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New ASUA president hopes to improve student life

CASSIE TOMLIN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
ASUA president Cade Bernsen spends time getting acquainted with his responsibilities for the upcoming academic year at his office in the Student Union Memorial Center.
By Zach Colick
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
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As president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, Cade Bernsen knows communication between his Cabinet, President Peter Likins and UA students is imperative to running a successful campaign and accomplishing his major goals this year.

Working alongside Bernsen to help his ideas come to fruition will be Cassiopeia Sonn, administrative vice president, among many others.

As administrative VP, Sonn, a physiological sciences senior, said she will oversee and increase awareness of ASUA programs and services by establishing stronger relationships between ASUA directors and clubs with the appointment of three different directors.

Sonn said this would increase program participation through more effective marketing techniques.

Such programs include SafeRide, a free ride service for students that runs Sunday through Thursday nights. Sonn hopes to expand SafeRide funding in order to get more vehicles.

Sonn said she also plans to promote the Women's Resource Center because students don't know what it is and need to know they can turn to it for help.

Sonn hopes to work closely with the Speakers Board and the University Activities Board in bringing in popular music, speakers and comedy acts to fulfill entertainment and civil engagement duties.

"We'll try to promote all these services and activities to benefit our students," Sonn said. "We're the students' biggest advocates."

Hiring a new UA president

Picking Likins' replacement is Bernsen's top priority this year. He said he hopes to work closely with the UA Presidential Search Committee and its chair, Regent Fred T. Boice.

Bernsen stressed that UA students need a friendly president who is both business-minded and accessible to students.

But what has Bernsen up in arms is that the selection committee, comprised of 31 UA faculty members, university affiliates and community members, has only two students, himself and student regent Ben Graff, a third-year law student.

Bernsen said Graff is not a true representative voice for the undergraduate population here on campus and said he hopes to have more students heard on this issue.

So far, he's reached out through e-mail to the Residence Hall Association and other prominent clubs and organizations on campus, asking for their input and where they stand on this important issue. He hopes to get as many students involved as possible once the fall semester begins.

"I went to the regents to tell them we need students on this committee," said Bernsen, stressing that any president should have an open-door policy with students. Right now, Likins quickly responds to phone calls and e-mails. "We need to have that student-friendly president," Bernsen said.

The first meeting of the UA Presidential Search Committee is slated for Sept. 8 at the Marvin D. "Swede" Johnson Building, 1111 N. Cherry Ave., and the announcement of the new UA president is scheduled for the spring.

Bernsen, a political science senior and a relative ASUA outsider, won the presidency after losing in the primary election in March, proving a passion for campus can beat the odds. He transferred from the University of Texas a year ago and is the first student to win without prior ASUA government experience since 1947.

"Don't be mistaken," said Bernsen, who said he would voice students' concerns passionately and with determination during his inauguration speech back in May. "I am a Wildcat; I bleed U of A red and blue."

Establishing a childcare facility

Another key issue on Bernsen's plate is establishing a centrally located childcare and parental resource center on campus, which would give mothers the opportunity to network and bring their children to school without having to worry about finding a baby sitter.

"We're the only school in the Pac-10 without such a facility and we're long overdue to have one," Bernsen said.

Bernsen plans on waging a campaign by students to talk with administrators about the need and desire to get the facility up and running in the Student Union Memorial Center. He compared the need for such a facility to the various women's and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender centers around campus, and hopes to build a coalition with as many supporters as possible.

"We need to make [these women's] time here at the UA as comfortable as possible. We've got to get a foothold if nothing else," Bernsen said. "It may be a tough road ahead, but if we stand together, we have more power than we think."

A greener university

There are few solar energy or environmentally friendly projects happening around campus. Bernsen hopes to change that and install solar panels on the SUMC and a few academic buildings around campus to help cut down energy costs and be a friend to Mother Earth.

"We have 300-plus days of sunshine in Arizona and we need to look at more responsible ways to look at these energies," Bernsen said. "If we can plant the seeds for today, then we can save down the road."

Bernsen said installation for such a project would cost the UA a lot of money, but said Tucson Electric Power would foot half of the bill to help promote the use of solar energy projects.

Bernsen hopes to also work with Energy Conservation and Lifestyles Initiative Partnering Students and their Environment (ECLIPSE), a non-profit student group working toward the goal of introducing sustainable technologies to the UA campus in the form of solar energy. Last year, the group wanted students to vote in favor of a $2 fee to help fund solar panels to power one of the buildings on campus.

"Hopefully we can make something happen," Bernsen said.

Getting more students involved in ASUA

As ASUA president, Bernsen makes $6,700 for the year. Break that down to an hourly wage and Bernsen receives a mere $1 per hour.

This makes the decision to get involved with ASUA that much less attractive for students who want to get involved but need real jobs to pay off student loans and attend school.

But for students who can't afford to or feel discouraged by taking on any activities, clubs or jobs outside of class, Bernsen hopes to establish a need-based $20,000 aid scholarship to anyone who wants to get involved with ASUA, but can't. The student would essentially be able to get a full ride for that year.

Bernsen said he thinks this incentive will bring in more diversity and entice a lot of students to become active in ASUA.

"ASUA will become more inclusive; it will broaden our pool of applicants and more students will have the ability to make things happen on this campus," Bernsen said.

Can Bernsen succeed?

Coming straight from the horse's mouth, Bernsen, who took part in the Texas state Legislature while a student at UT-Austin, believes he has the background and the fortitude to work with a Cabinet who want to help him accomplish or, at the very least, seriously address his campaign agendas while serving as president for nearly 40,000 students.

"I know this will be a challenge to undertake, but come the middle of May, I'll be glad I took on such a position," said Bernsen, who will be graduating in May. "We all do something to make this world a better place, and this is my passion."

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