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Mattea to resign as vice president of administration

10 resignations this term raise questions about SU internal affairs

| News Editors
Trevor Mattea, SU vice president of administration, will be resigning in two weeks. (Courtesy of the Montana Administration)

Trevor Mattea, SU vice president of administration, will be resigning in two weeks. (Courtesy of the Montana Administration)

Student Union Vice President of Administration Trevor Mattea announced Monday that he would be resigning from his post in two weeks. His resignation is the second for the Montana administration, raising questions about Student Union’s internal efficacy.

A member of Treasury resigned late Tuesday night and seven SU senators have also stepped down this term.

“It’s a wake up call; we really need to transform Student Union,” SU President Jeff Nelson said of the Senate and Executive  Council resignations.

Mattea, a junior, said he resigned because he was not satisfied with some of the aspects of how SU operates.

“I fear that sometimes things are done because they’ve been done before and there’s a hesitancy, or people are slow, to step back and reassess things and think outside the box,” Mattea said.

An SU press release stated that Mattea was frustrated with the bureaucratic structure of his position and his inability to make a “noticeable difference in the lives of students.”

Second executive resignation in two months

The resignation comes less than two months after Courtney Reeves, former vice president of public relations, resigned for “personal reasons.”

Mattea said he views his resignation as different from Reeves’.

“[For me,] it wasn’t an issue of time and having enough time, it was more of an issue of, ‘How am I spending my time?’ Is it something where I feel like I’m having a worthwhile participation, and is it making me happy? More and more, the answers to those questions were ‘no.’”

Jill Carnaghi, associate vice chancellor for students and dean of campus life, agreed that the executives stepped down for their own reasons.

“I think each of them made the tough call for themselves,” Carnaghi said. “The most difficult thing can be, ‘I can’t complete what I said I was going to do.’”

While Nelson acknowledged that many students do not understand the full extend of their responsibilities until they actually hold that position, he said his focus is on the student body rather than on the students who work within student union.

“My focus is not so much on the internal specifics,” Nelson said. “I’m more concerned with the results for students.”

Questions about the VP of administration position, SU structure

As for the position of vice president of administration, which Nelson held last year, Nelson said he understands Mattea’s frustrations with the job.

“It’s very internal-focused, and it’s hard to see how you make an impact on students,” Nelson said.

The position of vice president of administration involves the oversight of internal aspects of SU and many of the day-to-day issues of student government, such as rules, office supplies and room reservation.

“Perhaps I misunderstood exactly what the position was or what the day-to-day job was. I wasn’t aware of how the things I was obligated to do—the day-to-day office stuff—was going to bog me down from doing my own projects,” Mattea said. “Its hard to have the enthusiasm to do the things you really want to do once you complete the things you’re obligated to do.”

Senior Chase Sackett, speaker of SU Senate, said he thought Mattea’s resignation was not a reflection on the structure of Student Union but rather on the position of vice president of administration itself.

“I don’t think it’s an SU thing. I think it’s more about what that position is. I can completely understand why Trevor would be unsatisfied with that position,” Sackett said. Sackett served as a senator while Mattea was the chair of the Campus Services Committee.

Junior Jack Novick, an SU Senator, said the resignation will not change his thinking on student government.

“It doesn’t really make me feel any differently about Student Union,” Novick said. “It’s more moving on the same path we’ve been on, moving toward changing from a bureaucratic self-serving organization to more outreach and more activism.”

The resignations have caused SU members to reconsider how students understand SU.

Nelson said that  the executive branch is looking to create an “inside SU” program that hosts events highlighting each position in the body. This would increase awareness about Student Union and its functions and educate those planning to run. Another suggestion has been to more explicitly outline each executive position in the constitution so that candidates are more aware of what they are getting into.

“I’d like to see Student Union be realistic about what it can do and give less emphasis to the idea that we’re changing school policy because that’s not usually the case,” Mattea said. “I won’t say that students or Student Union reps aren’t involved in some decisions because they are, but to say that’s most of what we do would be inaccurate.”

