Better understanding the ASSU

By in Opinions

While it serves the single largest college on campus, the Arts and Science Students’ Union could easily appear to operate in its own bubble. I spoke with the ASSU to get a better idea of what they do, what they’ll be doing this year and what they wish more students knew about them.

Located in Arts 218 — at the top of the ramp in the Arts Building — the ASSU office is likely a familiar sight for arts and science students, even if they don’t know what exactly it is. As president Olya Stepanenko explained, the ASSU’s primary purpose is to serve the students.

“We’re essentially here to represent students and give them the best experience they can have,” Stepanenko said. “We have an external committee that’s in charge of all our events. We have a marketing committee and they give away little prizes or sundaes or hot chocolate. We have an internal committee. They’re in charge of student funding. About two-thirds of our entire budget is internal and we fund a lot of different campus groups in arts and science.”

ASSU - Jeremy Britz
Olya Stepanenko (left) and Raquel Alvarado (right).

In further detail, vice president of academic affairs Raquel Alvarado, explains her role on the ASSU and the benefits the group poses for students.

“I attend academic misconduct meetings, I represent the union and I make sure that students are being treated properly in those situations,” Alvarado said. “Also we have a scholarship through the college that was about $2000, and now because we’ve opened it up to alumni donations, it will increasing by a few hundred dollars at least.”

Speaking from experience, the ASSU has always seemed to me like more of an exclusive club than an all-inclusive organization. However, this seems to be a reputation they recognize and are actively working to challenge.

“I didn’t even know the ASSU existed when I first started school, which I think is something a lot of students have an issue with,” Stepanenko said.

When it comes to combating this lack of visibility on campus, Alvarado speaks to the importance of engaging students who aren’t already involved in the ASSU — especially first-year students.

“Our first-year committee is part of the external committee that plans events, but they’re also part of a group of people that are bringing in new students and telling them about the ASSU, but also planning events that don’t necessarily have to do with drinking or partying — events that have to do with meeting new people and getting away from studying for a bit,” Alvarado said.

When asked about her goals for the year, Stepanenko seemed to have a single overarching objective.

“My biggest goal is accessibility and transparency,” Stepanenko said. “We’re hosting elections from Sept. 12-16 because we have a vacant executive position, [vice president of external affairs,] and I want every student to be aware of it.”

Voting is accessible to all arts and science students via the voting channel on Paws. In addition to voting in the election, arts and science students who are looking to get more familiar with or more involved in the ASSU have a few opportunities in the early term, including the yearly Pizza With the Dean event.

“You’ll get to meet Peta Bonham-Smith, who is the dean of arts and science, and the associate dean of students, Laurin Elias,” Stepanenko said. “We offer free pizza and it’ll be at 3:30 in Neatby-Timlin, [Arts 241]. All students are welcome to come and ask questions and see how everything works. Afterwards is our first council meeting.”

Likewise, students are invited to stop in to Arts 218 at any time to get to know the ASSU and become more involved.

“You’ll meet so many people who are interested in the same things and other people who will become your best friends,” Alvarado said. “I hope that new students will get that sense too and stop in.”

Zach Tennent / Opinions Editor

Photo: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor