Jason Hegelmeyer, President.
(Graphic by Emma Estberg)

When ASG President and Weinberg fourth-year Jason Hegelmeyer first joined ASG his sophomore spring, he was a senator representing For Members Only (FMO), Northwestern’s premier Black student alliance. That same year, then-Senate speaker Matthew Wiley posted a racist meme in the ASG Slack and made insensitive remarks in a later Senate meeting. After internal discussions about racism, Wiley eventually resigned and the Senate established a permanent FMO seat.

“That whole shift in ASG ushered in a whole new era of social justice and thinking about the work we do and the students and communities that we impact,” Hegelmeyer says. ASG has consistently lobbied for efforts to improve the student experience. The Senate, cabinet and committees work with students and administration to enact change on Northwestern’s campus while honing their leadership skills. However, representing a student body of 8,000 undergraduates comes with its challenges, whether it be creating spaces for anyone to voice their opinions or ensuring legislation leads to tangible change once it reaches the administration.

In anticipation of ASG’s presidential elections this coming Spring Quarter, NBN examines the roles and responsibilities of Northwestern student government.

Donovan Cusick, Vice President.
(Graphic by Emma Estberg)

Shaping Senate structure

After his tenure as FMO senator, Hegelmeyer began to consider ASG presidency. His campaign process began early Winter Quarter of 2022, when he picked SESP third-year Donovan Cusick as his running mate and they began reaching out to major campus groups, such as the Black Mentorship Program (BMP), to gather feedback about what students wanted to see in ASG leadership. By the time the actual campaign began in April, Hegelmeyer says he had a good idea of what platforms were important to students. In BMP’s case, Hegelmeyer says, the group mainly wanted to ensure Black students were supported.

Undergraduate students elect ASG’s President and Vice President every spring. The President and Vice President then select their cabinet, which includes the Executive Officer of Justice and Inclusion (EOJI) and Chief of Staff, as well as committee chairs.

ASG’s Senate, the organization’s legislative branch, is led by Speaker and Weinberg third-year Dylan Jost, Parliamentarian SESP third-year Dalia Segal-Miller and Deputy Speaker SESP third-year Leah Ryzenman. They lead school senators, who are elected by their respective school’s student bodies, and student group senators, who apply for seats and are approved by an internal committee. Groups represented this year include Alianza, Residential College Board and Athletics, among others.

Dylan Jost, Senate Speaker.
(Graphic by Emma Estberg)

Senate leaders and members hold seats for a full year, during which they write and pass legislation. The Senate also serves as part of a system of checks and balances for the Finance Committee, which distributes funds to student organizations and acts as a mouthpiece for students in conversations with high-level administration. Senators often join one of ASG’s 10 committees, which range in topics such as finance, student life and sustainability and work directly with University administration on short-term and long-term projects. Jost says the Senate’s primary responsibility is to represent students.

“We’ve really made an effort to make sure Senators are reaching out,” Jost says. “So having them hold office hours, talking to people in their dorms and trying to make sure they’re staying engaged.”

Promoting equity

Hegelmeyer recalls his presidential campaign experience being “wildly draining.” He remembers going on YikYak, an anonymous social media app, after a debate and seeing posts accusing him of being rude and annoying by interrupting and making faces at his opponents. He says he felt he faced a double-standard as a Black candidate, experiencing disproportionate criticism for his debate demeanor. While the experience caused a lot of stress for Hegelmeyer, he says it was eye-opening in terms of seeing how Northwestern treats its marginalized students. “In the beginning, I really did truly want to support and represent the entire student body as much as I could,” Hegelmeyer says. “But I realized there are plenty of communities that don’t like me or respect me, and that’s perfectly okay. And I don’t have to pretend like our interests are exactly aligned.”

Communication fourth-year Jo Scaletty is also working to improve the experience of marginalized students as EOJI. The role, previously called Vice President of Justice and Inclusion, saw frequent turnover, leading to calls for reform in 2019. Scaletty says having someone specifically working on equity and inclusion makes it more likely marginalized voices will be heard.

Jo Scaletty, Executive Officer for Justice and Inclusion.
(Graphic by Emma Estberg)

“There is much more of a tendency to stay within the status quo than there is to try to progress and realign priorities and work to establish social equality,” Scaletty says. “And so having someone whose specific role and purpose is to further the ideals of social equality is incredibly important.”

One of Scaletty’s recent initiatives was expanding Books for Cats, a Northwestern program which loans financially eligible students textbooks and lab equipment for certain introductory courses. Scaletty collaborated with the Chair of Academics, Brian Whetsell, to expand the program by starting a “lending library” which allows all students to donate and borrow course books.

One of the most influential ways ASG impacts student life is through funding. ASG distributes about $1.8 million in funding to student groups every year, which comes from the ASG Activity Fee in each student’s tuition. Clubs currently obtain ASG funding based on a tier system. The more years a club is at Northwestern, the higher their tier and the more funding they are eligible to receive. Cusick recognizes that this structure prevents new groups from generating community on campus.

