Promises Made, Promises Kept? A midterm analysis of the Palen-Mares Administration

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Illustration: Daisy Daniels
Promises Made, Promises Kept? A midterm analysis of the Palen-Mares Administration 

By Aaron Padilla

The 2020 ASLMU elections were an exciting time for the LMU student body. After a stiff race between three unique tickets, Jack Palen and Elsie Mares ultimately emerged victorious after winning the popular vote. Eight months after their inauguration, however, the Palen-Mares administration has seen their fair share of criticism from the LMU student body. 

In October, students condemned the Palen-Mares administration and current ASLMU Senate for being unrepresentative of their interests and for tolerating prejudice within ASLMU. These allegations are a rare example of civic engagement and criticism by the student body towards ASLMU.

In the wake of LMU’s transition into an online learning environment, ASLMU had to undergo several changes to keep pace with the needs of a socially distanced student body. Shifts in policy priorities and procedures had to take place to better accommodate student needs in an online environment. The Palen-Mares administration chose to distance themselves from the roles that past ASLMU Presidential administrations have taken in the past. 

The Palen-Mares campaign platform was heavily rooted in the assumption that students would return to campus in Fall 2020. COVID-19 policy only appeared twice in their campaign platform, though was mentioned at length during the ASLMU 2020 election debates. These priorities soon changed after Palen and Mares were elected into office. 

As LMU made its transition into online learning in Spring 2020 and later announced that it would do the same for Fall 2020, student government needed to adapt.“In the summer, when we started to realize that there wouldn’t be any room for in-person events and that it would all be online, we had to shift goals. We realized that our [in person] priorities had to take a backseat to our ‘survival work’ and supporting students,” ASLMU Vice President Elsie Mares explained.

Elaborating on this change of approach, ASLMU President Jack Palen said, “We saw our role as being the liaison between the University administration and students.” 

Despite this emphasis on student support, the Palen-Mares administration faced a notable lack of agency over university education and tuition policy. As compared to other student governments—UCLA, for example, participated in collective bargaining while discussing plans for Fall 2020 learning—the Palen-Mares administration and ASLMU Senate carried little sway over LMU Executive Board proceedings and decisions over matters such as emergency student assistance, transitioning into online learning, and tuition costs. 

“ASLMU is not at all of the tables that ASLMU should be at. That was something that became very apparent over the summer,” Vice President Mares said of ASLMU’s experiences with LMU’s administration this summer. Placing student-representatives in LMU administration meetings which concern them and their title has been imperative ever since. 

Over the past few months, the Palen-Mares administration has placed most of its efforts into supporting student advocacy groups as well as highlighting work by student artists and entrepreneurs. Measures such as establishing an LMU Maker’s Collective, providing support to undocumented and mixed-status students in collaboration with Resilience LMU, and reaffirming LMU’s commitment to Title IX all fall under the administration’s student support initiatives. 

Migrating to an online learning environment fundamentally altered the roles and responsibilities of those in student government. As such, the Palen-Mares administration had to shift their priorities from those of past ASLMU presidents. This shift from coordinating in-person activities to student advocacy was drastic, yet needed for changing times.

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