The Coalition of American University Students announced its plan last week to form an organization that would give AU students the opportunity to advocate for themselves to University administration.
CAUS hopes to “change the power relationship” between students and the administration, said group member Ben Johnson, a freshman in the School of Communications. The group cannot do this while working within Student Government, he said.
“Basically a whole bunch of us had been meeting for months discussing how to improve student advocacy on campus,” CAUS member Chris Litchfield, a junior in the School of Public Affairs.
The coalition does not plan to seek support from the administration.
“I don’t think we want support from administration,” SPA junior Mitch Ellmauer said. “Our power will come from our ability to mobilize students and force administration to listen to us.”
CAUS hopes to provide practical solutions to issues that affect daily life at AU such as parking costs and the presence of rodents on campus, Johnson said.
So far, the group has held two student assemblies “open to everybody and based on the idea of direct participation and direct democracy,” said group member Tea Sefer, a junior in the School of International Service.
The student assembly will be the group’s main decision-making body, Ellmauer said.
CAUS has no executive board or president so far, Sefer said.
“We want students to come together and propose their ideas,” she said.
Around 50 people showed up to the first general assembly, and between 30 and 40 showed up to the second one, Ellmauer said. At the meetings, the group discussed their goals, which include:
• Revising clauses in the Student Conduct Code that give the administration and the Department of Public Safety free reign to act against students
• Writing a student bill of rights, which would include amendments protecting freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, neither of which is mentioned in the current Code
• Adding an amendment to the Code regarding due process, which is mentioned in the Code of Conduct, but only in regards to Code violations.
• Making the Office of Financial Aid more responsive to students.
Zachery Moore, a freshman in SOC and member of CAUS, said his rights as a student are limited. He cited Occupy AU’s and Students for Liberty’s issues with the Department of Public Safety when trying to voice their opinions on campus.
Public Safety has threatened Occupy AU with trespassing charges and took down a “Free Speech Wall” that Students for Liberty set up.
“People think we’re antagonistic towards Student Government, which isn’t true,” said group member Nick Papacostas, a junior in SPA.
Ellmauer said CAUS and Student Government could coexist.
“Student Government wants to represent you,” Ellmauer said. “We want you to represent yourself.”