Meet the Candidates: David Harris, Jo Lee look to maximize ASG’s potential to enact lengthy agenda

SESP juniors David Harris and Jo Lee kicked off their campaign for ASG president and executive vice president Monday with a launch party in the McCormick Tribune Center.

Daily file photo by Skylar Zhang

SESP juniors David Harris and Jo Lee kicked off their campaign for ASG president and executive vice president Monday with a launch party in the McCormick Tribune Center.

Joseph Diebold, Web Editor

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David Harris knew he wanted Jo Lee to be his Associated Student Government executive vice president. He just wasn’t sure how to summon the nerve to ask.

“Someone asked me. They were like, ‘Have you proposed yet?’” Harris said. “I was like, ‘Working on it. Building up the nerve.’”

“You know he’ll ask,” Lee remembered thinking after the pair video-chatted late last year.

Harris and Lee, both SESP juniors, eventually made the commitment to run, quickly beginning the process of putting together a platform of pursuing ideas from a diverse group of students, more than 100 of whom have already endorsed their campaign.

“Our platform is primarily made up of ideas that aren’t ours,” Harris said. “They are ideas that were proposed to us, and we don’t think ASG should be an organization that sets an agenda internally, but one that sets it externally.”

They boast the most ambitious platform of the four tickets running, with 61 specific proposals spread out across 10 focus areas — and they say that’s just the beginning.

“We’ve attempted to find two types of goals,” Harris said. “The first are goals that we can achieve in the short term, the low-hanging fruit, the things we can make an immediate impact on, that by the end of our tenure will be nothing but complete, as well as thinking about, ‘What are the things that we care the most about that will drive a long-term cultural shift within Northwestern?’”

Harris identified mental health, sustainability and diversity and inclusion as three areas they will work on pushing for that shift. Harris said balancing their proposals — which range from adding three psychologists to the staff of Counseling and Psychological Services to increasing the Student Activity Fee in order to double the funding available for B-status student groups — is doable if they maximize ASG’s potential.

“We have 150 members and an established organization that can achieve this stuff,” Harris said. “So when you look at our different committees, ASG has more than 60 priorities.”

Lee credited the duo’s background in the School of Education and Social Policy, where both are learning and organizational change majors, with informing their leadership style.

“I think our academic experiences have definitely shaped the way we interact with student organizations, but definitely ASG,” Lee said. “Learning and organizational change is really about how organizations are living, breathing things that can always be better, that can always co-create and engage their membership. As we grew with the curriculum, we grew with the understanding that, yes, ASG maybe doesn’t do what it’s supposed to really well, but we can do something about that.”

Both have served on ASG’s executive board — Harris for two years as services vice president, Lee for a year as treasurer — but Harris emphasized their other student group involvement gave them “authentic student experience.”

“It takes ASG experience to know what works and what doesn’t, but equally or more important is experience outside of ASG,” Harris added.

Lee has the added challenge of balancing the campaign with SESP’s junior year practicum requirement, which she is completing this quarter while interning at Accenture. But she said working a 9-to-5 job can actually be more friendly to her schedule than the hectic life of a student.

When he first arrived in Evanston in September 2010 and joined ASG the next month, Harris said, he found a student organization with a mission that resonated with him but was lacking in follow-through.

“Only one group had a stated mission to do nothing but serve students,” Harris said. “I immediately fell in love with that purpose, but fell out of love with the way things were operating. We’re running because we want to address that gap and make ASG reach its potential.”