AS Review: What motivates you to seek out this position?
Matt Jarrell: I’ve always had a huge passion for Western and the students who go here and I ran last year for Activities, and I won, and I’ve gotten to really see how to represent the students, and I think that was my goal in running last year, and working with all the clubs and programs on campus has been a blast, but I want to take all of the experience that I got from this year and apply it. I think next year’s going to be a big challenge and I want to make sure that student voices are out there and students are being represented in this huge time of economic problems. Like, with the tuition rise 14 percent next year, fees could potentially go up, and I just want to make sure that Western’s still affordable. I want to make sure that the quality of Western is still maintained because I don’t want things to be cut so that Western isn’t the great university that it is now. So, I want to represent student voices and ensure that the quality of Western is here to stay.
ASR: What groups of students might easily be overlooked by the AS Board, and what will you do to ensure that you represent them in your work?
Jarrell: I think that any student with an opinion can be overlooked. It’s our job as representing students to go to them. I think that when we’re working for the students we shouldn’t expect for them to come to us when they have a problem. We need to be seeking them out. We need to be doing the work, finding out how we can help them, which is why if elected, I want to have listening sessions with students, similar to what Bruce Shepard did when he first got here so that when I’m in trustees meetings or when I’m looking at fees I can sit down and refer to these notes about what students actually value and actually represent them, I think that that’s something that hasn’t happened as much as it should be in the past. So, any student, especially transfer students, students who really don’t feel like they have a stake here on campus any minority student, whether that be race, LGBT, socio-economic, first-generation, any student who is unique and not the “norm.” I just want to make sure that everyone has their voice, and me going out there, doing all these listening sessions, hopefully I’ll be able to talk to people and talk to everyone on the spectrum to get a good representation of what students want out of their leader.
ASR: Since you came to Western, what has been the most important issue facing students that went unaddressed or was dealt with poorly? What issue would you say has been addressed most positively?
Jarrell: When I was elected on the Board, you start in the summer, and one of the first things that the board kind of OK’d last summer was Chick-fil-A, and I personally wish that there was more time taken by the board to sit down and listen to students’ concerns. I think that was a prime example, that students had concerns about things but the board didn’t sit down and talk to them and figure it out, and that’s what they’re there for. They’re there to represent student voices and to hear some of the concerns, and the fact that they just went ahead with it still, I think, is something that they’re learning from, and no one’s perfect, and it was earlier in the year, but I think that that was probably one of the things that I would change, because if you’ve got this huge group of students on campus that are concerned and have red flags going up, I think that it’s our job to sit down and talk to them and hear them out and actually take the time, do the research and make sure that everyone is happy. Just, come to some sort of compromise, you know, so that everyone’s happy in the end. Positive-wise, this year we caught a huge error in the Student Tech Fee, the university not holding up their end of the bargain and paying, and I think that the board handled that very well. We did our research, we took the time to really find out where the bumps in the road were, and coming up with a really positive solution and presenting that to the board of trustees because we wanted to make sure that students were getting what they paid for, because sometimes you have to fight for the students, and I think that was a time when we actually fought for the students. I’m really proud to say that I was part of that.
ASR: What are your three biggest goals for the next year?
Jarrell: My three biggest goals. I guess I kind of touched on one. One is having the listening sessions with as many students as I can. I think being president is kind of scary because you’re that one person, you’re representing 13,000 people on campus and I want to be able to talk to as many students as I can so that I’m actually representing them. I don’t want to make a decision on a whim and have that be what every student thinks. Like, I want [to] sit down, I want to ask questions, I want to be able to tell the students what I’m up to and if that means taking time out to go to club meetings or to have Arntzen 100 programs where it’s just me fielding questions, that’s what I want to do, because I feel like that’s what a good president does. They’re out there with the students and that’s what I want to do. My second goal is to really just keep Western affordable and to keep the quality here. I don’t want things to be cut that students really cherish. I don’t want people to leave here saying, “Oh, man, Western was so much better before the cuts and that’s something that I don’t want to hear students say. So, making sure that every fee is worth it, and this is what the students want and students still have access to a higher education, is a huge one. My final one is to just continue empowering students. I want to be a leader that makes people feel comfortable and confident and give them the sense that they can do anything—they can achieve the goals that they have. We got a bunch of students that are passionate about all these things and I want to make sure that if they have an idea for a program, or if they want something changed, that I help them do that, because things like Students for Renewable Energy, they wanted 100 percent green energy on campus and they got that, and right now the Students for a Co-op on campus, they want a co-op really, really bad and it’s a matter of working with the administration on doing it right. There’s got to be a compromise, and I want to make sure that, if students are passionate, that I’m really, just kind of adding wood to their fire and making their passion even hotter and actually getting their goals achieved because I’m working for the students and that’s kind of what I want to do.
ASR: Last question. When a student comes to you with a question that is beyond the scope of your job, how will you respond to this student?
Jarrell: I would sit down with them and help them find the answer together. We’re a team, and I’m working for that student. And if it isn’t in my realms, I know enough about the university, being out here for four years, working in different organizations on campus, I could at least point them in the right direction and follow up with them and make sure that they’re on the right track and just spreading that knowledge and helping them. It’s kind of what my last role was, just empowering students so that they’re getting their goals done. But, yeah, I think that it’s good to get questions. And you’re never going to have all the answers, and that’s going to happen, but I want to make sure that I’m taking the person to somebody or somewhere that does have the answers and making sure that it is answered.