Kiran Samra isn’t like most of ASMSU’s previous presidents. She is not a James Madison student, and she’s a woman.
But most unlikely, she’s never voted on an ASMSU bill.
Since her freshman year, Samra’s been involved in ASMSU, but all of her positions have been on the professional staff — separate, paid positions that help implement the bills from ASMSU’s general assembly of elected students. It essentially is the executive branch of ASMSU.
Ian Kullgren, Editor in chief
Rebecca Ryan, Opinion editor
Matt Sheehan, Staff representative
Omari Sankofa II, Minority representative
She’s mostly been out of the public eye until she ran for president this semester.
She stepped into controversy almost immediately. During the election process, an ASMSU representative expressed concern that Samra’s pursuit of the presidency was in violation of the student government’s policies. But Samra went through two reviews to be approved to run for president, including one review conducted when the first decision to allow her to run was appealed. Samra maintains her victory was legitimate.
When she met with the State News editorial board members this week, Samra admitted ASMSU does not have the best reputation right now. Hopefully, she’ll be able to remedy that through focusing on getting to know more students and administrators.
Those of us on campus last year likely remember the student government’s rocky spring, with two failed events — including a $25,500 carnival meant to promote the spring elections that saw low student attendance and a Ne-Yo concert with less-than-stellar ticket sales that eventually was canceled. Although ASMSU did bring Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to campus last spring, many other public events brought negative attention to the organization.
Most notably, ASMSU’s funds were frozen last year by MSU’s administration until the student government eventually moved it’s funds to an on-campus account. During the spring, ASMSU’s reputation took a turn for the worse. The battle between the organization and the university to oversee student tax dollars tarnished the student government’s reputation.
Samra said she is concerned about the relationship ASMSU has with administrators.
She already has set up a meeting with MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and two members of the Board of Trustees to hopefully improve ASMSU’s relationship with administrators — an impressive start for Samra’s first week in office. She also hopes to schedule a day when ASMSU representatives from across campus will all make themselves available to students to hear about campus concerns. She plans to encourage college deans to talk to students about utilizing ASMSU representatives as an outlet to voice university concerns as well.
Improving ASMSU’s image is one of her primary roles as president, she said. She wants to make communication between students and ASMSU representatives more of a priority.
“In my mind, it’s making sure that the student voice is being heard and that everything that ASMSU means is being represented properly,” Samra said. “It’s not like it’s easy for me to say, But I’m sure you’re all aware our image isn’t the best right now.”
Samra said it’s important that as president, she recognizes that and moves the organization forward in the right direction.
But even with her admission of ASMSU’s somewhat damaged relationship with administrators and students, when asked if she would have voted against any policies that ASMSU has passed since she’s been involved with the organization, Samra had no critiques of ASMSU’s previous decisions. Not even what some have considered a questionable allocation of $60,000 to establish a new bike share program and purchase 40 bikes to make available to students across campus.
“As cliché as the answer may seem, I take pride in everything ASMSU does, so I’m not going to say there’s a time I’ve disagreed with something they’ve voted on.”
Although her take on ASMSU’s past smooths over many of the real problems facing ASMSU — most leaders should be able to list at least one thing their organization could do better — her take on ASMSU’s future could prove to be a positive step for our student government. Considering many students still don’t know their representative and many don’t currently engage with their representatives, ASMSU’s pursuit of engagement is a step in the right direction to help it better represent us as students.
Editors’ note: This article was changed to accurately reflect the cost of the ASMSU carnival.