ASUPS Struggles with Transparency
Does the ASUPS Vice President just hire their friends to executive staff positions?
Year after year, the perception is that ASUPS elections are popularity contests, and that the ASUPS VP, who makes the hiring decisions in consultation with the President, hires from their friend group.
“It always comes into question when execs hire individuals they’ve had pre-existing relationshps with. No matter how strenuous the application process is, there’s never information released about why those individuals where hired or what qualifications they have,” Senate Chair Kaitlyn Vallance said.
ASUPS President Nakisha Renée Jones weighed in about her experiences during the hiring process for the executive team, which was finalized on April 15.
“For me, it’s… trying to balance my disagreement about the process that we use in exec hiring, because ultimately, it looks like I’m disagreeing with my Vice President to some [people],” Jones said. “We hired execs last week… There was some disagreement about that process, and… I myself am the type who asks questions when I feel like it’s necessary to uncover more about what’s going on.”
The process of hiring execs to ASUPS is overseen by the outgoing executive member, other ASUPS staff and people from other departments at Puget Sound. Evaluation of the applicant, according to ASUPS VP Alissa Hartnig, is based on five main factors.
“When Nakisha and I were hiring the executive team, we considered the following when making a decision: Their application, their interview, if their values and vision meshed with ours, how comfortable we would feel working with them and their summer plans. From these, we hired the four individuals who we felt would be the best fit for job,” Hartnig said.
After the decisions were made, ASUPS Senate confirmed the appointments for the hiring of the applicants, an act that is designed to demonstrate the approval of the applicants. However, the disagreement behind this process originated when Jones questioned the transparency of the process for the students.
“As a Senator, I always feel strange approving Executive [staff] who were hired as a slate, as opposed to individuals… If we did not like one of the hires, we would not be able to express our disapproval without voting down every individual hired. It makes me feel somewhat powerless in expressing my disapproval,” Vallance said.
As ASUPS President, Jones has the power to veto that confirmation.
“I didn’t know I had the power to veto the confirmation until someone else told me. I thought about vetoing it so that we can go back and actually provide the information to people about why we chose the people we chose rather than just approve everybody on a blind eye,” Jones said. “However, I decided I would wait to use my veto until it’s a matter that will impact the student body more directly and immediately.”
While no veto took place, Jones’ request to get more information about the veto process started the rumors that Jones had actively vetoed some part of the exec hiring process.
Following this confusion, the issues that have been presented revolve around how ASUPS deals with questions of transparency and how students seek the answers to possibly contentious questions. Jones’ answer? Go to the source and ask.
“I think it’s easier to just identify the source of your discontent, talk to that source and then find solutions. As for me, I’m not trying to create discontent for people, but I do want us to question things. I think a lot of the time people are reticent to feel uncomfortable…Feeling uncomfortable is a really necessary part of growth,” Jones said.
“Nakisha and I are very open to talking to anyone who has questions about our decision making process,” Hartnig confirmed.
Senior Senator C.J. Queirolo thinks there should be more collaboration with ASUPS Senate during the hiring process.
“All ASUPS Senate committee meeting all hiring interviews should happen in person and not over email over or phone calls,” Queirolo said. “Both the ASUPS President and the Vice President should be present at every such interview regarding the composition of the President’s Council. Independent Students-at-Large should observe these interviews, but that requires they be public and in person. Most importantly the Senate needs to be actively involved in these hiring decisions for Executive Directorships. I think we should seriously consider amending the ASUPS Constitution and By-Laws in order to make the hiring of all Executive Directors more of a collaborative process, and to reduce the chances of any conflicts of interest going unnoticed.”
ASUPS will have its last meeting of the semester on Tuesday, May 4. To get in touch with members of the student government electronically, you may find the appropriate member at asups.pugetsound.edu/contact/.