Here at Western, we’re all fakes. Frauds, all us Vikings. Putting on airs that we are above, or in fact the antithesis of that insane raw-raw school spirit, those paint your school colors on your chest, foghorn universities. But guess what? Just when you thought Western couldn’t get any more laid back, come to find out us Vikings are a bunch of uppity school spirited flouters—we just disguise, hide our fog horn, face painted enthusiasm under the guise of the AS, or Associated Students. But how do us crafty Westerners pull off such a hoax, such a disguise? Well, subtlety is key.
Though that curvy little AS insignia grazes almost every poster and publication on campus, it retains a shadowy ghost like presence, or maybe it’s that nonchalant laid back quality us Bellinghamsters seem to enjoy so much. Though ever present, it retains secrecy, a mystery to it. My job is to now unveil this mystery, uncover the truth about our own student body’s trickery.
First of all, what exactly is the AS?
According to the website the Associated Students is, “an organization designed and run by Western students . . . that seeks to ensure a fulfilling college and academic experience for all university students through the many services and programs offered.” An ambiguous definition sure, but the website goes on, “the AS attempts to help students define themselves, find allies in the community and engage in their university surroundings.”
I tracked down Mark Iozzi, the AS President for further elaboration on what he thinks is the essence of the AS.
“The AS is a resource for students. We provide funding sources, meeting spaces, offices, student jobs, information and a direct voice for students within Western’s administration and our state government,” said Iozzi.
Upon further investigation I discover that the AS is not just a student government and some clubs, but also an all encompassing entity that involves every student on campus, further demonstrating the extent and expanse of this fraudulent school spirit.
How it works:
The AS is split into four sections. The first section of the AS includes all AS programs, these being AS board mandated programs with a paid student staff powered by an operating budget and funding. Perhaps the most ambitious part of the AS, these programs include KUGS, the Resource and Outreach Programs, among others.
Secondly, there’s the clubs and organizations section of the AS, made up of the hundreds of student run clubs spanning from invitation only clubs, like National Society of Collegiate Scholars to special interest clubs, such as Western Students Against Zombies.
Thirdly, the AS incorporates the Facilities and Services portion, which includes basic student resources like the Recycle Center, Publicity Center and the Child Development Center. These centers also include student staffs with budgets.
Finally there’s the Governance section. Acting as the student voice in the administration, it is split between the Board of Directors, which includes the AS President and the six Vice Presidents, the Legislative Liaison, Board of Trustees, Student Alumni Association and the Student Senate.
What’s so significant about Western’s AS is not merely its spirited existence, but the expanse and depth of its existence.
“The AS is made up of all the students at Western. Every student is automatically part of the AS, whether they realize it or not,” said Iozzi.
Here at Western not only did they trick us into being highly spirited, they also tricked us into being a highly motivated, progressive, independent and powerful entity.
Central Washington University and Eastern Washington University’s Associated Student bodies include only several student government officials, who are mostly volunteers, and some school clubs. The University of Washington is a little better, in that it provides the Experimental College, a free college taught and run by other volunteer students providing recreational non-credit classes in an array of disciplines, as well as more paid positions for students. Still, UW pales in comparison to the percentage of paid positions offered to students here at Western.
“We also offer over 70 salaried student jobs and about 150 hourly jobs, most of which are hired in spring for the following year,” said Iozzi.
What’s so distinctive about these positions is not that Western’s putting some spare change in students pockets, but that these positions are providing real world career experiences to undergraduate students. And that’s radically different than being paid to work for Sodexho serving cafeteria food.
For instance, I get paid for writing this article and Mark Iozzi gets paid for being the AS President.
The AS actually has considerable power within the university.
“The AS is very effective at bringing about change. We are way more effective than most people realize. The general student body often doesn’t see the role we play in university decision making, but almost no decision is made without input from the student government,” said Iozzi.
Iozzi goes on to cite examples of the power of us Western students, noting the Associated Student’s work with Western’s administration and the Workers’ Rights Consortium to eliminate products produced by sweatshop labor from being sold on campus. Similarly the has gotten Sodexho’s dining services on campus to recycle used vegetable oil to be burned at Western’s steam plant to promote Western’s sustainability while also saving thousands on energy costs.
So maybe you found yourself coming to Western because of the beauty of Bellingham, or an escape from city life, or a good education coupled with a laid back lifestyle. But be aware of this shadowy, shifty presence that haunts this University, because you are part of it now. And with this awareness comes a unique power, or at least a unique experience.