Student government looks ahead – A sit down with Downing/Havens

Throughout the campaign process, Shane Downing, ’11 and Jamie Havens, ’11, outlined multiple priorities for ASG in the coming year. The goals included bridging the gap between ASG and the student body, starting work on the strategic plan and increasing collaboration within ASG itself.

After being elected President and Vice President of ASG last Thursday, Feb. 18, Downing and Havens continue to stress those concerns and offer more insight on how to accomplish those goals.

“Every year since I was a freshman, ASG presidents have come and gone campaigning to students that they want to make ASG more accessible to the student body,” said Downing in an email.

“It is quite clear that accessibility remains a major issue because it is still a topic of concern three years later.  I think it is important to ask ourselves not ‘how do we make ASG more accessible?’ but rather, ‘why aren’t we accessible?’ and ‘what barriers are preventing us from effectively communicating to the student body?’”

The first step toward involving students more thoroughly in ASG next year will be the annual presidents’ meeting, an event held just before this year concludes where the presidents from every student organization meet to discuss the following school year.  At this meeting, ASG executives hope to gain feedback from the organization presidents about how they can better serve the student groups on campus.

“There are other leaders and students on campus who need their voices to be heard,” Downing said. “We need to step down from the platform I think some students see ASG standing on and get some constructive criticism from our peers.”

“[Students] know that we give money to groups, but they don’t know about the other things we do,” said Havens.

“We want people to come to us with more than just monetary problems.”

Finances are the most widely recognized aspect of ASG’s responsibilities, and are often a cause for tension amongst the campus groups. Havens maintains that educating students on the budget process should help ease some of the anxiety that comes with budget assignments.

“A lot of times, finance is the only thing that students experience with ASG, and students sometimes have a bad experience,” Havens said.  “We’re talking about re-informing everyone how to use the finance system so that it’s less stressful.”

The vice president-elect also recognized “Combinations 2020,” Allegheny’s strategic plan, as one of ASG’s main focuses for next year.

The text of the plan has not been released, but Havens holds that making the plan an early priority will be fundamental to its success.

“We want to lay the groundwork for the strategic plan and make students more aware of it,” Havens said.

“We need to help other student organizations take those steps toward getting the plan running.”

Collaboration between the various classes of ASG and between the cabinet and the senate are more important facets of Downing and Havens’ goals.  In the past, different levels of motivation and interest have separated the various classes throughout ASG.

Downing and Havens say that working more closely within ASG in addition to the student body is something ASG needs to tackle next year.

“I would love to see us as an organization work together, rather than in individual classes, towards achieving big goals,” Downing said.

In terms of specific programming, the plans will begin to form once the cabinet and senate have been selected.  ASG is adding one additional cabinet position this year, the Community Service Chair, bringing the total number of cabinet positions to 15.

This year, the applications for the cabinet are open to the entire student body.  Havens sees this as another way to integrate the student body into ASG.

“We’ve opened [applications] up to the whole campus, and hopefully some new people will be excited to work for us,” Havens said.

The ASG cabinet will be selected by March 12, and senate elections will be held March 17.  Once the 2010-2011 government has formed, more plans will take shape.

The incoming president and vice president are excited about the collaboration between students, administration and ASG that they feel is imminent in the coming year.

“There is so much for ASG to learn from the students, organizations, and offices here at Allegheny College,” Downing said. “I think that if we can learn a few lessons, define ourselves, and set a vision as an organization, the potential success of the upcoming year will be dramatic.”