In just one summer, the Union of Students at University of Alaska Anchorage has changed from a male dominated assembly with empty seats and little student interest to a group with a full roster and gender balance.
While last year”s assembly featured 10 male senators and representatives and three females, the count this year is 11 to eight, not counting three currently vacant positions.
These numbers are partially due to efforts made by last year”s assembly to make visibility and participation a priority.
‘I think that was the key,’ former USUAA President Mike Dingham said. ‘There was a big emphasis on promoting the election. The Election Board did a great job.’
Current President David Parks agreed, noting that the competitive election and large voter turnout generated interest in student government.
While there was no specific drive to make USUAA more diverse, Shairita Franklin, director of Campus Diversity and Compliance, says the new USUAA reflects the cumulative efforts of many university officials.
‘It”s been in the works for many years,’ Franklin said.
The Office of University Diversity and Compliance is the focal point for increasing diversity on campus. Ideas on diversity are shared via the Diversity Action Council, to which USUAA appoints two students, one from the assembly and one from Club Council.
Parks is pleased with his well-rounded group, but says the representation isn”t quite perfect yet.
‘As far as age is concerned, we”re kind of bucking the norm. Our student government is kind of young, 21 or 22,’ he said.
The average UAA student is 30 years old, according to the Institutional Planning, Research and Assessment Trendbook 2002.
Another question mark is whether this is just a passing trend or a permanent change. Dingman warned that the nature of USUAA has not been very consistent in past years.
‘Historically it”s kind of been a roller coaster. Some years they”re really active. Other years they”re not.’