University of Wyoming Elects Student Government Officers Focused on Transparency and Culture

Saber Smith and Jessica Petri become ASUW President and Vice President

Saber Smith is gleeful as the race is called for the Smith-Petri ticket for president and vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming (ASUW) elections on April 14. Meanwhile, Smith's running mate—Jessica Petri—listens from the other end of Smith's earbuds while overseas. (Wyoming Truth photo by Ashton J. Hacke)

By Kaycee Clark-Mellott

Special to the Wyoming Truth

LARAMIE, Wyo.—The Associated Students of the University of Wyoming (ASUW) elections for the 111th administration concluded on April 14, with junior Saber Smith and sophomore Jessica Petri being elected as president and vice president. Twenty-one senators also were elected to fill the legislative branch.

The celebration for Smith, of Gillette, began immediately after the announcement, but Petri, of Green River, lagged behind via a Snapchat audio call. Petri, an education major, has been studying in Spain during spring semester and was traveling in Egypt at the time.

“I was so excited, shocked and happy,” Smith, a political science and criminal justice major, told the Wyoming Truth. “What we did mattered, and all the effort and hours we put in led to something.”

The Smith-Petri ticket received 414 out of 1,336 votes. However, the total vote count was down 53% from the 2022 election.

Founded in 1913, ASUW operates an annual budget of about $1.1million, including endowments to fund projects and scholarships. The budget helps pay salaries of professional staff and students; it also funds its associated programs, homecoming and election activities, events for student organizations and operating budgets for its branches. ASUW is comprised of executive, legislative and judicial branches, and the president sits as ex-officio on UW’s Board of Trustees.

Smith-Petri Campaign 

Smith and Petri said they decided to run as a ticket over a year ago on a shared vision of changing the culture and de-polarizing ASUW. This led them to create the campaign slogan: “ASUW SUCKS 🙂 Let’s fix it.”

“It really wasn’t targeted at any individual or any people, just the entity needed some change to make it feel more like at home,” Smith said.

Much of their distaste stems from a hyperpolarized organizational culture. The ticket mentioned their plans to remain nonpartisan during their administration to “allow senators to make their voices heard.”

After the ASUW results were announced, Smith and Petri connected via video call to celebrate their victory.  (Wyoming Truth photo by Ashton J. Hacke)

For example, when it comes to the issues of inclusion and freedom of expression that arose over the past year, Petri intends to “remain as politically neutral as possible.”  

Both Smith and Petri served in ASUW’s First-Year Senate and were elected to the full senate in 2022, with Petri receiving the second-highest number of  votes. Smith stepped down as a senator and served as Chief of Legislative Affairs in the executive branch for the 110th administration.  

The duo’s campaign was unconventional, as it didn’t focus on fraternity and sorority life (FSL). Instead, Smith and Petri targeted their pitch to other groups, including international students who spoke to them about the possibility of starting a shuttle to Denver International Airport. 

“They’ve expressed that it’s a problem,” Petri said via Zoom. “Our idea that we ran on was that we want to tackle tangible and realistic student needs, like that bus or shuttle.” 

The Smith-Petri ticket did not perform well among the FSL, Interfraternity Council and College Panhellenic Council, which ranked them low on endorsement lists. ASUW elections are conducted through ranked choice voting.

The election was not without controversy. Three complaints were filed against the Smith-Petri campaign—all related to social media posts. The two rulings, with two complaints combined, were a split decision.

The first ruling found that their posting of FSL councils’ ranking them third did not violate election policy, but the post was taken down. The second ruling found that Smith’s endorsement of candidates in his role as an ASUW executive violated policy, and the Judicial Council sanctioned the ticket by prohibiting Smith and Petri from posting on social media and campaigning in person for 24 hours.

ASUW’s 111th Administration

Smith and Petri’s campaign focused on transparency; they vowed to seek student opinion about key campus issues before moving forward with initiatives.

“For us, it’s about being transparent and realistic about what we can and can’t do,” Petri said. “We’ve heard students say, ‘Fix parking.’ I wouldn’t call that the biggest issue though, because where you’re going to park your car isn’t as big of an issue as someone who doesn’t have food.”

Petri noted one of their social media posts that explained more about the parking situation at UW and ASUW’s role—specifically what the university is doing and how ASUW can only advocate for students. 

Smith said ASUW should prioritize making a genuine impact on student life, such as bolstering the UW Food Share Pantry, scholarships, professional development and funding of student events

With the approval of the university’s strategic plan in January, two of its objectives fall directly into ASUW’s purview:  enhancing student success and providing a supportive community. Smith mentioned the pair’s service as Pokes Pack Leaders—a new first-year student orientation initiative launched last fall—as a way to build community. He believes that student success can be driven through other avenues, too.  

“Maybe as to why students are not succeeding is because they need food or scholarships to pay rent,” Smith said. “That’s the thing Jessica and I want to focus on . . .  and to try and do the best we can with the budget we have in our capacity.” 

Petri hopes the new ASUW administration will leverage its power to make a difference in students’ lives: “If someone had a happier day and ASUW made their lives better, to me, that’d be a win.”

The 111th ASUW administration will be inaugurated in the UW Union on May 1 at 1 p.m.

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