A correction was made to this story Oct 4 at 7:30p.m. MST. A previous version of this story had incorrectly implied that the ASW first-year elections were ongoing. The elections ended Sept 24 and two first-year senators were sworn in Sept 27.
First year elections closed and results were announced Sept. 24. Ashton Smith and Naahmah Barkley were sworn in as first-year senators Sept. 27.
The process of running for the ASW Senate was extended to fill seats following the traditional election cycle for ASW Judicial last Spring, according to ASW Chief Justice Claire Mischel.
“All [interested students] need to do is — if they fit the bill — come to one of our senate meetings and say, ‘hey, I fit this position, I would like to be appointed to this senate seat,’” Mischel said. “It’s just a confirmation by the senate, instead of a full election.”
For first-year elections, ASW Judicial is still trying to fill in the traditional style of a student vote, however student interest is low, according to Mischel.
“I tried doing candidate meetings, there was no interest in anyone attending those,” Mischel said. “So I kind of changed it to an email campaign, social media [and] word-of-mouth.”
Mischel said ASW Judicial has gone to great lengths to reach as many people as possible to recruit anyone interested in joining the senate. Strategies so far have included door hangings in dorms, social media posts, QR codes linking to the election materials and emails, according to Mischel.
First-year theatre arts major Zack R. Nielson said he had some guesses as to why students may be hesitant to get involved in activities in general this semester.
“[COVID-19] proved anything can come at any moment and completely change your world,” Nielson said. “From a mental state, I’ve noticed that a lot of people have been focusing on themselves rather than bigger group things. They want to stay on top of things.”
Mischel, however, said she hopes students spend their time with ASW.
“We’re in a really unique position coming off a pandemic, going back in person, to kind of reimagine what the Westminster experience is and how it can serve our students,” Mischel said. “So, everyone should get involved.”
Some students said they felt concerned after learning about an email sent by ASW inviting students in the Honors College to run for senate positions. The email from firstname.lastname@example.org, sent Sept. 7, read that the email was “largely intended for first-year Honorables” and gave information about the upcoming candidate meetings.
“I think [the email] feels a little unfair to the rest of the student body,” said Anna Watt, a first-year undeclared major. “Maybe there are people who aren’t in the Honors College who would want to run for [ASW Senate].”
Gus Slagle, a junior art major in the Honors College, said resources could be allocated more evenly among first-year students.
“I think [the email is] a huge issue and I think there’s already a discrepancy between the way honors students are treated and the way the rest of the student body is treated,” Slagle said. “I think that in general [Honors College students] are given a lot more opportunities and structure, especially in the introductory process to college.”
Mischel said the intention of ASW Judicial was not to send the email to honors students specifically, rather the [timing of the] email was more of a misunderstanding behind-the-scenes.
Both Mischel and ASW President Brendan Sudberry said ASW reached out to Richard Badenhausen, dean of the Honors College, and Christie Fox, the director of student success and retention.
Mischel and Sudberry said ASW asked Badenhausen and Fox for the best way to reach the learning communities, WCore and Welcome to Thinking, with information about running for the senate.
However, ASW only heard back from Badenhausen, according to Mischel and Sudberry.
Sudberry said despite multiple attempts to reach Fox, ASW has not received a response from Fox and has not been able to reach out to the WCore learning communities directly.
When asked for further clarification about what happened, Fox said she would be happy to talk to ASW officials about the email they sent her.
Sudberry said emails with candidacy information were sent out Sept. 14 to first-year students.
“After attempting to get in contact with Badenhausen and Fox regarding learning communities that they oversee and only hearing back from Badenhausen, ASW felt it was important to ensure that the entire first-year class had outreach via email,” Sudberry said.
“ASW worked with the Dean of Students Office to send out two emails to the first-year class with the same information that Honors students received to encourage students outside of that program to get involved, as that was our intention from the beginning,” Sudberry said.
Slagle said the administration has a responsibility to be responsive to student groups, like ASW, upon learning the organization intended to send emails to all first-year students earlier and has since sent them.
“We need to be holding [the administration] accountable for making sure that all students get resources,” Slagle said. “I’m sure [they] have a lot on their plate, but if they want the student body to be engaged on campus, I think they have a responsibility to make that happen.”
Mischel said she wants the student body to know that the intention of ASW Judicial was not meant to come off as being favorable towards honors students.
“I am going to apologize until the end of time,” Mischel said. “We want anyone on the Westminster campus and who’s a member of this community to feel like they have the option to engage. And we want them to engage.”