“It kind of guarantees that older events are just grandfathered into their money and they can expect it without much question or consideration,” Cusick says.

According to him, the finance committee spends a lot of time trying to make the funding process more equitable. Last quarter, the Senate granted all requests for student group funding, thanks in part to additional funds procured from University administration. Hegelmeyer says the biggest way students feel a tangible impact from ASG is through funding, so he was happy that all student requests were honored in this funding cycle.

Pursuing change

Before the last ASG election, Chair of Communications and Communication third-year Zai Dawodu created a page on the ASG website with a timeline that gave students up-to-date information prior to election day. Dawodu says she sees ASG communications as a way to connect with students and make them feel heard. Dawodu believes her committee acts as a “pathway” between students and the administration. She hopes her committee’s work makes students more aware of the resources ASG can provide.

“​​I was scared that maybe it’d just be me, and then, people just wouldn’t care much. But people genuinely care,” Dawodu says. “It’s really great to see the passion being spread out.” ASG frequently works directly with administration to voice student concerns. This collaboration has varying degrees of success, which is something Jost says can be frustrating for ASG members trying to enact change. In January 2023, ASG introduced legislation to grant department status to Northwestern’s Asian American and Latina & Latino Studies programs. While the initiative passed in the Senate, the University did not put the change into effect, citing budget and staffing restraints.

Zai Dawodu, Communications Chair.
(Graphic by Emma Estberg)

“The point of ASG is really supposed to show ASG’s, and by extension, the student body’s stance on an issue,” Jost says. “That’s where a lot of people get discouraged over time, if they’ve been in ASG for a while, they see all this legislation being passed and not much being done.”

Scaletty saw a similar issue with the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC). An ASG 2021 bill called to relocate the GSRC to a house on Sheridan Road. Almost a year later, the GSRC still occupies a room in Norris University Center that can hold only about 10 people. Sustainability Committee Co-Chair and Weinberg fourth-year Sadie Bernstein, along with her committee Co-Chair, Weinberg second-year Alexis Schwartz, has tried to counter these feelings of hopelessness by implementing smaller-scale projects. These include using ASG’s budget to host an environmental justice panel with speakers that focus on the South Side of Chicago, or bonding events within their committee, such as vegan cooking classes, while they work toward completing large-scale projects.

“The University is really, really excited and motivated to get on board with our projects, so long as they don’t cost any money,” Bernstein says.

Because of this, she says, many sustainability efforts, like improving bird safety of campus buildings, have been difficult to implement. Bernstein says communication with administration typically happens in a “bottom-up” format, where department chairs are the ones meeting with ASG rather than administrative officials that can effect change on a wider level. Recent talks with officials like President Michael Schill, though, have made ASG members optimistic for change.

Sadie Bernstein, Sustainability Committee Co-Chair.
(Graphic by Emma Estberg)

Given his interactions with Schill, Hegelmeyer says the new Northwestern president seems very receptive to student opinion and free speech. He pointed to Schill’s neutral response to campus events surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict this fall as an example of how he is keeping the welfare of the entire student body in mind.

“I think he does support student experience, whether that be formal spaces like at ASG or activist space like NUCNC or Fossil Free,” Hegelmeyer says. “I look forward to seeing how he communicates and works together with all these groups on campus.”


In an organization as large and diverse as ASG, effective leadership is essential. Hegelmeyer, Jost, Bernstein and others cite the same two factors they consistently see in successful leaders: listening and collaboration.

Bernstein says she appreciates how both Hegelmeyer and the previous President, Christian Wade, let her run the Sustainability Committee with little oversight. She says the level of trust they gave her made their leadership even more effective.

Hegelmeyer says he relies heavily on the support of his cabinet and fellow ASG members, especially Cusick.

“Making sure you have a really good group of people working with you is so important. Not only to keep you organized, but to keep it fun. I like people who are interested in making change and want to have a good time doing it. I think that’s what makes it all worth it,” Hegelmeyer says.

Beyond the ability to impact students in large-scale ways, Cusick says, the people are what make ASG so rewarding. He says working with a group of passionate students makes effective leadership easy.

Although Hegelmeyer does not foresee a career in politics, he believes the leadership experience will be helpful in whatever route he takes. For the rest of his term, Hegelmeyer plans to continue listening to his fellow ASG members and giving them a certain level of freedom in decision-making as they prepare for future ASG positions.

“When I think about the [executive] board or look at all the work that everyone is doing, I feel so excited and happy for the next wave, the next administration,” Hegelmeyer says. “I think whoever it is, they’ll do excellent work. I have confidence that every single person in ASG could be an amazing president and do awesome things. I will just be watching from a distance seeing what great stuff they do.”





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