NBN sits down with the incoming ASG President Julia Watson and incoming Executive Vice President Erik Zorn.
Why did you run?
Julia Watson: He was the outgoing RCB president, and I am currently the ASG PR Vice President. We’ve kind of been working with different communities over the past year … We were excited at the opportunity to kind of meet with all sorts of different people, just because Erik’s been working at building a community within residential life, I’ve been working more like how can we have undergraduates communicate better with administrators. So we’ve both had very much similar goals but just in different areas.
Erik Zorn: I think one of the other things for both of us is that, as Julia mentioned, I’ve spent a lot of time within the residential college community, and there it’s focused on creating small communities that are each all very unique and have their own specialty to them, and for me it’s important to create those communities across campus. And so, I believe Julia and I can do that really well on an ASG level for the entire Northwestern campus, because our leadership style is more about leading and working in a collaborative manner with other student organizations. It would be impossible for the two of us to be members of every single student group on campus, so it’s important for us to have that type of style of leadership that’s soliciting and collaborative.
Which issues are most important to you?
J: We didn’t really want to box people’s experiences just into like mental health or just into diversity inclusion, because diversity inclusion, mental health, socioeconomic status – that spans several areas of campus. That’s affecting your day-to-day student life, off-campus living, academics, stuff like that. So I would say that accessibility and accountability – the bullet points we have underneath our action items – really mean a lot to me … That’s something that we really want to continue, not only just making ASG more accessible, but just Northwestern more accessible. I think that conversations that we’ve been having about socioeconomic status through money matters week has been great … I just really think Northwestern can be doing more regarding socioeconomic issues … I want everybody to feel like they belong here and have a community here.
E: I think for me if I had to isolate two values that are really important for our platform, I would also say accessibility but also collaboration … The fact that most programming on campus is completely student-run compared to other universities where it’s overseen by faculty is truly outstanding, and so I think we really want to change the attitude toward ASG so that it’s not like ASG’s just seen as the source of money, but can really be seen as a place where you can have resources, real support for you, not simply just overarching kind of lording over everything, but really working with people … The relevant voices aren’t being heard by administration, they instead just kind of use ASG as the token student voice … We really want to make sure that students that are passionate about what they do feel like they’re truly included on the matters that are happening at our campus.
Are there any groups you hope to better represent?
J: We’ve been meeting with groups since December, just because everybody’s experience is really valuable. And actually that’s why when we met with students, we didn’t just ask them about one thing. In years past, when you met with A&O, all you did was talk about the A&O experience … Instead, when we met with everybody, we wanted to hear their experience both within the student organization and in the greater Northwestern community – how are their academics going, other extracurriculars they’re involved in, do they have a job, stuff like that.
E: Our platform really stresses the idea that these experiences can be anyone’s. If you’re in a Greek organization, you aren’t just labeled as Greek, and that’s not the only thing that we’re going to talk to you about. We think it’s important to really understand your entire experience at Northwestern.
Where do you hope to see Northwestern when you graduate?
J: I really would like to see a university that is more proactive than reactive, just because I think in years past – especially the different diversity inclusion problems we had when I was a freshman, some of the stuff for Title IX this past year – it really takes the administration actually a lot to actually respond to things. They need to see a crisis before they’ll respond, so until students are really kind of protesting and there’s buzz about it, students are really showing support for something, then they kind of look at the ‘where did we go wrong?’ And I personally would like to see more increased participation, and ASG as more of an advocacy group, and see some of these processes become more proactive versus reactive, just because that’s the key in everything to making sure that things go well. Honestly I feel like the administration could have met with all these people like we did throughout the campaigning and ASG process. It really helps to hear somebody’s whole experience here just because you can start to identify the areas where we can improve. We don’t have to get to that crisis point in order to see some changes done here.
E: I think one of the other things related to that is how do we improve that connection between students and administrators, because I think a lot of the issues such as the lack of respect, the fact that administration doesn’t really hear our issues until it becomes a major crisis comes from the fact that there’s this wall in between us that, so we don’t know what the administration’s doing and it’s difficult to reach out to them … So I kind of see us moving forward as making a better connection for any student to be able to reach out to administrators, creating that space where people can actually critique the university and administration so that we don’t have to build up all these issues until this colossal disaster happens … I think just our general goals is to create more of a sense of caring, not just among students but among the entire Northwestern community, which means faculty and administrators.
Is there anything you would like to change about the way ASG is structured or run?
J: I would say how we recruit senators.
E: I think a lot of people mentioned part of the reason why they feel like ASG is a bit different is because they don’t realize what their senator could be doing for them. So and I think a lot of that actually comes from the fact that we don’t really currently have a great senator training program.
J: A lot of the time what’ll happen is people get the hang of it one quarter in, but that’s already been one quarter … We really want people to feel like coming in they’ve been trained, they know what to do, they know what resources are available, what services are available for them.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.