Guest Commentary: A day in the life of an ASUA president

By J.P. Benedict
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, March 1, 2004

What does the president of ASUA do? That's a question that is asked quite a bit by many of the thousands of students on campus.

It is safe to assume that most students outside of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona don't know what ASUA is or what the president does.

First, let me say that the president's role is not strictly defined, and the composition of ASUA is not strictly defined, either. Different presidents over the years have handled their responsibilities in very different ways. My way may not have been the best way, but I will tell you how I have handled things. The student body president is the figurehead and representative of the student body, and the chief executive officer of ASUA. The primary responsibility of the president is in overseeing the student government, which has three branches: the cabinet, the executive vice presidential branch and the administrative vice presidential branch.

The president is directly responsible for his or her cabinet. The cabinet includes two academic affairs directors, a university relations director, a special events director, a development director, three Arizona Students' Association directors, a treasurer, an elections commissioner and a chief of staff. Of course, the president can manipulate his or her cabinet by adding or deleting positions. This year, I have added a spirit director and a technology outreach director and moved the Sophomore Class Council under the cabinet umbrella.

All of these directors have specific duties relating to their titles. For example, the academic affairs directors work on academic policy initiatives like the advising contract, and the spirit director works on spirit projects like Zona Zoo nights at sporting events. It is my job to manage these directors, push ideas and discipline them when necessary. It is one of the single most difficult responsibilities I have ever had.

The president is also responsible for what seems like hundreds of committees and meetings. As the chief spokesman for the student body, I am constantly requested to attend or delegate meetings with the administration, faculty and staff at the UA, as well as with leaders of the Tucson and Arizona communities. I also keep myself informed on university issues by holding regular meetings with the leaders of our administration. The student body president has other annual duties as well. The president is responsible for developing a tuition proposal on behalf of the students. He or she is also responsible, in part, for lobbying the Arizona Board of Regents and the state Legislature. The student body president gives the commencement address at the spring commencement, addresses the student body in times of crisis and is called on by university officials as an adviser. The president is called upon a lot in times of need.

Those are the daily duties of the president, outside of specific initiatives that student body presidents undertake. Last year, Doug Hartz wanted a fall break and spent a significant amount of time working on that. Ben Graff wanted advising money, and spent a lot of time lobbying for that. Gilbert Davidson wanted a new student union, and spent his term working on that. This year, I have spent time working on the Collaboration Board with the student activity fee initiative, building our spirit club and class council system, trying out "Cat Chats," improving the ASUA Web site, bringing back the Pulse Team, creating a multicultural lounge in the student union, creating an advising contract system, developing an online housing guide and initiating the Student Foundation. That is just a basic outline of what the student body president does in his or her term. This letter is not an attempt to "wow" you, or to make you believe that I have been an outstanding president. This is my description of the life of the president. There are many perks to being president, but there is also a huge burden of responsibility. The position is important and the individual serving the position is extremely important and can be a valuable asset or a drawback to your life as a student. If you don't care, at least now you know. If you do care, then I strongly urge you to voice your opinion, talk to the president and make the changes you want to see. It really is possible and ASUA really can help you make a difference.

J.P. Benedict is a business administration and marketing senior and the president of ASUA. He can be reached at