What will ASPLU be remembered for?

Originally published in The Mooring Mast May 2, 2014

As I count down the days until graduation, I’ve begun spending some serious time reflecting on Pacific Lutheran University.  I think of how much has changed since I came here four years ago, like the residents in my wing who switch out every year, the rules regarding alcohol and tobacco on campus — even the university’s president is different.

One organization particularly affected by the waves of incoming first-years and outgoing seniors is Associated Students of PLU. In my time at this university, no two ASPLU Senates have been alike. Their presidents ran on different platforms, the senators pushed different agendas and the directors brought us new events.

The 2010-11 ASPLU famously banned the university from selling bottled water in an effort to reduce plastic use and brought the now-superstar Macklemore to LollaPLUza right before he got big. In the same year, the debate around gender-neutral housing began. Although the issue was steeped in controversy and the process was slow, gender-neutral housing became a reality at PLU for the first time in the 2013-14 school year. The 2011-12 ASPLU passed a resolution supporting the university-wide smoking ban, a measure that drew controversy and sparked dialogue and was ultimately mandated by the university administration.

Also that year, then-venues director Emily Bishop brought PLU an unprecedented number of concerts, including the rising star Allen Stone. Stone would go on to play at Seattle’s Capitol Hill Block Party the following summer. Ian Metz, 2012-13 ASPLU president, brought us the controversial Community Dialogue Day. ASPLU also brought back the homecoming concert that year with singer-songwriter Eric Hutchinson.

Blood pressure ran high during the 2013 ASPLU presidential election because of one candidate’s perceived opposition to gender-neutral housing.  The student government organization finished the year strong by passing a resolution to support contingent faculty members’ right to vote on unionization.

Which leads me to wonder — what will this year’s ASPLU be remembered for? Certainly ASPLU President Aaron Steelquist has had some big shoes to fill.  Well, ASPLU brought us the homecoming dance, an event that happens every year. The venue — The Mansion on Broadway in downtown Tacoma — had a beautiful view overlooking the Port of Tacoma and lots of rooms and hallways to explore outside the main dance floor, so no complaints there.

Best of all, a full bar downstairs allowed of-age students to indulge in a liquid pleasure typically banned from campus. Then it brought us the Harry and the Potters concert — or at least tried to, anyway. One of the band members had a family emergency, and the band had to cancel at the last minute. The band never returned to play at PLU, and no back-up concert took its place.

I wrack my brains, but I’m all out of ideas as to what ASPLU has accomplished this year. Senator-at-large Andrew Larsen tells me the organization has sponsored many activities this year, including laser tag with Late Night Programming, 24/7 library hours during dead week, some Alternative Spring Break trips and the Parkland  Community Mural.

While I won’t dispute these events took hard work and planning on behalf of our student government, they do pale in comparison to ASPLU’s accomplishments in years past, and the fact that I had to ask a senator to find out about them tells you something about ASPLU’s on-campus presence this year.

Perhaps the epitome of ASPLU’s incompetency this year was the debacle with the spring formal. As the weather warmed up this spring, Lutes began turning their thoughts to the annual spring dance, but ASPLU said nothing about it. Worried students resorted to anonymous posts on PLU’s confessions Facebook page — P.L.U Confess — to find out information about it.

Two weeks before the scheduled dance, there was still no sign of it from official channels. ASPLU hadn’t put up any posters or made any official announcements — it handled everything through its Facebook page. It announced PLU would host the dance on campus, in a tent, with no alcohol — and still cost money.

As a graduating senior, I was angry to say the least. I’m not a person who puts much stock in things like prom or homecoming, but I was still hoping to enjoy the last dance of my senior year. I’d had a great time at last year’s spring formal, held in downtown Seattle at the Experience Music Project, and I was looking forward to something  equally as fun this year.

So when I heard the news that ASPLU had cancelled the dance — again, via Facebook — I was disappointed, but slightly relieved. I’d prefer no dance at all to a low-grade one on the lower-Anderson University Center plaza. We’re not in middle school any more — we don’t need to hold school dances in our school gym.

Besides, it’s not like ASPLU can’t afford it. Former ASPLU presidential candidate Thomas Kim centered his platform on utilizing all of ASPLU’s $176,000 budget last spring. This dance’s failure was the result of a pure lack of planning. Senior Kameron Jacobs, who is on the committee for LollaPLUza, wrote on Facebook that ASPLU canceled the spring formal, because “there was just too much going on, especially with LollaPLUza taking a front seat in the focus of programs.”

Well, I’ve got news for you, ASPLU. LollaPLUza better be especially good this year if you’re using it to justify cancelling the spring formal and to make up for your lack of programming. As a new group of ASPLU senators and directors settle into office for the 2014-15 year, I challenge them to do better than their predecessors. The students who elected you will thank you.


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