A seat at the table: New ASUPS project works towards representation

As the spring semester begins in full, the Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound (ASUPS) is suffering from a plethora of empty offices and positions. This lack of staff has the potential to greatly complicate and delay the inner workings of the hard-working governing body.

Senator Genevieve Caskey ‘20, Senator Becca Lumbantobing ‘21 and Senator and current Senate Chair Morey Lipsett ‘19 are feeling the absences tangibly. These three senators have undertaken a measure to amend the ASUPS constitution and change the makeup of senate for the better.

Lumbantobing and Caskey are new members of senate that have worked with Lipsett to draft amendments to create three new senate positions. The measure is only a draft stage, so it has not been voted on by ASUPS and it is still subject to change.

“It comes down to, ‘What’s the purpose of a senate in general?’” Lumbantobing said, and perfectly articulated the fact of the matter: “Within our system we have a mirror of our national system, which is a ‘representative democracy.’ The Senate positions represent different groups of people, who in our eyes are the voices that need to be uplifted and represented. Historically, there are groups of students on campus whose needs are very important and have been overlooked for so long, and it’s time they have a representative specifically ensuring that those concerns are heard at the table.”

These seats are crucial and long overdue. If the current ASUPS government truly wishes to serve the ever-diversifying student body, it must acknowledge the shortcomings of previous iterations and strive to provide every student on campus with the power and voice they deserve.

According to the in-progress document, the fall election would have on the ballot a new “Transfer and Non-Traditional Student Senator,” who would be elected by the general membership of the ASUPS to represent transfer students and students over the age of 25. As for the spring elections, two new positions would appear: one “Equity and Social Action Senator” to be elected by the general membership of ASUPS to represent students of currently or historically marginalized groups, and one “Accessibility Senator,” to be elected by the general membership of ASUPS to represent the interests of differently abled students and students with physical, mental, invisible and visible disabilities.

The amending would also result in reforming the housing senate seats, creating a single On-Campus Senator for all on-campus housing, including Greek Houses, while the Off-Campus Senator would remain the same. The Greek Life Senator would serve in the interest of Greek Letter Organizations, and would now be elected by the general public, rather than just members of fraternities and sororities.

These reforms are critical to expanding and deepening the role that ASUPS plays on campus and would dedicate resources and representation to specific groups of students that have never seen it in senate. Realizing these new seats would create a more just and valuable legislative body that could serve in the interest of all students at Puget Sound.

“First the resolution goes to governance, then governance votes on it. Governance sends it to the Legal Counsel, they let us know and bring it back to governance, who gives it to senate. Senate votes on it, and then it goes to the general public, which means in this upcoming election it’ll be on the ballot,” Caskey said.

The resolution has not even passed step one, however, due to an understaffed legislative branch. With this current ASUPS trying to make up for these losses, the likelihood of seeing this on the ballot this semester grows slimmer. There’s no doubt, however, that this is a change that needs to be made. Even if Caskey, Lipsett and Lumbantobing can’t be the ones to do it, their work must be recognized and supported by students who know that this is the right move.

“This is a really good step, but it isn’t an ideal amendment. It’s a step in the right direction,” Lumbantobing said. “I know that these groups are people who constantly have to advocate and fight for themselves, so it’s sad that we have to fight once again just to have a seat at this table.”