Mustang News Editorial Board
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Every so often, an organization needs to be stirred up, shaken and given a chance to look in the mirror. The more entrenched the group, the harder it is to look outside their walls and move forward.
Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) has reached that point. Now is the time for an outsider to force student government to re-examine their policies and the way they function as representatives of a diverse student body.
That’s where Jake Rogers comes in.
While the student body is disillusioned by ASI’s inability to articulate a clear message, Rogers — who has not been a part of Cal Poly student government — presents an opportunity to reach out to the average student in a genuine manner. As he put it when meeting with the Mustang News editorial board, ASI often looks to students involved in ASI to give ideas on how to reach out to students uninvolved in student government, and that’s a backward approach.
Mustang News’ editorial board conducted interviews with each of the three candidates and hosted a debate between them this week to reach an opinion on our endorsement. What ASI needs, Rogers said, is to reach out to students who don’t feel supported by student government, but are passionate about other areas, and figure out how government can give them more resources. We agree.
Rogers has campaigned on cliché themes like “Be the Difference” and ridding the student body of apathy, but he was able to expand upon those oversimplified campaign platforms to Mustang News. He felt that instead of trying to get a majority of students to care about student government, which is a tall task, he would simply connect driven students in a wide variety of clubs — which is how most students get involved on campus — to government. He focused on harnessing what students already do, rather than asking them to do more.
Supporting students and Cal Poly, of course, has its limitations. Rogers directly said he would be willing to publicly distance himself from an independent student organization should its demands or demeanor conflict with what’s best for the student body. Irrational or immature behavior shouldn’t be tolerated by our student leader, and Rogers’ genuine demeanor will help him in openly dealing with these situations.
While Rogers will give ASI a much-needed revamp, he will also need help from student government insiders to adjust to his new position. Joi Sullivan and Connor Paquin, his opposing candidates, should play an active role in his administration. Sullivan’s concrete policy ideas are unmatched, as well as her ability to dive deep into issues that matter for the long-term help of Cal Poly. Rogers even lauded her plan to launch an on-campus food bank at the Mustang News and Cal Poly College Republicans Debate on Monday.
As a good leader should, Rogers embraced the strongest of his peer’s ideas and gave Sullivan credit for it in front of the cameras Monday. This is what we need in a president: someone who has come to the realization that there are things ASI can do better, but is willing to listen to the old guard to continue doing things that work.
In addition to reaching out more to clubs, Rogers identified ASI’s need to do a better job marketing itself to the campus. We’ve seen this same need in our research and interviews. While covering ASI, we’re asked frequently by outsiders — the “regular” students — what student government even does. Of course, there are the dedicated insiders who are helped by ASI and fuel its existence, but this isn’t the typical narrative on campus.
Rogers said he couldn’t craft a marketing campaign today (only a “liar or a fool” would say they can solve it by themselves, he said), but assured us it would be a high priority to reach students who aren’t part of ASI’s lifeblood in one consistent way. He put his starting point more succinctly than we’ve ever heard it: “To find out what the students who don’t care think, we talk to the students who do care and ask them. That doesn’t work.”
His proposed message, however, does need to change. As a caveat of this endorsement, Rogers, please change your slogan from “Be the Difference.” You come from the right place — inspire students to pursue their passions with the support of their student government. But it’s a we’ve-heard-it-before phrase that even slightly cynical students will turn away from. Find something that better communicates your desire to make ASI a helping hand for students and their organizations. It worked on us.
It just might work for the rest of campus.
The Mustang News Editorial Board consists of J.J. Jenkins, Carly Rickards, Sean McMinn and Olivia DeGennaro. Rickards and DeGennaro recused themselves from this endorsement because of inability to meet with all the candidates.