Last year, Christina Cilento and Macs Vinson were elected to be the ASG president and executive vice president after running on a platform that would provide a voice to marginalized students. The team started their term mired in controversy when an ASG committee ruled that they violated election guidelines by receiving a leak on the voter margin. But they moved forward from the election to work on legislation to benefit marginalized groups on campus and to change ASG. Their term coincided with many tumultuous moments at Northwestern that required responses and action from ASG.
The legislatures urged the Northwestern administration to become a sanctuary campus for undocumented students. However, the University has resisted this demand and no university in the United States has declared that they will be a sanctuary campus. In order to help low-income students, ASG worked to make textbooks more affordable by supporting a bill that creates online textbook resources that would be purchased by universities. Cilento and Vinson also worked to make on campus events more affordable in hopes of increasing the population of low-income students in the future. They also responded to the desire for more menstrual products on campus by piloting a program that started offering free products in select buildings. A pilot program began on Feb. 1 and will end mid-April. If the program gets good feedback, permanent dispensers could be created by fall of 2017.
Cilento and Vinson also oversaw changes to the structure of ASG. They established a judicial branch in order to deal with matters of discipline after the chaos of last year’s election. ASG also created a commission to appoint student members of the Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility that was created as a part of ASG’s efforts to improve investment.
Christina and Macs supported their peers through times of unprecedented emotional turmoil on campus. In order to improve road safety after Northwestern student Chuyuan Qiu was killed in a car accident, ASG made bike helmets more accessible by handing them out for free and successfully advocated that the city council lower the speed limit on Sheridan Road. After the election of Donald Trump, ASG passed a resolution calling for support and academic flexibility towards students who were affected by his win. When Trump’s travel ban caused widespread fear, ASG passed a resolution that called on the University to support affected students with legal resources and accommodations. Northwestern would later join with other top universities to try to become a part of a lawsuit against the ban.
One of the most contentious times in their term came during the investigation of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and another unnamed fraternity for the alleged use of date-rape drugs and reports of sexual assault. ASG released a statement calling for SAE and the other fraternity to be suspended. Legislation was passed advocating for more sexual assault accountability. The bill called for the University to issue a cease-and-desist letter to SAE, to permanently remove any individuals found guilty of sexual assault and to make members of SHAPE paid employees of the University. Voting on the bill was delayed when ASG members representing SAE walked out, making it impossible to hold a vote, and the University has yet to change its policy regarding sexual assault.
Reflecting on their time as ASG president and executive vice president, Cilento and Vinson believe that they have made progress in representing marginalized voices. However, they acknowledge that there is still more work to be done. ASG’s power is limited because they cannot enact university-wide changes, but can only suggest them. Even if Cilento and Vinson succeeded in passing all of the legislation they wanted to, the University could not change and the average student might not see huge reforms or even the work that ASG puts into advocating for reforms.