Ash strives to usher in a new era of Illinois Student Senate

By Megan Jones

Carey Ash, student senator and law student, has been involved in the Illinois Student Senate for six years, and will continue onward as vice president-external after being elected at the senate’s meeting Wednesday, with a vote of 18 senators in support.

He proposed a new era for the Illinois Student Senate after receiving negative press recently. He hopes to change its image and strives to build strategic partnerships with University Housing, the Illinois Leadership Center, The Career Center, Alumni Association and McKinley Health Center, among other organizations. 

“I have a vision,” Ash said. “External affairs is not just public relations, and recently we’ve had some public relations issues. To me, external affairs is about leaving a legacy, our legacy. We are building a legacy where students helping students is a long tradition on this campus.” 

Similar to the flags hung in O’Hare International Airport, he proposed to hang flags in the Activities and Recreation Center as part of a diversity initiative to show the students “what we mean to them and what they mean to us,” Ash said. He added that on this campus, more than 112 countries are represented. 

He also proposed a campus beautification initiative.

“We need to do something to show and give back to campus tangibly,” Ash said. “We want to show the students that we are working with them.” 

Shao Guo, senior in ACES, and Mitch Dickey, sophomore in LAS, were also nominated for the position. Senator Nate Hesch, junior in Engineering, was previously nominated but resigned and nominated Dickey instead. More than 10 other senators spoke in support of Ash’s nomination. 

“In terms of our short-term needs and our long-term needs, he is the best for the position,” said Rachel Heller, junior in LAS. “Right now, we need someone who has that experience and the connections. I think if it was at a different time of the senate, then we would need someone else.” 

Senator Joseph Moseley, junior in ACES, said Ash is already setting what he had suggested in his speech into place and has been doing so since Moseley’s freshman year. 

Conversation continued in regards to the Illinois Student Senate’s Facebook group, which had previously violated their constitution and goals for transparency. 

“You should not have been in that group at all in my opinion,” said Student Body President Damani Bolden.

He added that because the members met quorum within the group, he believes, in his opinion, that they violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act. The Facebook group is now currently open to the public with a changed group name from “ISS Senators 2013-2014” to “Senators 2013-2014” in an effort to no longer be associated as a body as long as they do not discuss business, said Jenny Baldwin, vice president-internal. 

Bolden encouraged all the senators to go back and reread their constitution and bylaws, including reviewing the provisions of the Illinois Open Meetings Act. According to the resolution, the group was created with no ill intent.

ISS is now encouraging each senator to take the online Open Meetings Act training offered by the Illinois Attorney General, which is already required as each senator is a part of the Urbana-Champaign Senate. Guo proposed a bylaw amendment to add requirement of the training to their constitution. 

Hesch added that they should add an apology to the general student body to take responsibility for their actions, stating “the senate wholeheartedly apologizes for the misinterpretation of this action.” 

Senator Brian Siegel, senior in Media and former Illini Media employee, said it is unfair to lump all senators together, but encouraged involved senators to give personal apologizes because not all were involved in the group.  

Senator David Mischiu, senior in FAA, proposed a resolution that is culmination of a six or seven month working relationship with University Facilities and Services, encouraging tangible change to the campus’ bike path lanes.

After students complained about bike lanes and safety, Facilities and Services pledged $16,000 to add signage and repaint more than three miles of bikes lanes on campus. The resolution asks the senate to give $6,000 to help “improve the quality of life of their constituents” to help finish the bike path project. The resolution was forwarded to an ISS committee. 

Megan can be reached at [email protected]