In March 2018, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln student body elected Hunter Traynor to serve as the president of the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska.
Now, Traynor said he feels nostalgic when he looks back on the year. He said the year was stressful at times, but he also had a lot of fun.
“It’s been a year; it’s been a hell of a time,” he said. “I’m grateful for all the lessons our team has learned and all of the friendships we’ve made and the memories, also. I think we’ll all remember this year for the rest of our lives.”
Traynor, former internal vice president Emily Johnson and past external vice president Jeffrey Owusu-Ansah led the Amplify campaign, which promised to improve campus climate, student wellness, financial stewardship and community building. Over the course of the year, 83 bills and resolutions passed as the executive team worked to meet their goals. Now that the old executive is out of office, the new executive team said they will build upon the past year’s work.
“I really have no critique on the past administration,” current external vice president Ibraheem Hamzat said. “ … Just using what they did this past year as a baseline for anything we’ll do … We will work on what’s been done from our predecessors.”
At the beginning of the year, Traynor said he wanted to install “free speech pillars” on campus to help meet ASUN’s goal of promoting free speech on campus. ASUN has worked with administration on the project over the past year, and an architecture class has designed free speech structures.
“I’m stoked,” he said. “I hope it’s up and ready and built for students to engage with by the fall semester — that’d be my ultimate desire. Of course, things can happen along the way and you cross your fingers and knock on wood that they don’t, but that’s my ultimate hope.”
Traynor also said ASUN’s work with the Student Code of Conduct will help campus climate. Although no official changes to the Student Code of Conduct have been made yet, he said the proposals are being used as a starting point for a system-wide change to the code.
Besides passing bills related to outreach events, ASUN also worked with administration in discussions to renovate the Nebraska Union. The goal of the project was to make the building a better area for students, and Traynor said he is impressed with the progress they made.
Over the past year, the executive team has met with the administration on renovation ideas, and the administration hired an architecture firm to design a renovation plan.
“We’re kind of in limbo to see where that goes, but the design is cool,” Traynor said. “When we saw it we were like, ‘Geez.’ … I’m really excited for things to become more formalized so that we can begin presenting it to student groups and saying, ‘We can make this a reality.’”
Traynor said ASUN’s decision to increase the student fee allocation to Counseling and Psychological Services in February 2018 helped the 2018-19 ASUN executive team improve student wellness. Counseling services were free for students, and Traynor said CAPS visits increased by over 50%.
“My hope was that if we had the resources to change the model and to make it unlimited on a short term basis — that changes the optics of the entire program,” he said. “It is a very symbolically powerful message that you don’t have to ration out your visits, and if you’re feeling at all like you need help, just go.”
ASUN also passed bills to encourage stress-relief activities, advocated for changes to Title IX and supported LB200, which moved for The Bridge Behavioral Health Center to remain open and continue to help students.
Additionally, ASUN passed 11 bills in February to appropriate student fees to several university services. Traynor said ASUN worked to keep the fees low and to make the allocation process more transparent. ASUN also passed a bill so students have digital access to The New York Times and advocated on behalf of the University of Nebraska’s budget request from the state.
Traynor said he believes the new executive team, consisting of President Johnson, who served as internal vice president last year, internal vice president Jared Long and Hamzat, will carry on the goals.
“It has been unbelievable to have a year where we put together such a strong vision for projects, and there’s been such a natural passing of the baton,” Traynor said. “I think in years past, you tried to work on stuff for a year and it doesn’t materialize and then there’s a new crew.”
Long said they will use this summer to plan for the year ahead. The three members of the new executive team said they believe this year was successful and are excited for the new year.
“When we were coming to the end of the term, I kept looking back on the year and it was bittersweet because we had such a great group last year … ” Long said. “At the same time, I’m energized to build off of the successes we had last year and to create that same atmosphere with the new body — hopefully a better atmosphere at that.”