The Arizona Desert Lamp

The ASUA Pulse Story

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

EKG ReadingWith the next election nearly upon us, now is a good a time as any to go back and review the foibles of the last go-around.

While political parties are banned in ASUA elections (what is this, Saudi Arabia?), factions invariably have a way of arising. The closest thing to a unified organization last year was the “ASUA Pulse,” which included, among others, current Sens. Ellis and Mackenzie.

What’s hilarious about this program is that it was originally proposed in 2000, based off of an equivalent program at Penn State:

Through a mixture of interviews, surveys and discussion meetings, Associated Students President Ben Graff plans to create a new cabinet position responsible for student interests and concerns.

The new position will head up the PULSE program – which originated at Penn State – and will have 10 student volunteers from all parts of the campus.

. . .

Surveys are sent to a random sample of Penn State students and records of the surveys indicate that approximately 65 percent of students respond to the surveys.

The results of the surveys are presented to the student government and are placed on a Web site and are sent out on an e-mail list.

Moore said the budget for Penn State’s program is about $100,000 a year – with about $40,000 of that going to operations – and a large percentage of the rest going towards salaries.

Graff said the program at the UA would only cost about $2,000 because it would be run by student volunteers rather than through formal surveys.

This is one of the current problems with the erevnocracy — if you’re going to do it, at least get a bona fide pollster behind it. A more productive survey could be produced by the Statistics Department here at the UA — such a program could supply ASUA and other organizations with statistically viable information, and could also be an effective, real-life application of the statistics lessons in the classroom. Such a bilateral relationship was naturally not considered by any of the Pulse candidates, past or present.

The “pulse” program played a role in that election season, and the candidate supporting the implementation of the program, Ray Quintero, won the presidency. Apparently, though, nothing happened on this front, for by 2004 the issue was back in the news again:

Presidential candidate Amanda Meaker said she has been doing research on tuition and student fees so she can present reasonable and factual arguments to students and fellow candidates during the debate.

“I’m simply going to go up and say exactly what I want to do and the vision I see for ASUA next year,” said Meaker, an industrial engineering junior.

She said she wants to get in touch with the student body through “pulse” surveys that would allow students to weigh in on issues like tuition.

Meaker, however, was defeated by Alistair Chapman, and the “pulse” program withered and died on the vine. Then the 2008 elections came around, and once again the ASUA Pulse program was revived.

ASUA Pulse will not be implemented any time soon, which shows yet another weakness in survey-based governance. If you’re trying to legislate on the basis of student sentiment, you need to be constantly gauging that sentiment — you need to have proactive, and not just reactive surveys. The student pulse, as far as ASUA is concerned, is dead, coming to life only with a need to implement a new fee.

More importantly, though, this mini-saga serves to demonstrate the outrageously ahistorical nature of student government elections. Whereas Barack Obama was compared with every President from Lincoln to Bush the Younger, this obvious tried-again message was missed by everyone, even though it was but a four-year gap.

It’s not bad to mine the troves of history to find good policy; in fact, that’s probably the only way to find good policy. Yet rather than learning from the failures of previous years, ASUA has thus far acted as though the past simply does not exist.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Ollie Crafoord

4 Responses

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  1. […] Politics by Evan Lisull on February 15th, 2009 I’ve commented previously on the absurdly ahistorical nature of student government; and, in a never-ending attempt to make the past present, I present to you the case of Rhonda […]

  2. […] — when this site made it three days ago: I’ve commented previously on the absurdly ahistorical nature of student government; and, in a never-ending attempt to make the past present, I present to you the case of Rhonda […]

  3. […] Godfrey, channeling the spirits of ASUA Pulse ghosts past, proposes a “Be Heard” program, which would play off the current existing […]

  4. […] from the first ASUA survey Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on March 24th, 2009 ASUA Pulse . . . it lives, vicariously, through the Academic Affairs site. In an even weirder twist, the […]

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