With additional reporting by Perry Stein

  • Tara

    1. Calling SU fascist was a joke. I am sorry that you took that seriously.
    2. As I stated before, I am in SU. It’s just incredibly frustating that even while there are many others that agree with me, we are not enough to change the SU system that is fundamentally, infrastructurally designed to resist change. SU only further frustrates those people who do want to make a difference because even well-intentioned leaders (e.g. Jeff Nelson) spend their time talking about progress and assuring constituents of forthcoming change… but then nothing happens because they treat their jobs as figurehead positions and actually do very little to incorporate more students. For example, if they wanted to jumpstart student activism in SU, they might actually do something for the Engineering or Sam Fox schools… as of now, they really don’t (neither does the university, though). As StudLife has aptly noted, there is no lack of student activism this year (consider the Right Side of HIstory or the Mother’s Bar ordeal); SU just doesn’t work to incorporate it into their own system very well.

    The point of discussing or “complaining” here is to bring up needed changes in a public forum (here is one; sadly, SU meetings are very much NOT public since no non-SU students go). Students do DO things for these changes. Student Union just does not have a system that facilitates their doing so, and it should. Jeff Nelson spent a lot of energy last year to re-work the system to change how SU works–but he ended up pushing for a system that adds more bureaucracy without actually addressing the problems that existed before. And SU reps all went along with it because it was Jeff’s thing, and God forbid someone stand up and say, “Why are we doing this? It’s not re-focusing us on efficiency, equity, quality, or anything.” It’s the “go with the flow” attitude of SU that makes it ineffective.

  • Good

    Putting all personal feelings aside, I’m glad trevor is spending his time doing what he actually wants to do. He should be allowed to do that without getting flack from people.

    That being said. Why do people spend so much time complaining? Either do something about or dont. Its pretty simple. All this complaining seems to be a pointless waste of time and energy.

  • you commenters are STILL hilarious.

    well, uh, first off, I definitely didn’t say anything bad about Trevor. he seems like a nice guy and everything, and I’m sure he’ll be happier off of SU and doing other things that he enjoys more and has to put less time into.

    I’m pretty sure SU has one of the worse group retention rates (or at least, on of the most publicized ones) because of the amount of time people have to put in it, not because it has “failure” and “fascism”- and really, did you actually just call SU FASCIST? that’s intelligent. anyway, all the other people resigned because of time problems and personal issues- trevor was the only one who resigned because he wasn’t happy with SU.

    i think that, overall, we are making this far too overdramatic. in the end, SU is just a bunch of students that are trying to help the school. some do it by advocating on senate, others by helping figure out how to allocate a huge budget to many deserving clubs. articles like this, as well as most of the crap that comes from StudLife, makes it sound like SU is a huge ship that is hitting an iceberg. in reality, an exec resigned. BIG WHOOP. there are tons of other people working on other cool crap, who aren’t “fascist” or “failing”.

    and to the idea that SU is self-selecting? I think it’s more the fact that most people wouldn’t care enough to get involved in SU, so those who do care stay involved for a while. I mean, there are Senate elections going on in the next few weeks…did any of you apply? Did I? No, I have a lot of other things to do, and I’m sure you do too. however, I respect all of those, both those who are previous SU members as those who are “outsiders” (and believe it or not, if you actually READ THINGS, they do run!), who took the time to apply/run.

  • Tara

    “you commenters are hilarious.” = delusional, or just naive

    … as most evident by his belief in checks and balances in SU. There are virtually none. Example? SU Treasury allocates its own budget to itself (and did you think that SUp All Night was worth the bucks?). Those checks and balances that do exist seem mostly to keep the same things in place and to resist change.

    Really the point that I wanted to make in this forum, however unclear I’ve made it through all my banter, is that people who are bashing Trevor are completely foreign to the workings of SU. I am not surprised by him being misquoted in StudLife (isn’t everybody?… seriously) – but I am even less surprised by what his quote was supposed to be, according to Patrick Seaworth. Whether it was the bureaucracy that Trevor cited or the supposed “checks and balances” cited by the last commenter, the bottom line with Student Union is that the officials are a more or less self-selecting crowd who do not really want to challenge the system. They are there to buy into it. I do think the majority of them feel responsible to represent the student body… but they just aren’t good at it. My guess is that most SU reps were SU reps before they became deeply involved members of student groups (if they did at all), and so despite their best efforts, they are still seeing things from SU’s point of view and not genuinely from the perspective of the average student or average student group member. (And I am not speaking about ALL SU reps… I am just making an unfairly sweeping generalization about the group.)

