Letter to the Editor, ASUAF: Seeking to Preserve Your Trust

Dear members of the student body,

When we took the ASUAF Oath of Office to become senators, we pledged to serve you, the members of the Association, to the best of our ability. We promised to preserve the trust you have placed in us. After some recent incidents within ASUAF, it has become apparent that we, your student leaders, have failed to live up to that oath—that promise.

As the ASUAF Senate Chair, it hurts me to admit this failure. There are senators within the Association who truly work to represent everybody, but here it is: we have failed to serve the student body as a whole, and we have broken trust. ASUAF senators value debate and discussion, but oftentimes a carelessly worded comment will be spoken, or a sincere concern will be thoughtlessly dismissed. In doing so, an individual will be hurt. As student leaders this is not acceptable. We are called to aim higher.

Intolerance is the unwillingness to accept others’ differences and beliefs, but when it comes to ignorance and toxic behaviors that isolate any member of our student body or those who work in student government, ASUAF must be more intolerant. We need intolerance for comments made without a thought of their effect on others’ lives. We need intolerance for cliques and groups that place convenient relationships over an individual’s qualifications when making decisions that affect you, our constituents. While not every senator makes thoughtless comments or displays ignorance, many times we become bystanders and refuse to intervene in those damaging moments. We have become content to be the ones not making those comments, because we have felt positioned outside of those damaging moments.

We know now that we are not innocent outsiders; we are complicit. Often, we have felt that because we didn’t have a necessarily bad relationship with other senators, that was good enough. We didn’t take the time to go out of our way to build great, meaningful, productive relationships with those who felt marginalized in the student government. We didn’t go out of our way to understand how other senators communicated when they didn’t share our communication style. We failed them, and in doing so, we failed you all.

As your Student Government, we must do better. We will do better. Thanks to the initiative of previous Senator Palmer and the contributions of other Senators and Executives, the first step we have taken was to enact a professional development training requirement for all ASUAF government officials. We will continue to improve by listening to your input as well. I encourage you to bring your concerns to us at our weekly Senate meetings or through email (asuaf.office@alaska.edu). I will work harder to address those issues through discussions with the Senate and by taking a more active role in maintaining respectful office environment.

Sincerely,

Samuel Mitchell, ASUAF Senate Chair

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