Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Ruiz, ASLMU stay true to goals – Los Angeles Loyolan.
The Friday before the new academic year began in earnest, ASLMU President Bryan Ruiz professed his excitement about the upcoming First Convo, co-sponsored by Mane Entertainment.
“At First Convo this year, expect something you’ve never seen before to kick off this 101st year,” the senior management major said in an interview with the Loyolan. “Expect something new and fresh. We’re kicking it up one notch with all of our events.”
Ruiz’s enthusiasm wasn’t reserved for First Convo; whether he was talking about ASLMU’s open-door policy, its new focus on transparency or all the student government’s goals for LMU at 101, the president was eager for the new year to begin.
Fast forward to First Convo on Tuesday, Aug. 28 and the “new and fresh” element, it turned out, was a live lion on campus. While many students celebrated the decision (“LMU at 101! There was a real lion on campus today. Hurra[h] for senior year!” senior entrepreneurship major Michelle Figueroa tweeted from what appeared to be her account), there were murmurs across campus of concern for the lion’s safety, as well as frustration over the expense of this event. The Aug. 30 Loyolan’s Letter to the Editor from Associate Professor of Communication Studies Dr. Nina M. Lozano-Reich went so far as to call for a public apology for the lion’s appearance.
In an open letter to the LMU community, Ruiz spoke for ASLMU about First Convo and said, “As student leaders, we had intentional conversations about both positive and negative outcomes of bringing a lion to campus. … Although we believe we did our due diligence to research the best possible organization to accomplish our vision, we also realize that our actions have offended members of the LMU community, and for that we are regretful.”
Despite the controversy, Ruiz still called it a “very successful event” when speaking with the Loyolan.
First Convo was set to be the catalyst in the Ruiz administration’s push for “quality over quantity” in event planning, a theme stressed not only since the student body’s return, but also back in the election season. Since the controversy, Ruiz admitted that his administration is “adjusting” its event planning strategy going forward.
“We’re always adjusting. Nothing’s perfect, and we’re all learners every day,” he said. “At ASLMU, we’re going to keep adjusting our events to cater to our student body.”
Programming goals aside, Ruiz and his vice president, senior sociology major Vince Caserio, are focusing on two other major goals during LMU’s 101st year.
“[Vince] and I are really friendly and extroverted guys,” Ruiz said in reference to their open-door policy. “We [want to] make sure that everybody knows that ASLMU is home for everyone. … I think what’s most effective is face-to-face [interaction], actually being there.”
Caserio also spoke of increasing communication with the administration. According to the vice president, ASLMU’s plan is to meet with faculty groups every month.
“We know they want the students’ best interest as well,” Caserio said. “We just want to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.”
Ruiz and Caserio also stressed a need for greater transparency as one of their goals, citing as evidence the student body’s anger at not being informed of the reasoning behind the decision to terminate the De Colores service trips last semester.
“I think students felt like they really didn’t have a voice,” Ruiz said. “So, Vinnie and I want to make sure students do have a voice in things.”
However, Ruiz also urged looking forward at future issues, rather than looking back at incidents like De Colores and the controversial introduction of parking fees. “I would be lying to tell you that I could change anything. It’s more of an informational piece. … It’s [about] informing students, ‘This is what happened; that wasn’t under my era, but this is what’s happening. I want to make sure you’re up to date with everything.’”
The executive team spoke of feeling ready to leap into the new academic year with the support of what Speaker of the Senate Cecilia Rangel-Garcia described as a “positive and excited” ASLMU staff.
“This year, there aren’t that many returners,” the sophomore psychology major said about the Senate in particular. “It’s a different dynamic. I really appreciate the enthusiasm that everybody has.”
Ruiz echoed her sentiments, indicating an infectious energy in ASLMU’s ranks as they face a year of new challenges and a currently unclear LMU at 101.
“This ASLMU team, I feel, is [going to] set a new structure and foundation for future administrations,” Ruiz said. “What’s going on here is something special.”