    SU probably has the worst retention rate of any student group on campus. This year, they’re dropping like flies over there. Anyone who is antagonizing individuals in favor of SU is at the very least failing to recognize the failure (and fascism?) of an organization that will shove on unwavering even when its own are falling under its wheels. SU reps serve in thankless, thankless jobs – and for what? If not to change students’ experiences at WashU for the better, then literally for nothing. From my perspective, Trevor’s resignation was smart not only to free himself to effect change on campus but also to publicize the painful shortcomings of the SU system.

  • you commenters are hilarious.

    wow, I’ve never seen so much ridiculously immature whining in one place. personally, I think SU is doing a fine job. they get some stuff done, generally represent the student body, and work endless hours for people as thankless as the people commenting this article. if you have a problem with SU, just TALK TO THEM ABOUT IT! I was talking to a senator, and he said that at every single senate meeting, one of the first things they do on the floor is have this kind of open “student forum” for students to come and say concerns, but I doubt any of you ever take the time from your day to do that, do you? instead, you uselessly whine on

    mattea had some concerns with SU, yeah. from what I heard, he wanted to get some reforms passed, and both senate and treasury did not pass all of them. that’s not BUREAUCRACY, people, that’s called checks and balances. I think the fact that 50+ voting students did not like this one exec’s ideas and were able to vote it down is a good thing, not a bad one.

    so everyone, please, chill out, and if you have an actual problem, try to DO something about it instead of complaining like children. and seriously, if you haven’t noticed, there are tons of people you can email about any of your questions, like the senators everyone is assigned, the speakers of treasury/senate, or hell, even jeff nelson would probably respond to you. lol

  • Former SU Rep

    An alternate way to force change upon SU is to not pay your Undergraduate Activities Fee. This is an optional fee that you pay along with your tuition — it was $189.00 for Fall 2009, and should show up on your WebSTAC billing statement. Check it out.

    What would this accomplish? Besides immediately depositing a few hundred dollars each year back in your checking account, it would challenge SU’s very foundations. The Undergraduate Activities Fee, when collected from every undergraduate student, adds up to create SU’s entire 2 million dollar-plus budget. By declining to pay the activities fee, students could cause a serious drop in SU revenues. Fearful of seeing their budget shrink even further, the next semester, SU leaders would have no choice but to reform the system until it appears worthy of funding.

    In my two terms in SU I saw countless examples of SU’s resistance to extra-institutional change. Working within the existing structure by changing election rules, electing new leaders, etc. won’t be effective — what is needed is a jolt to the structure strong enough to shake free the inefficiencies. Declining the Undergraduate Activities Fee would provide this jolt and force SU to be far more responsive to its constituents. If it isn’t, it will cease to have them.

  • Patrick Seaworth

    “The most difficult thing can be, ‘I can’t complete what I said I was going to do.’” – j. carnahan

    no, what he said was, ‘i am not being let complete the things that i want to complete due to the internal errors in structure present within the student union and the bureaucracy that the union creates and perpetuates to the detriment of the students, and i’m not willing to continue that cycle of inefficient and dishonest representation to the students i intended to represent.’

    way to slam a guy on his way out the door though.


  • SU rep

    I agree with many of the opinions posted here. SU is a broken system and changes need to be made. And guess what, there ARE people in SU who want to see change, like me and Trevor. But we’re a minority whose ideas get shot down by the majority of SU reps who are satisfied with the broken system/ too ingrained in their ideals and own pride to listen to anyone else. The minority needs to become the majority in order for things to truly change. If you don’t like how treasury is running things, then RUN FOR A SEAT. Voice your opinions to the student body. RUN FOR AN EXEC POSITION and change how things work. Don’t just write about how horrible things are, do something and collaborate with others who want to see change to truly make a difference.

    There’s been talk about having debates during elections to really know where candidates stand which I think is a great idea. Stop letting elections go unopposed or we will continue having the same broken system. It sounds cheesy, but change IS possible, if we pinpoint those who are causing the broken system and run against them.

    Keep coming to Senate and Treasury meetings and voicing your opinions. It really helps. It makes people uncomfortable and makes them rethink their ideals.

  • change

    People complain about SU all the time. I agree with Tara, there are a lot of inconsistencies in SU when it comes to allocations of money to student groups. This year alone I have heard of various groups on campus (ABS, KWUR) who feel like they have been discriminated against because of treasurers personal feelings towards their activities or organizations.

