The Arizona Desert Lamp

Just how unrepresentative is ASUA?

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 10 January 2009

The Desert Lamp has dealt with the canard of “your student government” before. But, being good empiricists, we like to test these hypotheses as well. To get a sense of where ASUA representation stands in comparison to other Pac-10 schools, let’s first compare populations.

In order to keep variables relatively controlled (it’s a blog, not a lab), I’ve opted to use data exclusively from the website CollegeView. While not the best site out there, it offers clear differentiation between campus populations — which is useful for an institution like ASU, which has 67,000 overall undergraduates, but only 41,256 undergraduates on the Tempe campus (an important distinction to make). The total populations are as follows, with campus distinctions noted as necessary:

Arizona State — 41,256 undergraduates (Tempe campus)
U. Arizona — 29,070
U. Washington — 28,570 undergraduates (Seattle campus)
UCLA — 25,928
UC- Berkeley — 24,636
Washington State — 20,282
U. Oregon — 16,674
Southern Cal — 16,384
Oregon State — 16,224
Stanford — 6,584

Now, for the schools’ respective senator “populations”:

*ASU — 25 (two current vacancies)
UA — 10
*UW — “over 150 senators”

“Every man a senator” seems to be the refrain in Seattle. You can see a list of all the legally apportioned seats here.  A brief reading through some of the minutes indicates that nowhere near this number show up day in and day out. For the purposes of calculating  a representation proportion, we’ll conservatively hold the UW at 50 senators.

UCLA — 13 “voting, elected officials”

This essentially includes all officials. The USAC has a president, two vice presidents, three “general representatives,” and seven “commissioners.” This is an especially bad set-up, because it removes any sort of separation of powers / checks-and-balances, and instead amalgamates all of the quasi-legitimate purposes of student government into one council, as though UCLA were little more than a glorified high school.

For calculating purposes, we’ll treat the number of senators as 10, since the commissioners are elected officials who appear to be little more than specialized senators in their actual functioning.

BKLY — 20
WSU — 18
*UO — 20
*USC — 12
*OSU — 30
STAN — 15

Schools with an asterisk before their names implement some form of system that doesn’t rely solely on direct voting from the entire student body. Usually, this means that seats are alloted by school — the business school gets four, the engineering school gets three, etc. However, there other alternatives that incorporate different elements; for example, a university might allocate a seat specifically for students 25+ years or older (as Oregon State does), or allot a certain number of seats for off-campus students (Washington, among others).

This, in this author’s eyes, offers for more representation. For one, it helps to build more realistic constituencies than the vague and rarely accessible “student body.” Just as having congressional district and state representatives on the state level help to temper the excesses of one another, so having “Greek,” “Residential,” and other allocated seats help to more effectively bring voices to the table and to better represent the campus. Secondly, it almost inevitably leads to a greater number seats, which ultimately lead to more dialogue and more representation. Reform towards such representation for ASUA was proposed by Rosie Reid-Correa’s Senate campaign; however, with her stepping down, that idea has been all but forgotten.

The final step, then, is to figure out how many students each senator is supposed to represent, by dividing the student population by the number of senators. The schools are ranked from most to least representative, with asterisks retained:

STAN — 438.9
*OSU — 540.8
*UW — 571.4
*UO — 833.7
WSU — 1,126.8
BKLY — 1,231.8
*USC — 1,365.3
*ASU — 1,650.2
UCLA — 2,592.8
UA — 2,907

I guess there’s solace in being roughly equivalent to UCLA, but it’s a far cry from being “your” government.

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6 Responses

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  1. Emily said, on 11 January 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Interesting numbers. There is something to be said about implementing a system with better representation of different student groups. However, I am not a huge fan of the “one senator from each college” set up that a lot of universities use. It often creates enormous and unorganized Senates while taking a way from the esteem of the position. To ASUA’s credit this year; Elections Commissioner Kenny Ho and President Bruce have asked for nominations from each college for students with potential to be a strong student advocate. These nominations will be given information and encouraged to run for Senate this coming Spring. I think that this is definitely a start in the right direction. The option of running is still left up to the nominees, but it sparks the idea in candidates that may not have even considered it an option before.

  2. […] makes a convincing argument that ASUA ain’t that representative at all. But it leaves me with one question—why should students want a more representative student […]

  3. […] Politics by Evan Lisull on January 13th, 2009 Now that your faith in student government has been completely restored, be sure to check out these newly scheduled town halls, via the ASUA website: 2/24/2009 […]

  4. […] ASUA is the least representative government in the Pac-10 and effectively bans political parties: 8-1.01 Only one candidate’s name […]

  5. […] do you plan on doing anything about the fact that your organization is the least transparent and least representative student government in the […]

  6. […] It seems, however, that ASUA will instead opt for the “honor” of being a member of the least representative Pac-10 student government […]


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