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What Happened to ASG?

December 3, 2012

Published here on December 13, 2012. It’s an editorial so it’s unsigned, but the beauty of a portfolio is that here I can admit that I’m the author.

In 2005, the North Carolina Association of Student Governments took 49 delegates on a trip to Washington, D.C. in a lobbying effort to stop budget cuts from the Department of Education. While there, students met with representatives from education advocacy groups and made connections with D.C. officials with whom they would later follow up. Amanda Devore, the ASG president at the time, is quoted as saying to the Daily Tar Heel, “We can’t just sit on all the information we’ve gained.”

Where did this ambitious go-getter attitude disappear to? Want to know what the ASG is up to now? In April 2012, the ASG raised the stipends awarded to its officers. The organization’s Facebook page alerts followers to things like “It’s Election Day!” or the recent United Nations recognition of Palestine. Remind us again what this has to do with extending education “to the people of the State free of expense, as far as practicable?”

ASG’s mission statement claims that its members “champion the concerns of students and ensure affordability and accessibility to quality education today and tomorrow.” Yeah, about
that…

These are rough times for public education. The N.C. Board of Governors is proposing more tuition hikes, and we’re sure you’ve all heard about the new idea for a 10-day drop period. The ASG doesn’t get a vote on the BOG, so it’s essentially a lobbying group. There’s no issue there — lobbying can be extremely effective. But the most relevant thing we’ve seen from the ASG — despite their claim to get their act together in August — is one campus forum held at UNC-Chapel Hill.

A forum is fine. A forum is great. A forum should be taking place far more often than once a semester, especially during a semester such as this one. N.C. State is paying the ASG $35,000 a year to represent student concerns. And just what are they doing with that money?

According to the Daily Tar Heel, the ASG has — in this semester alone — lost $500 due to unused hotel rooms and transferred $2,700 from the special projects fund to cover increased stipends for officers.

To the organization’s defense, Kevin Kimball, the ASG’s chief information officer, is quoted in the Daily Tar Heel as saying, “We’ve been wasting money like this for three months now and really want to stop.” It sounds great — at least there’s some guilt associated with pouring money down the drain. Kimball is probably going to do well in public relations, but don’t you need a little follow-through to earn the trust of the public?

The follow-through is what we are requesting of the ASG, or at the very least, fiscal responsibility. This association is already the officially-recognized liaison between students and the Board of Governors. They are in a prime location politically to make a difference, but they need to start making good on their commitments to us as students.

Technician already covered the talk of leaving the ASG by both N.C. State Student Body President Andy Walsh and representatives from ECU Friday. If the ASG doesn’t start making changes soon, we at Technician will support their decision.

There are plenty of other student advocacy groups ready to go to bat for students. One example is the N.C. Student Power Union. This organization already attends BOG events, the most recent one being the UNC Advisory Committee on Strategic Directions meeting to discuss the upcoming five year strategic plan for UNC System schools. Bryan Perlmutter, a senior in business administration and a member of the Union, spoke with Technician on Friday.

“If the rationale is to leave the ASG, then there still should be some representation on the statewide level,” Perlmutter said. He assured Technician that the Union is capable of taking on this role.

Perlmutter is right. We’re always going to need student representation, but the question comes down to which organization can most effectively deliver just that. At the moment it is not the ASG, but we at Technician would like it to be. So get your act together, ASG, or like the cheesiest of all comedians, we’ll just “make like a tree and leave.”

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