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'Brutally Honest' Draws Quiet Crowd

Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012

ASUSU Executive Council at public meeting

The ASUSU executive council holds an open forum for students to ask questions and voice concerns in the Hub on Wednesday afternoon. Samantha Behl photo (from the USU Statesman online)

The Student Life section of Utah State Today highlights work written by the talented student journalists at Utah State University. Each week, the editor selects a story that has been published in The Utah Statesman or the Hard News Café or both for inclusion in Utah State Today.

'Brutally Honest' Draws Quiet Crowd

By Allison Hendrix, staff writer, The Utah Statesman, Thursday, November 15, 2012

ASUSU Student Advocate Christian Orr, known for his “transparency, accountability, and responsibility” platform, fulfilled his campaign promise of an open student government in part in an event Wednesday afternoon [Nov. 14].

Orr, along with the rest of the ASUSU Executive Council, held a “Brutally Honest Forum” in the Hub in the TSC. The forum has been held in past years, but not recently. When the council invited students to speak their minds through with an open mic, three students took the opportunity.

“A lot of times, we struggle to get students to give us the input that we need to meet their needs,” Orr said.

Orr said the structure of the forum was changed slightly this year because of difficulty in the past with getting enough students to participate in the Brutally Honest Forum. This year, the panel began by addressing a list of formatted questions Orr said are typically seen every year, or those that are connected to more recent events and issues on campus.

The open-mic style of the second half allowed students to address the panel about issues they care about.

“The purpose of this forum is to allow students to give the student government officers feedback — to ask questions, to voice concerns, to leave comments.” Orr said.

“Some people feel that ASUSU in some ways kind of distances themselves from the student population,” said a student speaking in the forum. “Do you guys feel that’s a concern and if so, what are you guys doing to try and make it so you are a part of the student body?”

Christian Thrapp, ASUSU president, said going out to individual groups and personally getting their feedback helps break down the walls between student government and the rest of the student body. Unfortunately, a very real disconnect still exists regarding students giving their input directly to ASUSU representatives because of the location of ASUSU offices, he said.

“The way that the TSC is set up, there is almost like a physical barrier,” he said. “This stigma that the third floor doesn’t actually exist. The third floor — if you go up there, any of these officers will be more than happy to help you out. They love talking to people. That’s why they are here. They’re here to represent you.”

Orr said utilizing the platform of social media has been on his mind. He said if students don’t feel comfortable addressing ASUSU members in their offices, they can make their voices heard through a new organization called USU Think Tank. Think Tank takes a proactive role in identifying policies or practices to start, stop, or continue, and then executing them, he said.

Orr said since our generation is so connected to social media, students can go to the USU Think Tank Facebook page to make their voices heard or they can tweet to @ASUSU1888 or #USUbh.

“If you feel that there’s a barrier there, it’s just another way for you to reach out and feel a little more comfortable,” Orr said.

During a silence in between students voicing their concerns, Orr asked students for more feedback.

“We want your input,” he said. “We want to do what you want. I get frustrated when I walk down the sidewalk and hear, ‘Oh my goodness, they did this or they didn’t do this.’ This is your opportunity. Please, please give us feedback.”

Chaise Warr, ASUSU programming vice president, said in an organization as large as a student body, it’s difficult for its leaders to know what major issues and needs are without student involvement.

“This is a student-run campus and we need students’ input,” Warr said. “We’re there to help in whatever way we can. It’s often hard for us, one individual, to know amongst thousands of students what those needs may be, but our doors are always open.”

When Orr ran for his position last spring, one of his goals was to “to promote the Brutally Honest Panel where ASUSU officers have an open-mic to address real concerns and issues students have.”

Orr said he felt the forum was successful, particularly with all of the feedback gathered from surveys that were filled out during the event.

“I think students can see that we’re serious about trying to be engaged with them,” he said.

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