Newly-elected ASW student board members emphasize transparency and student input moving forward

Members of the 2017–2018 ASW student board sit with President Steve Morgan for their first official meeting after elections. Vice President Sabi Lowder (front right) said the organization hopes to work more closely with students in the upcoming year. Photo by Karnell Black.

Members of the 2017–2018 ASW student board sit with President Steve Morgan for their first official meeting after elections. Vice President Sabi Lowder (front right) said the organization hopes to work more closely with students in the upcoming year. Photo by Karnell Black.

Westminster College's student body elected its new ASW officials for the 2017-2018 school year on March 3.

As the newly-elected officials prepare for their upcoming terms, The Forum spoke to ASW President Benjamin Pok, Vice President Sabi Lowder, Events President Cassandra Yerkes, Clubs President Elaine Sheehan and Chief Justice Bex Kemp about their roles across campus and their goals for the next academic year.

Benjamin Pok, president

Q: What does the ASW president do?

A: In addition to helping represent students on an internal level, [the president] also represents Westminster College on the state level by serving on the Utah Student Association, which comprises all student body presidents in the state of Utah. Every year, we push a bill through the state Legislature and we represent ourselves to the governor’s office as well. I also represent Westminster on a federal level to the federal government, especially [to] the White House through their office of civic engagement.

Q: What motivated you to run for ASW president?

A: The one thing that has sort of been the cornerstone of my campaign has been continuity with change. So, I’m going to take the role of a second-year president. The first time I [was elected], I sort of polled the students what their No. 1 frustration with leadership was. They said follow through and holding people accountable. Especially because presidents tend to only have one year in office, it was hard to have real progress or hold people accountable. I said, 'Okay, this is the first time we’ll have a freshman elected president, so maybe I could bring consistent and progressive leadership to student government.'

Q: What specific issues and areas for improvement do you plan to work on or address?

A: One thing that I started to do with last year’s executive cabinet and student board was to come up with a list of goals and priorities for ASW. Before, all the branches sort of did their own thing. They had their own goals, which were never really published or public. One thing I did on the student board was say, ‘If we are to work towards a goal or numerous goals, we need to go in with a concerted effort.' This year, I’m going to go in targeting the issue of Westminster as a safe haven and increasing our diversity efforts, whether that be increasing our financial budget or changing the way we carry out our initiatives. That’s the main goal as I come in as president.

Q: Is there anything you would like students to know about you moving forward?

A: I’m always open to consideration for other projects. A lot of people think that we have our agenda and we just work towards that, and that’s really not the case—especially this year, with President Trump being elected. When he became president, we were sort of caught in the middle of trying to figure out how to respond to things that were unjust [and] how to respond to discriminatory policies. So, we do have our agenda and we work very hard towards it, but we understand that as weeks and months go on there will always be issues that arise.

 

Sabi Lowder, vice president

Q: What does the ASW vice president do?

A: Basically, the ASW vice president is there to support and represent students. It’s sort of like the president, but I’m also there to support the president and take over if they leave. I’m also chief liaison to the alumni board, so that means that I go and I meet with alums. What I’m hoping to do with my platform is to increase community involvement through alumni, connecting students to alums or maybe organizations that alums run to get them more involved in the community.

Q: What motivated you to run for ASW vice president?

A: It was sort of a last-minute decision. I think it was just because I feel really dedicated to Westminster and to doing things for students like representing them and trying to improve conditions for students. I’ve been involved with Title IX and the Feminist Club and through both of those roles I think I’ve gotten a pretty good gauge of what it’s like to be a student at Westminster. I’ve also worked in the Diversity Center, and I think being in those different realms helped me to understand what the campus needs to improve on to better protect students.

Q: What specific issues and areas for improvement do you plan to work on or address?

A: This past year I’ve been focusing on building a program that supports victims of sexual assault through advocacy. My hope is that I can institutionalize that program and make it so it’s not just like the Feminist Club and just a few other kick-ass, dedicated people who are doing it—so that it’s the campus that’s supporting things like this. This was a student initiative, but I’m hoping that the advocacy can become an institutional thing.

Q: Is there anything you would like students to know about you moving forward?

A: ASW as a collective is trying to work on transparency and being more relatable for students. I just want people to know that if they see me they can talk to me, and I hope that they do talk to me if they have any questions about ASW or anything, really. Honestly, I think that’s one thing that’s really cool about student government. I can be not only a liaison to the Alumni Center but also just there to support students and get in contact with anyone on campus. Sometimes people are like, ‘Oh, I have this idea but I don’t know who to start with.' I think ASW can be that starting point.

 

Cassandra Yerkes, ASW.Events president

Q: What does the ASW.Events president do?

