concerning campus speakers.

“We cannot ban anyone because we don’t like what they are going to say,” Greer said. “Under the first amendment, individuals do have a right to speech that the listener disagrees with and to speech that is offensive and hateful. We cannot censor a speaker.”

According to Klawes, over 150 student statements have been gathered regarding the campus visitors. She believes that although the First Amendment protects the preacher’s right to freedom of speech, ASNMU still has a duty to student opinions.

“I think there is always something we can do,” Klawes said. “The biggest point is to make sure the students feel like their voices are being heard.”

Klawes met with President Erickson to share these statements. She has also collected the support of several student organizations who will be contacted the next time a speaker is present on campus, in order to give them the opportunity to organize counter protests.

Vice President Katelyn Liubakka was pleased with the student response regarding the preacher on campus, as well.

“I think it’s really great that so many students came to the student government to voice their opinions about the protests that happened on campus,” Liubakka said. “When there is an issue that we get so many responses from students on, it’s something that we take to heart.”

When asked about how ASNMU plans to counteract its current reputation, Klawes shared a positive outlook. She shared that the dean of students is now watching ASNMU purchases very closely. She expressed that she has faith in the organization and believes that the student representatives are willing to fight for a better year. Liubakka held similar impressions of the year ahead for ASNMU.

“I’m really looking forward to making a better name for the organization than it has had in the past years, and earning the respect of the students,” Liubakka said.

Over the summer, Klawes reported that she met with almost all 150 departments at NMU to discuss student concerns from all corners of campus. Communication and Performance Studies Department head Jim Cantrill commented on his meeting with Klawes.

“I think it’s great that Kat was out on front of this,” Cantrill said. “It shows some saavy. She knows that there is some image repair.”

One concern Cantrill raised about the progress of the image repair was the awareness of ASNMU on campus. He speculated that the student government may not be on the minds of faculty and department heads.

“It would be nice if perhaps people had a reason to think about [ASNMU] a bit more outside of just what you hear in The North Wind,” Cantrill said. “The only time they really worry about public relations is when something goes wrong.”

Cantrill also speculated that for many students, the drama from last year has blown over. However, for those who work in student affairs and many administrators, there are more lasting effects.

Lina Blair, assistant dean of student and adviser to ASNMU, held similar feelings. However, she also felt that many administrators still have a vested interest and want to see ASNMU not only recover from a tough past but move forward successfully.

“I do think that students involved in ASNMU have a lot of energy to get things done this year,” Blair said. “I think that they’re excited to do things and accomplish things and finish the job and I think that hopefully will build some trust with the student population and faculty and staff so that people can start to trust student government again.”