March 29, 1999

SGA takes action on elections, ASUM proposal

Asembly approves plan to join student lobbying group

by Josh Renaud
staff assistant


Beth Hammer, vice-chair of ASUM's Board of Directors Executive Committee, raises her hand to speak during the debate over UM-St. Louis' membership in the organization. Also pictured is fellow board member Andy Laegeler and student Joe Flees (right). Flees was eventually chosen as UM-St. Louis' representative to the Board
photo by Stephanie Platt

By voting to accept an agreement presented at its Mar. 18 meeting, the Student Government Association took the first step toward becoming a full member of the Associated Students of the University of Missouri (ASUM).

Andy Laegeler, a member of the ASUM Board of Directors Executive Committee, and Beth Hammer, the Board of Directors vice-chair, presented the agreement which will make UM-St. Louis an associate member of ASUM.

According to the ASUM Annual Prospectus, ASUM is an organization designed to give students hands-on political training. ASUM provides a venue for students to impact Missouri's legislative policy through lobbying. Currently, all three of the other University of Missouri schools are members of ASUM.

Under the terms of the agreement, the SGA will be required to pay a $2,500 membership fee each year. The agreement allows UM-St. Louis to have one representative on the ASUM Board of Directors during the time it is an associate member, and that representative will work to establish a core of ASUM volunteers and staff at UM-St. Louis. This infrastructure will be necessary in the future if UM-St. Louis decides to become a full member and create an ASUM chapter on campus. The other campuses, who are full members, are awarded multiple board spots.

"The main reason we want to get UMSL on board, if nothing else, is to legitimize the organization," Laegeler explained at the meeting. "There is a high percentage of people in the Missouri legislature from the St. Louis area. If we could get students to come from the St. Louis area and lobby the St. Louis delegation in the state capital, it will give us a lot more power."

"One of the biggest complaints we get from our interns when they go [to Jefferson City] is that when [the interns] try to talk to St. Louis representatives and senators, [the legislators] don't want to hear from someone going to Columbia, Rolla, or Kansas City," Hammer said. "They want to hear from people in St. Louis; they don't want to hear from us. Everyone wonders where you guys are on this."

When the floor was opened for discussion, some students said they felt uncomfortable with the $2,500 fee.

"I think that $2,500 dollars for one [representative] is kind of an insult," said SGA comptroller Benjamin Ash. "To pay $2,500 for something that might not be what both of us are looking for, I have [to take] issue with that."

Hammer said that ASUM has benefitted students through the UM system, and that it would be worthwhile for UM-St. Louis to join.

"ASUM is solely responsible for getting a student representative to the Board of Curators," she said. "ASUM was instrumental last year in getting the sales tax eliminated on books which, according to some calculations, would save the average student $80 a year."

Ash said he thought that voting to accept the agreement might be moving too fast. He said he would rather send a representative to two or three ASUM Board of Directors meetings to get a feel for the organization.

"We have tried [this] several times," Hammer said. "You've been an associate member before, but we could never find enough people on this campus to do it. It hurts our organization that you're not involved."

Many students supported the agreement and said they thought it was a good idea to join.

"To me, $2,500 is a cake walk for what we're going to be involved in here, and the powerbase we can begin to establish to maybe get some changes we want made here at UMSL," said Kevin Shaw, a representative for the Student NEA.

"We have nothing to lose and everything to gain," student Joe Flees said. "We're grossly underrepresented in many areas of government, and this is our chance to get our voice out and become a greater voice."

The agreement was passed in a voice vote with one abstention and one nay. After the agreement passed, Flees was elected the UM-St. Louis representative to ASUM, and Shaw agreed to assist him.

This article was reprinted with permission from The Current.


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