By Isaac Price, Staff Writer
Walking into the Hixson Union Building (HUB) on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 30, students were met with a table of colorful “I voted” stickers, friendly ASWU representatives and a QR code directing them how to vote. By 10 p.m. that night, results had come in for ASWU’s fall elections, filling all nine open spots on the team.
ASWU’s Vice President Christian Aguilar chaired the Student Election Committee this fall and oversaw all elections. While the majority of ASWU positions get filled in spring 2022, Aguilar noted that fall 2022 elections serve to elect ASWU’s representatives and also fill any senator positions that remained open from the spring.
This time around, thirteen candidates campaigned for the nine open spots.
Some positions this fall—Neighborhoods senator, Baldwin-Jenkins senator and incoming student representative—were competitive, while the four off-campus representatives ran unopposed.
The winning candidates for the fall elections were Sierra Witte as Baldwin Jenkins senator, Niraj Pandey as the international student senator and Sidney Lum and Gio Coronado as the incoming student representatives. The four off-campus representatives were Nick Yochum, Grace Stiger, Bobbi Jo Crittenden and Josh Siemens.
This election season ushered in a new, more effective voting system. When students scanned the QR code in-person or visited the ASWU website, a link opened the Honor Follow Serve (HFS) app on their phones or took them to ASWU’s Campus Groups webpage, instead of the special website through Whitworth’s servers that had been used in the past.
“One of the things we were looking for was [voting] being attached to single-sign-on so that it would be attached to your Whitworth login and have that level of verification and authentication,” Aguilar said.
The switch happened over the summer so connecting with each person’s account through HFS made elections much more streamlined.
Fall elections tend to bring in fewer votes than spring; but with the use of a new voting system, campus engagement stayed high.
“For this election specifically, we had 347 people vote. For fall elections, three to four hundred, or anywhere in that range is a good turnout,” Aguilar said.
In terms of candidates, Aguilar explained that many students who initially contacted him with interest to run never submitted an application. Meanwhile, several candidates who did apply didn’t contacted him first. The reason, he thought, might be fall’s early timing.
“It is kind of a quicker turnaround with fall elections, which makes it really hard because we all just get to school and we’re doing all the beginning of the year things. And then third week, I’m trying to advertise as much as possible, and ASWU hasn’t established all its connections yet,” Aguilar said.
“We’re simultaneously making new connections, trying to advertise what we do and get new people to our team.”
Still, Aguilar was excited to see the candidates who did campaign.
“For all of our contested positions, no matter who won, I was super excited to see everyone that was on the ballot. And I hope that candidates that didn’t get the position that they wanted will continue to be leaders on campus in some capacity and maybe even consider running for us again in the future,” Aguilar said.
With a full ASWU team, Aguilar has high hopes for the year. The first is fully integrating the new members. To him, this means more than just training each member in their individual job description.
“With training, I gave an entire overview of every facet of ASWU,” Aguilar said.
“[I told them], this is event programming, this is what executives do on a day-to-day basis, this is what senators will be doing versus what representatives will be doing. This is why it’s different and not helpful to compare; even though senators and representatives are all voting members, how they engage with their constituency looks very different. . . I would intentionally speak to every person in the room about how a certain rule applied to them.”
Aguilar said that this also looks like encouraging meaningful relationship-building among the team early on.
“I’ve been connecting with current members and just encouraging them to reach out and meet one of our new members, and [telling them to] try to make connections with people…” Aguilar said.
To feel even more at home within ASWU, Aguilar emphasized asking questions to any of the executive members.
“I shared during training that as long as I’ve been at Whitworth, I’ve been in ASWU, so sometimes I’m going to have my ASWU glasses on, basically meaning I’m going to see things through my knowledge of how ASWU works and how administration works. For new people, please ask me questions about why we’re doing something and if I don’t have a good answer for you, it probably means we should reevaluate.”
Another hope of Aguilar’s for the year is more intentionality with data collection, which he believes is the most effective way to make a change on campus with the arm of the administration.
“We have our senators and representatives meeting with their constituents and collecting all this information to bring to ASWU assembly. Georgia (ASWU President) and I sit in on all of these university committees, and I want to make sure that we are bringing data to those spaces and representing the student voice accurately,” Aguilar said.
One issue from last year where data may come into play is student safety.
“Malia, the neighborhood representative, brought a lot of important points to our meeting [on Oct. 5] about off-campus students and neighborhood students walking home at night and feeling safe. So I imagine that that’s something that will come up again if we go to the institution and say that we want them to put more funding in those areas,” Aguilar said.
Safety is just one of many areas the full team of ASWU hopes to address this year as they settle in, develop relationships and learn how best to represent the student body. With members of diverse class standings, backgrounds and stories, the ASWU team now has the rest of the year to make their visions a reality and serve a diverse student body who elected them. To learn more about elections or ASWU in general, reach out to Christian Aguilar at firstname.lastname@example.org.