Editorial: Berry’s exit a call for ASG to rethink goals, change focus

When Student Services Vice President Tiffany Berry announced Aug. 20 she was resigning from the position prior to this school year to pursue other interests, she put a spotlight on two of Associated Student Government’s greatest weaknesses — its inability to do anything important, and its poor process for succession.

Berry ran for the slot as an ASG outsider, having spent her junior year as For Members Only coordinator. She ran on three issues, ones for which real progress seemed possible: bringing outside voices to ASG, improving campus safety and making multicultural advancements. Her leadership at FMO, as well as her focused platform won Berry The Daily’s endorsement and won her the office of SSVP by the widest margin of victory in any of the four ASG races.

That Berry would resign with none of her campaign goals accomplished to work with the underprivileged is a testament to her dedication to helping — as well as a sad commentary on the state of student government at Northwestern. SSVP is arguably the most powerful position in ASG, and its holder quit to do something she deemed more worthwhile.

Berry shares in the blame for this situation as well, as she, like anyone else who has attended NU for more than a year, should have known it is almost impossible for ASG to get anything done, even something frivolous. Take the case of Adam Humann, ASG president for the 2000-01 school year. He ran and won on a platform featuring the introduction of paddle boat rentals for use in the lagoon. After his election, he discovered the university never would allow such a service. This is not an isolated incident, as the tailgating fiasco has proven.

We respect Berry’s noble decision to mentor teenage girls in Chicago but question its timing. Couldn’t she have chosen to do something important with her time before entering the election?

For the moment, Berry retains the position, as she will until Oct. 9, when her successor — a to-be-determined appointee of the ASG executive board — will be confirmed by the Senate. This procedure for finding her replacement also is problematic. Given the advance notice Berry gave ASG, couldn’t a special election have been called to ensure a democratically-elected leader be replaced by the same?

The most informative precedent for this appointment process dates from 1999. Evil Dave Sheldon managed to win the race for ASG president over Manu Bhardwaj in an extremely heated run-off election. Sheldon, a graduating McCormick senior at the time, served for one month before a successor had to be named.

According to the May 24, 1999, Daily, eight applicants were interviewed, including Bhardwaj. Steve Spaulding, a former Willard Residential College senator and Rules Chairman was selected. According to The Daily, “Spaulding scored points during the interview when he walked on a table and modeled the sixth toe on his right foot.” He was confirmed, meeting the necessary two-thirds majority, despite concerns he was ineligible for the position because he was not a current senator or executive board member.

Spaulding was a fine president, but the seemingly unorganized process he was selected by raises serious questions about the appointment process to replace Berry. There remains the chance the appointee could prove ineffective and, worse, prove ineffective without having been elected by a majority of students.

For the future, ASG seriously should re-examine its goals so it can retain people like Berry. Perhaps cable in the dorms could have taken a back seat while more pressing issues such as campus safety and unity were addressed emphatically and effectively.

As the executive board considers applicants for this key position, they should aim high with their selection, choosing substance over style. After all, they aren’t just filling any vacant position in student government leadership (they still need a new treasurer, too). They’re trying to replace Tiffany Berry.