ASMSU to host Big Ten student governments
In January, ASMSU will host the Association of Big Ten Students, or ABTS, winter conference for the first time in seven years.
ABTS is a conglomerate of all fourteen Big Ten student governments. They meet for three conferences a year: a summer conference, a winter conference, and a special lobbying conference in Washington, D.C.
ASMSU President Lorenzo Santavicca said the seasonal conferences serve as a way for student leaders to bounce ideas off of one another.
“These two conferences that we have in both seasons, both the summer and the winter are for us to get together and do some idea sharing, networking with our peers, a lot of the people who are in student government meet with their counterparts and talk about what’s going on at their institutions,” Santavicca said.
Pennsylvania State University senior Samantha Geisinger is the executive director of ABTS. She said the organization's primary focus is on advocacy.
“As the director basically what I do is coordinate what the executive board does," Geisinger said. "There are seven people including myself on the board, and we do a lot of federal advocacy in the same way that individual schools would do advocacy at the state or local level.”
Santavicca hopes to address issues of campus climate at the conference.
“I think the DACA conversation needs to be talked about, certainly the way in which we view campus safety as it relates to sexual assault, possibly gun legislation and seeing free speech come up as well,” Santavicca said.
Geisinger said that she sets up time in the conference for "popcorn topics," which allow attendees to take a set topic and build off of it. Among the ones set for this year are access to free feminine hygiene products, as well as sexual assault and mental health.
“The way that I find topics for that is, I go through social media forms and through notes I’ve taken at past conferences," Geisinger said. "I also follow obviously every single student government on all social media forms so I can see what they’re doing on their campuses and what they’re working on at that time.”
Geisinger has been working with ASMSU ABTS Liaison Lauren Fish to organize the conference.
"She’s amazing," Geisinger said. "Her and my conference coordinator have pretty much been doing everything, which is nice.”
Fish also serves as ASMSU chief of staff. She said her role as ABTS liaison has changed this year.
“In the past, the liaison was really just in charge of letting ABTS know what we’re working on and how that works for ASMSU, but this year, it’s really a lot more of being almost like an event planner, trying to put the conference together,” Fish said.
Fish said that because planning began months ago, the process has been smooth.
“We started back in July, so we’ve had a lot of time to plan. It’s really crazy that we only have two months until the conference now, but we really haven’t had too many bumps yet.”
Part of Fish's job has been to coordinate the involvement of administration and local officials in the conference. Santavicca said he's looking forward to this aspect of the event.
“The opportunity here, you can see, is going to be great," Santavicca said. "We’re going to be involving some of our administration here, some of the city officials, trustees, folks at the capitol. We’re really going to be putting on an event here to bring people together.”
Santavicca also said that he hopes the conference, which will be held Jan. 12-14 will help give ASMSU members a sense of renewed purpose.
“I’m really hoping that this is going to be something that’s really helpful for our students at ASMSU, because sometimes I think we lose the scope of our ability to do work over many different levels,” Santavicca said.