ASUA copes with Bernsen's leave of absence

By Nick Smith
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 19, 2006

Student officials are trying to pick up the pace to deal with Student Government President Cade Bernsen's absence, but some projects are still being neglected, sources said.

Erin Hertzog, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona executive vice president and acting president, said now is a critical time to make sure the student government continues to function effectively until Bernsen's return.

"If we don't start working really hard, it's going to be detrimental to students," said Hertzog, a journalism junior.

Although ASUA continues to function without Bernsen, the pending complaints and the leave of absence have taken their toll, said Sen. Patrick Cook, a pre-education junior.

"The situation, all in all, has slowed the process for everything," he said.

The fate of the solar energy project, which aims to put solar panels on the UA Visitor Center, is still up in the air, said Sen. Rhonda Tubbs.

The absence of Bernsen, who spearheaded the project, and the resignation of Sen. Matt Loehman, who worked on the project, cast a dim light on the fate of the solar panels. But there is confidence that the project will continue, Tubbs said.

"We've made a lot of effort and that effort will not go to waste," she said.

Bernsen's other main project, childcare, has fared marginally better.

Heather Gasser, senior coordinator for Commuter Student Affairs, said the project will continue with or without Bernsen.

The 10-member group working with the dean of students on childcare issues plans to release a survey in February to collect statistics on student-parents at the UA, Gasser said.

Cook stepped in late last semester to help with the project and notes that progress is being made.

"No pun intended, but we're taking baby steps," Cook said.

Cook anticipates the survey will provide necessary data for the childcare project.

"The survey, I hope, will show the (UA) president the need on campus," Cook said.

Three pressing issues face the student government in the coming months: the tuition proposal, the presidential search and the upcoming student union fee, Hertzog said.

"I don't foresee any issues as long as we keep working now," Hertzog said.

Despite the recent firing and rehiring of Arizona Students' Association members, the tuition proposal has not seen any major setbacks, said Fernando Ascencio, a political science senior and ASA director.

"We're back on schedule," Ascencio said. "We're looking to put out the proposal at about the same time as before."

Hertzog has been attending the presidential search committee meetings since Bernsen gave up his seat on the committee before his absence so ASUA could have a consistent representative.

Last week, Bernsen decided to take an indefinite leave of absence until the Dean of Students' office sorts through the complaints levied by Bernsen and other members of ASUA whom Bernsen fired.