The AS Review: What motivates you to seek out this position?
Morgan Holmgren: Well I think that I have a lot of experience that would give me an opportunity to help out the students at Western. As a student the past two years, I’ve been really involved in legislative affairs. I have been on the legislative affairs council as a non-voting member this year because of my position as legislative liaison which has allowed me to travel down to Olympia and lobby on behalf of students. Also, last year I was a student senator and worked with then Vice President of Legislative Affairs Erik Lowe to work with issues involving the WTA and student transportation fee, which includes working on our transportation master plan, as a member of the alternative transportation advisory committee. I think my experience at Western has allowed me to really work toward understanding this position including planning lobby day, working with legislators, and other outside community members to try and represent the interests of Western students as much as possible.
ASR: What groups of students might be easily overlooked by the AS Board and what will you do to ensure that you represent them in your work?
MH: I definitely think that one of the groups that is underrepresented by the board are students who are apathetic. We have a large group of students in the AS that are very, very active… and we’re all a part of that group – every single person who is in the AS. I think that for the most part we don’t get that apathetic voice very often because of the fact that they are apathetic. They aren’t going to go out there and voice their opinion. We need to do more…to try and get those students who aren’t willing to go out there to take that extra step. That means doing more surveys, have board members spending more time in red square – I really like Matt Jarrell’s plan to have listening sessions on campus, and I would like to have as much opportunity to get out of the [Viking Union] as possible. The VU is the refuge for the most active students and the AS tends to focus on those students no matter who they are or what they represent. Those are the students that get heard.
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?
MH: I think one of the things that the board and AS has done poorly over the past couple of years has been communicating with students. We do it to a certain extent through the Western Front and AS Review, and it has gotten improved this year, but for the most part I don’t think that the students know what the AS does. The efforts to do that are false-secondary to the overall goals of the organization and when that happens we have a lot of students who don’t vote in the AS Elections… who don’t participate in AS Activities, and don’t apply for the AS positions and jobs because they don’t know they’re out there. We’ve got 13,000 students on campus and a little over 200 jobs. You would think that we would have enough people in this job market to apply - and yet we don’t. Part of that is the fact that the AS is very insular. That’s brought on by the fact that the AS board meetings aren’t advertised. You really have to be well aware that they’re happening to go to one, which means that if you have something you’re concerned about, you don’t necessarily take it to the AS.
For the most part, the way student fees have been handled by the board of directors has been really impressive. The student tech fee is a really good example. Through the President’s office they found some misuse or misallocation of student funds and they addressed it in a very professional manner – a very open manner. They dealt with the AS Review and the [Western] Front, and they had an open letter written to the board of trustees… and they didn’t go in there asking for blood or hoping someone gets fired. Instead they asked for more transparency and more student voice. That seems to be the way they’ve been dealing with student fees for a while – to really represent students as much as possible, but understand the administration’s point of view. They look for compromise and looking for solutions rather than looking to make an adversarial relationship.
ASR: What are your three biggest goals for next year?
MH: Everything I’m going to do next year I’m going to do from the perspective of trying to create more student involvement. The first main goal is to take the three miscellaneous positions that are left in the AS – the legislative liaison, which I’m currently serving as, the elections coordinator, and the Student Senate chair – and combine them into a single office. They all have similar goals, to promote civic engagement and more student participation on campus, but in different ways. The Legislative Liaison works with the state and local government, the student senate chair works with a very specific group of students and to hear their voices and the election coordinator holds the elections on campus and is mainly in charge of voter registration drives. They all have a similar mission and in a single office they would be able to coordinate more effectively.
Right along with that is also create a resource for all incoming freshmen to see who all their local representatives are. That includes a list of the city council members, as well as discerning which elected members in Olympia represent them depending on where they live in Bellingham. For example, if you live on campus, it’s Jeff Morris, Kevin R-, and Dave Quall. If you live on the other side of Lakeway, Kelly L- and Doug Ericson are your representatives. Rick Larsen is our US Congressmen – and if students don’t know that, I’d like to provide freshmen with these names and their contact information. If there’s something that’s bothering them in the legislature, from the state level, federal, city, or county, they can contact their representatives.
Another thing that I’d like to do is expand the size of our student lobby day. UW brings 50 or 60 students. WSU has two busses sometimes. We have a couple vans, and while that’s really effective in a certain way – because we have students who know more about it and have more opportunity to speak, I think it would be nice to see a much larger Western presence in Olympia on at least one or two days a session. These are the people who make the most important decisions about our education. They determine our tuition rates, some of our fees, and they’re the ones who determine the regulations about which degrees the school can offer.
ASR: When a student comes to you with a question that is beyond the scope of your job, how will respond to this student?
MH: What I would first do is say “That isn’t in the authority of my position, or within the power of my position, but what I want to do is help you find the people who have that power… or at least the people who have that power, the people who will be able to hear you out and talk to the people who do have that authority.” I don’t’ know how many students are going to come to me asking about the administration, but I would hope that I could bring them to the person working within the administration or find another member of the AS board who knows who to talk to. For the most part, as the governmental affairs VP, I’m going to be working with things external. One of the things I’ll be doing is having fairly good contacts with the local representatives and those in Olympia, and try to get students who are interested in dealing with those issues – in contact the legislative assistants.