From Senate to administration: How ASG executive office advocates for legislation


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

The ASG executive office meets with University administration about possible implementation of legislation they pass.

Emma Rosenbaum, Assistant Campus Editor

Ever since her freshman year as a senator, Weinberg senior Margot Bartol said she has been wondering if Northwestern’s administration cares about the legislation Associated Student Government passes. 

While ASG passes several pieces of legislation every quarter, the administration often does not implement these policies. However, Bartol still said legislation is important.

“I’ve actually realized it’s given a lot of weight and that they do genuinely believe ASG is the voice of students,” Bartol said.

Once the Senate passes legislation, the ASG executive office meets with the appropriate administration about taking action. They have regular meetings with Vice President for Student Affairs Julie Payne-Kirchmeier and Provost Kathleen Hagerty and typically meet with the administrator whose job best fits the legislation. 

In addition to Bartol, ASG’s executive office includes President Christian Wade, Vice President Adaeze Ogbonna, Executive Officer of Justice and Inclusion Karina Karbo-Wright and Chief of Staff Donovan Cusick. 

“They’re extremely honest and receptive,” Cusick said. “They want to hear what we have to say and they want to work with students. At the end of the day, they want to make the University a better place for students.” 

Since the start of Winter Quarter, the Senate approved legislation calling for the reinstatement of the Credit/No Credit grading policy as well as mandatory virtual class alternatives and weekly testing. 

The executive office met with Hagerty about the Credit/No Credit policy, who ultimately rejected it. The administration implemented the policy last year because students were navigating different learning environments, many not on campus, according to Bartol. With most students on campus this year, Bartol said the administration doesn’t see Credit/No Credit as an appropriate response.

The Provost’s Office also told the executive office it cannot require faculty to provide virtual options, which Bartol attributed to the administration wanting to give faculty flexibility on running their classes. Bartol said the administration is only strongly encouraging professors to do so.

The administration not having the power to enforce change is only one roadblock to passing legislation, Bartol said. She said bringing legislation to life can be much more complex than it initially seems. 

For example, when one member of the executive board brought up eliminating the mandatory unlimited meal plan for freshmen, they discovered the change needed to be approved by the Board of Trustees.

“I now retroactively look back on stuff and I think, ‘Wow, that would be really freaking hard to do,’” Bartol said. “Does that mean that it’s not worth it? No. But I do think we as students don’t always have a lens into that.”

Bartol added most of ASG’s successful legislation starts with committee work, goes through the Senate and then through the executive board. She said the expansion of gender-open housing is an example of the executive office working with administration to make legislation happen. 

Rainbow Alliance’s external president Jo Scaletty is working with administration on legislation passed last February to relocate the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center from the third floor of Norris University Center to a house on Sheridan Road. 

Scaletty authored the legislation when they were the Rainbow Alliance senator. Now the Quest+ senator, Scaletty said they and the current Rainbow Alliance senator will meet with Payne-Kirchmeier, the director of Campus Inclusion and Community, and the director of Multicultural Student Affairs in March to discuss a temporary location for the GSRC. 

Once the Donald P. Jacobs Center is renovated, offices occupying houses on Sheridan Road will be moved there, making room for the GSRC. Scaletty said Rainbow wants to ensure formal queer spaces are more prominent on campus. However, they said they’re not sure if the project will be done any time soon. 

“This honestly seems to be a project that Rainbow is working on and fighting for for future Northwestern students,” Scaletty said.

While the administration is unable to implement all legislation, Bartol said it still serves as a reflection of what students want to see from the University. 

She added this is the reason it’s important that senators are effectively communicating with constituents and getting feedback.

“(Legislation) isn’t always most effective when it comes to really creating action,” Bartol said. “And part of the work that happens there is just figuring out how to logistically make things possible … But I think the Senate acts as a powerful tool of cohesion in that way because it’s treated as the voice of the student body.”

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Twitter: @EmmaCRosenbaum

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