    More over, it is often difficult to come into the office to ask questions or to speak with someone. The student workers dont know anything about the internal workings of SU, I’ll ask them questions and they have no idea how to respond. And the business managers are so overworked that they are either never there or there is a line to speak to them.

    Tara also mentioned precedence, and I agree that people in SU have these invisible set of rules that they apply to some of their decisions. They based most of these precedents off of the senior representatives decisions and only mirror what they do.

    Why would any1 want to be on exec? They have no power, they arent paid, people disregard their comments/statements, they sit in meetings for hours and are expected not to say much about the proceedings, and they are overseen by people in the administration (OSA).

    ummm. doesnt sound fun to me… i much rather be dancing in diwali, in CS40 or tutoring kids in eoto.

  • Tara

    In response to SU Rep, I often do go to meetings and voice my opinions… And I have observed first-hand and of others that SU Treasury and Senate actually get frustrated when people are too vocal in the “open” meetings–even when constructive critique is offered. There are even multiple occasions where I have literally been told, “This is not the time or venue for discussing that” (e.g. quote from the Speaker of the Treasury during a budget meeting, when I brought up a point of dissatisfaction/inequity in the budget allocations that year… oh wait, that happened multiple years from both Yewande and Frank). I’m sorry, but if the budget meeting isn’t the place to discuss the budget – where the hell is?! All those decisions get made behind closed doors according to BS standing rules that allow student groups who know them to exploit that knowledge. Not every student group should have to have an SU officer in it to effectively operate in a leadership role on campus–and yet, those groups that don’t (and also many that do) get their budgets cut every year often to the point of threatening their ability to operate and thus exist. Meanwhile, poorly informed students vote to give the Campus Y twice as much annually to spend on markers as other groups receive to put on concerts, publish a magazine, operate a radio station, or any number of other programs that actually happen regularly and affect many students (by entertaining them, teaching them skills, offering them a community or a leadership role, etc.).

    My experience with SU is that its officials are not in fact entirely open to change, perhaps if for no other reason than that to do anything in SU, there’s a huge process you have to go through, and other things get in the way of it, and, well, I guess people get lazy.

    If anything, it’s “funny” (read: sad) how I have spoken with many reps in SU who completely agree with me. Especially about which student groups get too much money. But they (or their peers) repeatedly vote one way just to get shit passed. Such complacency should be totally unacceptable. But it is accepted because most SU officers are elected to their seat on less than a percent of the vote or because they ran unopposed. They therefore don’t really feel the obligation to represent their constituents as they should (or they do, and it is completely misguided). SU talks about jumpstarting student activism all the time but fails to understand that students will respond to ground-level action and not lofty State of the Union addresses and just more and more talk.

    Oh yeah, and I am IN Student Union, as both a student group member and as an SU committee member. So… my experience is not limited to a few conversations. I am speaking to a pretty comprehensive experience, from inside and outside. I hope that other students who are not familiar with the inner workings of SU do get more involved – or at least more informed – so that more folks understand exactly the types of issues I am addressing here. If more students knew what was going on, I am sure they’d demand change.

  • Kate

    Jason: The comparison was meant more in as a comment on how leaders recently have been stepping down when having to deal with administrative issues rather than rising to the challenge.

  • very good article.
    wondreful article.

  • anonymous

    also, it’s probably best he resigned. i don’t like the look of those dimples. can’t trust ‘em.

  • anonymous

    SU Rep: funding crises of past years revealed just how inane senate/treasury is when it comes to allocating money. i attended many of those “emergency” meetings and the way the reps approached the situation ensured I’ll never be back. Besides, it’s absurd to argue that a treasury rep trained to handle money can’t be held accountable for his or her decisions until some kid from the student body totters in and points out the idiocy. it’s a little disingenuous on your part. finally an observation: cpc is a glaring waste of money. some of the programming is really successful, but most of it is over-funded and under-attended.

  • SU Rep

    It’s funny how people like Tara complain about SU but do nothing to actually make these opinions heard. Treasury and Senate meetings are totally open to the student body, everyone has a personal senator, and there are always people in the Student Union office. If you feel that way, I think most SU reps would rather you let them know how you feel– assuming that everyone is so opposed to change, and then never telling anyone in the SU but anonymously complaining on Student Life comments is completely pointless.

