The following is a Letter to the Editor submitted to North by Northwestern and does not reflect the views of its editorial board.
This time last year, I did something that not many people do the Spring Quarter of their junior year: I joined Associated Student Government.
By the time most students reach that point in their college career, ASG doesn’t look particularly appealing. For some, it’s simply that preliminary thesis work, summer internship applications, hanging out with friends or other normal activities are more exciting. Others have interacted with ASG before, in some capacity, and left with a bad taste in their mouths, frustrated at the inefficiency, self-importance and all-around dysfunctionality that they encountered there.
I was in that second group. As an activist working on sexual violence-related issues on campus, I was frustrated at ASG’s reluctance to reach out to students outside of their institution for help with their sexual violence advocacy. In my eyes and in those of others in College Feminists, SHAPE, MARS and Title IX at Northwestern, that programming suffered visibly as a result.
But we didn’t think it was an option to simply wash our hands clean and leave ASG to its own devices. ASG had too much money, too many connections across campus and too much access to administrative decision-makers for us to be able to neglect it as a channel for wide-reaching constructive change. So, we applied for a Senate seat, and I became our senator. And a year later, after a revamped It’s On Us Week produced a list of concrete recommendations that have been invaluable in negotiating with administrators for impactful policy change, I don’t regret a thing.
I didn’t want to settle a year ago, when I felt deeply dissatisfied with ASG’s handling of the issues that mattered the most to me, and I don’t want to settle now. That’s why I’m supporting Christina and Macs for ASG president and executive vice president. They are the only candidates who fully understand the position of profound irrelevance that ASG currently occupies in the lives and attitudes of most students at Northwestern, as well as the systemic and cultural changes that are necessary to rectify that situation.
When Christina and Macs see institutions that are not serving the people that they’re supposed to, they don’t throw up their hands in frustration and walk away. Whether they’re challenging the investment of our tuition money in corporations that abuse human beings and the environment, structural racism at Northwestern and in Chicago, or an Associated Student Government that fails to work for the students who need organized advocacy on their behalf the most, they rise to the occasion. They put their foot down. They don’t settle, and neither should you.
Erik Baker, outgoing ASG senator for College Feminists, SHAPE, MARS, and Title IX at Northwestern