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Letter to the Editor: What representation in Associated Student Government should mean

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This Wednesday evening, at 6 p.m., Associated Student Government is hosting a forum for students to voice their opinions about our recent proposal to overhaul the way that seats are apportioned in ASG Senate.

The allocation of Senate seats exerts an enormous influence on how Senate functions. Senate has the final say on ASG’s budget, student group funding requests and executive board members. If you belong to any student group that gets ASG money or have a stake in ASG’s advocacy about issues like mental health services on campus, Senate plays a role in your Northwestern experience.

Our reform is motivated by two convictions.

First, we want to increase representation of student groups. Under the current system, Senate is not able to grant Senate seats to every student group that applies, and student groups sometimes have to form uncomfortable coalitions to gain a voice in Senate. We think this situation does Senate a great disservice. First, student group seats have huge representative value. For many students, the groups that they’re a part of are far more central to their NU identity than where they live or what school they’re in.

Furthermore, many student groups focus on goals that ASG shares: supporting student mental health, combating racism on campus and making NU more sustainable. Therefore, it is crucial for ASG to interface more effectively with those groups. Adding more Senate seats for student groups will help ASG support their work instead of attempting to replicate it.

Second, we want to address ASG’s past failures to engage with and represent students who are typically left out of NU’s student governance. We envision an ASG that amplifies the voices of traditionally marginalized students, rather than reflexively re-entrenching existing social hierarchies. In the Daily article initially reporting on our proposal, some senators criticized us for not using numbers based on constituent populations to represent students. This methodology does not make sense. The populations represented by Senate’s caucuses are not disjoint: many students, for example, are in Greek life, live off-campus and are members of a student group. Attempting to allocate seats using quantitative measures is ineffective.

Furthermore, completely proportional representation, by definition, limits the ability of any institution to safeguard the interests of its minority constituents. A 51-seat Senate that “proportionally” reflected the demographics of NU’s undergraduate student body would have three black senators — which throws into sharp relief the importance of conscientiously taking steps to ensure that NU’s most vulnerable communities have a loud voice in ASG.

Our proposal has come out of conversations over the past several months with current and former students in and outside of ASG, and we’re happy with it. Agree or disagree, love it or hate it, we hope that you’ll join us on Wednesday to speak your mind and help us make Senate the best institution it can be.

Sincerely,

Erik Baker, ASG Senator for SHAPE, MARS, College Feminists and Title IX at NU

Kevin Luong, ASG Senator for the Asian Pacific American Coalition, Taiwanese American Student Club, Korean American Student Association and Chinese Student Association

Noah Star, ASG  President

Christina Kim, ASG executive vice president

Simran Chadha, chief of staff

Riko Ohashi, academics vice president

Lawrence “Macs” Vinson, student activities vice president

Jourdan Dorrell, accessibility and inclusion vice president

Wendy Roldan, student life vice president

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