The Campus interviews ASG President and Vice President

Since being elected last February, Shane Downing and Jamie Havens, President and Vice President of Allegheny Student Government (ASG) have been planning for the 2010-2011 year.  As the year begins, the duo reflects on their priorities and their goals for the months ahead.

James Schwendener/THE CAMPUS

The Campus: Last year after being elected you listed your main priorities as fostering a better relationship between ASG and the students, setting the stage for the strategic plan and collaboration within the ASG classes. What are your priorities going into the coming year?
Jamie: Collaboration is one of our biggest goals. We have a lot of initiatives about getting organizations to work together.  Tinamaria [Colaizzi, Director of Student Organizational Services, ’11] has put together categories of organizations that will meet together to discuss the way they can utilize their budgets to bring together one big project as opposed to small projects.

Shane: We’ve talked a lot about communication; the main way we’re attacking that [problem] is trying to keep the lines of communication open between us and the administration and us and students.  We’re planning an informational finance meeting to talk to groups about finances.  We have the network for communication; we’re just trying to strengthen those links.

Jamie: Some of the things we’ve done include a cabinet orientation before freshman orientation, and we had the administration come in and meet the cabinet, who met the people they would be contacting throughout the year.  We also participated in freshman orientation.

Shane: We have to make sure people [in ASG] are approachable enough that people want to come to us, so we got really involved with first year orientation.  We’re here to represent the students; if we can’t talk to them, then…

Q: What are your plans to unite the classes within ASG?
Jamie: Something we’re trying to do with our director of community service is trying to put down volunteer projects to get ASG more involved in community service.  That’s one way to get the Senate together as a community rather than an organization.

Shane: We had this really unique opportunity – over half the Senate is new members and we think there’s an opportunity to partner between new and old Senate members and borrowing from other organizations to make ourselves more cohesive as a community.

Q: What are the plans for ASG-sponsored programming?

Shane: We had our first meeting with MEC [the Major Events Committee] last night, talking about Homecoming, Springfest, Wingfest – it was an idea-fest.  It’s still too early [to discuss] performances, though.

Q: What is ASG doing about student concerns such as bedbugs, mold, wheelchair accessibility, etc.?
Jamie: We’re involved with First Fridays [organized by I <3 Meadville] – the first First Friday will be collaborating with GAP and OSI; the freshman kickoff campaign into Meadville will be happening then as well.  We had our first meeting with Residence Life yesterday to address mold and bedbugs.

Shane: We’re not going to see changes overnight with wheelchair accessibility.  The campus is taking steps to [improve] wheelchair accessibility.  Students need to remember that changes can’t be made overnight, but the fact that students are talking about that is good.

Jamie: It’s important to remember that things like that are all things that are being addressed, not ignored.  Those are things that we’re taking steps to prevent.  [Bedbugs are] not just an Allegheny problem; they’ve bought over 500 mattress covers that are bug-sealed; Ali and Kieron [Stoddart, Assistant Director of Student Affairs] are having those initial meetings coming up with the administration to address those concerns as well.  ASG will be putting out a newsletter every month about what’s going on, what each class is addressing, what events are coming up.  Organizations will be highlighted every month.  We’re trying to get the word out about things and the ways we’re addressing issues and bettering the campus.

Q: What are you excited about for the coming year?
Jamie: I have a really positive feeling about this year; the new freshman class seems very enthusiastic, motivated and intelligent.  The cabinet members have a lot of great ideas and I’m just really excited to see ASG leaders grow into the people they can be.  I hope Shane and I do a good job of steering and directing them, and organizing anything that needs to be put together.

Shane: I’m most excited about the newness that there seems to be in ASG; there are only two returns out of 16 in the cabinet and 21 out of the 40 senators are new.  I’m excited to see where that will take us as an organization.  Those students are bringing a different perspective to the campus.

Q: What worries do you have for the coming year?
Shane: I’m worried that organizations won’t be receptive of us reaching out to them.  At the same time I hope they do because it won’t just be good for ASG, but good for Allegheny.

Jamie: ASG meetings are open to everyone, and Shane and I and a bunch of the cabinet members are trying to find a way to make meetings feel more friendly and public.  I’m worried that people won’t feel welcome in meetings. I want people to know that we’re not just the students who dish out money, that they can come to us for things other than finance.  We’re going to be posting an agenda outside the door and also on the ASG Web site before meetings [starting next week].

Q: Along the same lines, what are some changes that ASG is making to be more transparent?
Jamie: Things like doing interviews and newsletters… people are reading statements straight from us. We’re also doing public service announcements with WARC.
Shane: We’ll also be having public meetings in the Campus Center lobby and the Tillotson Room where we can take advantage of the larger space; the Campus Center is good because people can observe what we’re doing.

Jamie: Anyone who comes to the meetings can participate and be in on the discussion.  Even through there’s 40 senators, anyone can come and volunteer and state their opinion.  If you’re interested in seeing something run, you can have your voice heard, which is important for the student body to know.  We want to hear what people have to say, so people need to feel welcome to participate.

Q: What’s ASG’s perspective on the Year of Global Citizenship?
Jamie: I’m excited about the theme because I think it’s a great opportunity for students to apply the theme to themselves.  Organizations can take the programming they already do and gear it towards the theme. From an ASG perspective, the senate will plan their own activities. There are no finite dates on ASG programming as of yet.

Shane: ASG wants to help get groups to embrace the theme the way that it affects them.  If there are events we’re planning that can tie into the theme, we’d like to do that.

The next ASG meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in CC301-302.   All students are welcome to attend.