Opinion: What is AUSG doing for us?
AUSG must improve its outreach to be easily accessible to all students
As American University Student Government elections pass, it has officially been one of the two times I’ve heard from them this year. Countless candidates posted their platforms during the fall election season and explained why I should vote for them. Two semesters later, I have no idea if any of their policy ideas became reality.
I looked through the AUSG Undergraduate Senate (@ausgsenate) and AUSG (@austudentgov) Instagram in an attempt to uncover AUSG's accomplishments this year. With the limited information @ausgsenate offers, I was able to find that the majority of legislation brought to the table is about internal procedural reform, which only affects those in the Senate and not the public they serve. @austudentgov offers even less information regarding the day-to-day tasks of AUSG. AUSG Twitter (@AUSG) was updated for the first time since July 2020 on April 11, 2021, to congratulate the new Executive Board. AUSG Senate Twitter (@AUSGSenate) has not been updated since November 2019.
While several individual senators post about their day-to-day work, I personally don’t want to follow and investigate multiple accounts to figure out what they do. Instead, AUSG should use a centralized place, such as their Instagram and Twitter, to post relevant and easily digestible information about the work they’re doing for the student body.
Facebook is where AUSG Senate (@AUSGSENATE) primarily updates students. Each Senate meeting is recorded and uploaded. Unfortunately, summaries of these hours-long meetings are not posted. Additionally, not all meetings, such as committee meetings, are posted or have public notes.
The AUSG website is the final place I went to for information. In the executive branch section, I tried clicking on ‘Official Statements’ and ‘Executive Orders’ but was denied access to both Google Documents. None of the results archive links worked on the ‘Elections’ page either. In the Senate section, I found the agendas and minutes of each meeting as well as a legislation tracker. There, I learned of each piece of legislation introduced in the Senate.
The legislation tracker lists a variety of resolutions I have never heard about, including non-binding resolutions to prohibit professors from disabling the chat feature in online classes, add sharps containers in all public AU restrooms and mandate pronouns for all faculty/staff. These resolutions do not create any immediate change. The University is the only entity with the power to enforce any of these policies. The student body is unaware of the legislation passed due to minimal outreach from AUSG and is therefore unable to show support or assist with the change-making process.
There is a blatant lack of transparency between AUSG and the student body. This is particularly disappointing considering the large number of candidates who ran on a platform of transparency. With the large budget AUSG receives from our student activity fee, there is no excuse for their almost nonexistent communications.
Going forward, AUSG needs to begin using its centralized social media more often, especially the executive branch. While AUSG Senate’s Facebook has recorded meetings, their Twitter and Instagram are missing any information regarding what they’ve accomplished. AUSG Senate should be posting meeting summaries along with the recorded meetings as they are too lengthy for the average person to watch each week. The executive branch has virtually no information on its day-to-day activities leaving me confused about its general purpose. AUSG can rectify this by simply posting their minutes and allowing that information to be public.
If President Sylvia Burwell is able to condense her work into both a schoolwide email and a public website, surely AUSG can too. Especially with University services being virtual, AUSG has failed to make its services accessible to students. As students struggle to connect to campus remotely, AUSG needs to involve students in their work through better outreach. AU students are interested in and want to hear from the government that represents them, but AUSG must give them the ability to do so.
Alexis Bernstein is a freshman in the School of Public Affairs and a staff columnist for The Eagle.