On January 28, the class of 2021 elected Nebraska Grayson, Sho Hihara, and Audrey Warters to be their Associated Students Of Minerva (ASM) representatives for the 2019 term. Both Hihara and Warters served on the ASM the previous year. The representatives met with the student experience team on January 31 to discuss ASM procedures and community-wide issues.
A major conversational theme during the election regarded the need to increase open communication between the ASM, Minerva administration, and students. Each of the elected representatives explicitly addressed these issues in their platforms, as did most of the unelected candidates.
“I’m glad that someone who was not in ASM last year was elected so that we can get out of the normal muck and process.”— Nebraska Grayson, Class of 2021 ASM Representative
Grayson identified transparency as one of her core values and also mentioned improving ASM Office Hours, UserVoice, and other formal channels of communication. She’d engaged with ASM as a student over the past year, such as by attending open meetings and reading through the charter, and she’s excited to bring this perspective to her work as a representative and learn the organization’s internal workings.
“I do, however, hope to be a voice of resistance to some extent,” Grayson told the Quest. “Not that I’m just going to be a contrarian, but I’m glad that someone who was not in ASM last year was elected so that we can get out of the normal muck and process.”
Her overall views on serving the community were more holistic: she emphasized wanting to improve conversations within the student body itself, find ways to align official ASM and administration work with grassroots initiatives, and build better relationships between Minerva cohorts and the cities where they study.
“I want people to realize how important it is that we be more conscious of our attitudes,” Grayson said. “Maybe it’s wiping down the table after you use it, or being kinder to some of the service people we have here, or making sure that you talk to people if you see someone’s upset. We do need to take care of ourselves, but I think we also need to remember that we’re all in this together. We need to take a step back sometimes and recognize that even the smallest actions can really say so much about how we feel about our community.”
“This year, the ASM is coming to an important phase where all four classes are represented. This is a great opportunity to continue advancing our role to be more institutionalized and legitimate.”— Sho Hihara, Class of 2021 ASM Representative
In his platform, Hihara explained that he wanted to make it easier for students to access correct information sources, so everyone can quickly find answers, learn about new policies, and ultimately make more informed decisions. He also discussed finding an alternative student feedback system to replace UserVoice, the now-defunct platform for submitting suggested improvements to all aspects of the Minerva experience.
Hihara also plans to focus on making the ASM more legitimate within Minerva. During the pre-election “Meet the Candidates” session, he billed himself as the “bureaucratic contrarian” needed to get the job done.
“Last year, ASM made a lot of progress in terms of being considered a more or less legitimate body of student representation by the staff team, which helped us reflect student voices effectively,” Hihara told the Quest. “This year, the ASM is coming to an important phase where all four classes are represented. This is a great opportunity to continue advancing our role to be more institutionalized and legitimate, as well as revisiting the works/roles of ASM and building a solid foundation that the coming years can build on.”
“We’re looking to make the ASM a bigger part of the Minerva community by streamlining communications and interacting with more people on the ground, in real time.”— Audrey Warters, Class of 2021 ASM Representative
Warters recalled the largely unsuccessful attempts at sharing information her and Hihara helped implement as ASM representatives last year, such as hosting “Office Hours” where students could raise issues.
“We’re looking to make the ASM a bigger part of the Minerva community by streamlining communications and interacting with more people on the ground, in real time,” Warters told the Quest. “What this looks like to me involves making our website more accessible, holding weekly office hours, and making ‘town halls’ more prevalent to discuss class and university-wide issues.”
Warters also emphasized that finding “student-centric” solutions to the problems ASM tackles requires discussing the diverse backgrounds of Minerva students and the variety of needs they create, such as frustrations with financial aid, and “simply being present with the people in our class.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you for trusting in me to represent you, your voice, and your thoughts on what it means to be here in Minerva,” Warters said. “I am always a message, call, email, or door knock away, and happy to talk with you about anything big or small, even if it doesn’t feel like a ‘major’ concern.”
“It’s the ASM’s responsibility to be more transparent about what goes on, but it’s also on the community to engage in those discussions.”
— Nebraska Grayson, Class of 2021 ASM Representative
Ultimately, as Grayson said, “there can be efforts on all parts to [improve clarity in communication]. It’s the ASM’s responsibility to be more transparent about what goes on, but it’s also on the community to engage in those discussions.”
If the election turnout rate is any indicator, about 62 percent of the class of 2021 understands this and are at least nominally willing to engage with ASM. But no more than 30 students attended the Meet the Candidates session (considering the panel took place at 9 am on a Friday, however, this figure is perhaps optimistic).
“Please read our newsletters and announcements,” Hihara said. “We have always put our utmost effort into being as transparent as possible and continuing to work at it, but as is the nature of ASM, there must be active engagement/interest from the students to utilize our existence as much as possible. Please know that at the end of the day, we exist to make your voice heard.”