  • Word, Tara.

    Typical of SU.
    Typical of StudLife.

  • True

    Actually, seriously studlife, theres alot of stuff brewing in SU….check it all out.

  • Tara

    I for one can completely understand where Trevor is coming from – specifically when he cites SU’s resistance to change. SU bases so much of what it does on precedence and not actually on quality control, current relevance, and actual student interest/benefit. SU’s “go with the flow” attitude almost always works against its own purpose of serving its student body constituents effectively.

    There are so many groups (e.g. Team31) that SU Treasury repeatedly throws WAY too much money at, while continually cutting the budgets of groups that strive to make their programming better. By relying on precedence, SU encourages people to pursue the same old (and sometimes worse) programming rather than challenging them to do better and earn their funding.

    Also, is no one else shocked at how complacement this article and everyone in it is?! Where was the hard-hitting reporting? This story was a huge opportunity for StudLife to blow the top off of Student Union – well, at least to get people moderately interested in the bureacratic scandals abound on our campus. Sorry, StudLife, but I am disappointed, to say the least.

  • Iris

    It seems to me like many other organizations I have been involved with, the duties of the position of VP of SU was not explicitly described to Mattea. Therefore, he was very disappointed. If it was, I apologize, but I sure didn’t read that into this article.

  • We Fund SU

    wu alum 08: Student Union is absolutely not funded by the WU administration. SU is funded by us students. We pay a 1% add-on to our tuition (the student activities fee), that while collected by the administration for SU, goes straight to SU each year with absolutely no strings attached. SU is in no way a “channel” for the administration. Maybe SU doesn’t effectively communicate all the ways it disagrees with the administration (or perhaps nobody notices when StudLife reports on the matter), but SU officers have challenged the administration numerous times, from demanding they hire a coordinator for LGBT affairs, to the more recent denouncement of the chancellor’s unilateral decision to ban smoking. In fact, we hold WILD every semester despite the fact that any respectable administrator should (and I’m sure many do) dread the idea of 2000 drunken youth on the quad all at once (why do you think no alcohol is allowed in the quad after 6, the whole quad is barred up and Team 31 serves pizza and water bottles?). Unlike many other universities, SU has no formalized power within the WU administration, but the trade off is SU gets to collect $2.2 million dollars a year, the largest budget of any private university student government, without a single stipulation. In no way does SU “play” anything. When was the last time you heard of a small group of students who were elected by 1900 people (last spring’s election turnout) to control a 2.2 million budget and then everyone said “how fun, next week it’s cops and robbers!”?

  • Jason

    Kate: the resignation by Mattea is nothing at all like the resignation of President Chapman who worked miracles at NDSU (ask anyone) but has grown tired over recent attacks on cost overruns of the Presidential Mansion that he lives in, but does not own. Not even close.

  • wu alum 08

    SU should be taken as what it is: a student group which seeks to ‘play’ government. And that’s perfectly OK. But for people to act like SU is actually an outlet for change on campus, think again. Any organization (and this is not a knock on SU) that purports to change campus in an authentically student-focused way can not do so through the channels of the administration unless the admin and the students have aligned interests. So an event like WILD works because both students and the admin have an interest in putting on and attending a good concert. Mens basketbal gets good crwods because students enjoy the games and the administration has a vested interest in getting fans in the stands. But SU’s job is to allott money to student groups and any student group that sought to move campus discourse or culture in a different direction would be silly to waste their time trying to acquire funding from an organization that is funded by the admin. The admin has a vested interest in preserving the status quo and that’s not a criticism of the admin. It’s just to note that SU is little more than a channel for them to do this. If you want to change a school, you can’t get your funding from that school unless that school wants to change in the same ways you do.

  • Kate

    What an unfortunate attitude to take towards a position of leadership. Not every position gets the glory of immediate results or gets to be the face of every success. Unlike how Courtney Reeves described her wish to step down, Trevor comes across as selfish and similar to the President of NDSU who stepped down recently saying, “it just isn’t fun”. Student Union has been doing a really good job this year in how it becomes involved with the student body and the services they offer to students — if Trevor can’t see how what he does contributes to that, he needs to widen his perspective.