VPIA Vacancy

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Christopher Hendrickson | The Falcon | Drew Cortez presents his VPIA candidate speech during ASSP Candidate forum

Julia Battishill

While ASSP has begun their weekly Monday night sessions, there is notably one chair empty at the table as the team discusses campus events and student concerns: the Vice President of Intercultural Affairs (VPIA) position sits vacant.

In the 2018-19 school year, for the first time in the short history of the position, no student holds the VPIA spot.

The VPIA is in charge of an array of culture related issues within senate and student life, such as organizing the Intercultural Retreat. Their duties include being a resource for students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds and helping the campus engage with various cultures.

Previous VPIAs have had goals to serve as a voice for students to administration in regard to diversity and inclusion issues, and to introduce more programs in relation to the topic.

These were among the goals that Drew Cortez had in mind when he was elected to the position last year. He was sworn in as the official VPIA last Spring quarter. He resigned soon after, and no other student has been sworn into the position.

“VPIA remains vacant because we did not receive any eligible applications,” James Chung, Senator for the School of Humanities, said. “We are reluctant to reopen the application pool because it will be extremely hard for whoever [is] elected in the next round to take on the full year responsibility so late into the quarter.”

Although he refused to comment at this time, ASSP President Nathan Samayo confirmed this in an email to the student body on Tuesday, Oct. 16. He informed students that the position will remain vacant for the duration 18-19 school year.

While a handful of students applied to run for the role, none of the applicants were eligible to run based off of ASSP constitutional requirements that all ASSP officers are required to meet,” Samayo wrote.

Cortez said, in the end, he knew that the job was not the right fit for him. While he was excited, he also was not fully confident in his choice.

“It felt overwhelming and I convinced myself that it was euphoria. I was excited to finally have a large platform like that, but I was experiencing a cognitive dissonance,” Cortez said.

Eventually, he felt that he knew he was not in the right place, an epiphany brought on by his own introspection as well as the guidance of others who understand the pressures. “It just didn’t feel like the right thing to do, and I knew that it would mostly be a source of anxiety rather than one of productivity.”

“I heard directly and indirectly from others that people really didn’t want me in ASSP. I was beginning to not to want to be, either, ” Cortez said.

Cortez is content with his choice to leave. He knows that it was what he needed to do, as he feels strongly that ASSP has lots to improve upon.
“They keep things behind closed doors and don’t even try communicating with the student body,” Cortez said.

He expressed his displeasure with the “messiness” and “opaqueness” of ASSP, beliefs that he felt were confirmed in his VPIA journey last year.

“I made my decision to resign after Andy Spalletta was removed from the [Vice President of Ministries] position and was replaced by Maddy Fulcher,” Cortez said. “Whitney [Broetje] and the VP at the time told the room that it was the Election Task Force (ETF) who made the decision. But in conversation with a student within ETF, I found out that she was not a part of that decision.”

“They’re always really vague with big decisions like this, even with the current decision to not have a VPIA this academic year. Another friend of mine in ETF was unaware of that decision, too,” Cortez said.

In contrast, Samayo’s email claimed that “after a long period of discussion aimed at providing the best solution for students, ASSP & the Elections Task Force came to a decision to not have a VPIA for the 2018-2019 school year.”

However, concerning Senate, the members are very confident that SPU will be perfectly fine without a VPIA. In fact, according to School of Humanities Senator James Chung, ASSP will rise to the challenge easily in the coming year.

“SPU has such a strong team of ASSP members passionate about intercultural affairs, and I believe that each of the core members (Pre, EVP, VPCA, VPF, VPM) will be able to take on VPIAs responsibilities,” Chung explained.

Chung believes that ASSP will thrive despite the vacancy, stepping up with their passions for the issues usually handled by the VPIA position.

He hopes to see the talents of the current serving ASSP officers take on those duties, and predicts even more involvement from the remaining members to fill the gap.

“I think Senate will be prompted to be even more interactive with students, and this will be a great thing for SPU in the long run,” Chung continued.

“We will unavoidably have one less voting member due to the vacancy of VPIA, but once again, I am not worried but very excited to see how this vacancy can positive impact all the senators individually.”

Cortez hopes that ASSP will prioritize intercultural affairs more in the coming years, something he said he did not see much in his short time there.

“I struggled with knowing I’d be a part of that oppressive system that puts more effort in campus events than helping things thrive from a grassroots leve,” Cortez said. Instead, Cortez is now a leader at Haven and co-founder of the the Asian American Student Association, roles he is much more content to fill.

On the part of Chung, he is optimistic looking forward that senate will do just that; focus on and properly emphasize intercultural affairs.

“I personally know Nathan, ASSP President, to be a big advocate for minority students,” Chung said, “and therefore I am not concerned, but even very excited to see the entire ASSP taking on new challenges as a team.”