A: So the events president is part of a management team for ASW.Events. So, my job is to manage the events team—so making sure paperwork gets done. I’m in charge of the budget, I am a member of the student board and essentially I just make sure that the events team is being as successful as possible in doing the things we want to do.

Q: What motivated you to run for ASW.Events president?

A: I have been on the team for three years now. I started off my freshman year as a special events associate chair. Last year, I was the diversity chair and then associate chair. And then this year I was the special events chair. It was always kind of in my plan to be the president. I had originally wanted to be the director of programming but then realized the presidency position was a little more appropriate for me. I kind of just wanted to do a little more of the administrative side, which is why I chose presidency instead.

Q: What specific issues and areas for improvement do you plan to work on or address?

A: Of course nothing’s set in stone yet, but the director of programming and I have talked a lot about how we just want to relate more to the students and represent more of what our student body wants in events. So we’re going to be reaching out a lot more to the students.

We want to make sure that we have at least one event throughout the year that somebody would really want to go to—something that they would be excited about. Overall, the goal would be to have ASW.Events reflect our student body.

Q: Is there anything you would like students to know about you moving forward?

A: I really want people to find me approachable. I’ll be in the office probably all the time if I’m not in class. I just want people to walk in, say hi and ask me any questions. I’m more than willing to sit down with anyone and explain how to get involved or what we do. I guess I want students to know that I’m pretty transparent. You don’t have to be part of ASW to go into the office.

 

Elaine Sheehan, ASW.Clubs president

Q: What does the ASW.Clubs president do?

A: The clubs president essentially oversees all clubs activities and acts as the representative to clubs on the student board. That includes chairing all the clubs body meetings, which are monthly meetings [that] happen with all the clubs’ leaders. I also chair the clubs board, which is five individuals including the president that make decisions on budget, direction of the clubs overall, service projects, and just making sure that clubs follow the clubs handbook.

Q: What motivated you to run for ASW.Clubs president?

A: I got involved with clubs really early on. Last year, I created my own club and I wanted to get more involved with that process. I essentially just wanted to be there for students who also wanted to create their own clubs, and then also help students to better run clubs because I think it’s a very important organization on campus.

Q: What specific issues and areas for improvement do you plan to work on or address?

A: Major things that I want to work on fixing are relationships within the ASW body as a whole. So ASW.Clubs is a very large organization in itself, but it’s also a subsection of ASW, and I want to connect individual clubs to that larger structure so that we can better use the resources that are provided to us. So better use of funding and resources, like taking advantage of the ASW.Creative team to better advertise what exactly clubs are doing. And that’s something in general that I want to improve as well—clubs visibility on campus. I want everyone on campus to be aware of what’s going on in individual clubs. Our clubs are doing a lot of really cool things lately, and I don’t know if the entire campus is aware. So it’s a really good opportunity to spread awareness of those projects that are creating important change on campus but are often not heard of.

Q: Is there anything you would like students to know about you moving forward?

A: I really want everyone to know that I’m approachable and I would love to talk to everyone. I get most of my good ideas from other people—I’m going to be totally honest—but I think that’s how student government should work. I think that I am a representative and I want to hear their voices more than mine in what I say and what I do.

 

Bex Kemp, chief justice

Q: What does the ASW chief justice do?

A: Basically, I’m the checks and balances. So I go to every Senate meeting, I sit in on the student board and I make sure that everything we’re doing is aligning with the constitution of the school and the guiding documents that we have, like the elections handbook or the judicial code.

Q: What motivated you to run for ASW chief justice?

A: I’ve always been interested in law and policy. I’m a justice studies student, so that just kind of made me want to go into something like that. My friend Costa, who was president two years ago, was the one that told me the chief justice position was open and asked if I was interested in it. I was like, ‘What is that?’ I didn’t even know what it was, so I talked to the chief justice at the time and the more I talked about it and learned, the more I thought it was a unique thing that I didn’t realize was even there.

Q: What specific issues and areas for improvement do you plan to work on or address?

A: For my position, I really want to make sure that people actually know what Judicial Council is, because it’s actually a really interesting piece. It’s something that most people are like ‘Wait, what? We have a Judicial Council?’ Before ASW actually happened, we used to be separate pieces and we didn’t really work together. When I was a freshman that was still what it was. Now, it’s ASW.Clubs, ASW.Events [and] ASW.Judicial. So now we’re actually working together and talking, so we’re actually getting a lot of really cool stuff done.

Q: Is there anything you would like students to know about you moving forward?

A: I’m a chill person. If anyone has any questions, just feel free to email me. I’m on campus like 24/7 even though I live off campus. You can probably find me at the climbing wall, or in the office or I’m helping somebody with a computer somewhere. Those are my three places if I’m not in class. If anyone has an idea for a project, feel free to email me and I’ll help direct you to the right place.