Reflections of a president
After a year marked with controversy, triumph, Hopoi reflects on her time in office
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 20:07
M. Tonga Hopoi has arguably had the most controversial presidency in 20 years, but reflecting on her presidency, Hopoi has a positive outlook on what she did in her position as her tenure comes to an end.
“What we were going to bring to ASOSU was transparency, accountability and responsibility,” Hopoi said. “That’s what we wanted to bring to ASOSU and that’s what I feel we did bring to ASOSU.”
Christopher Van Drimmelen, ASOSU Administrative and Logistics Advocate, explains that whoever comes into office next will have some rebuilding to do.
“ASOSU is going to need some healing next year,” Van Drimmelen said. “It’s been brought into the spotlight this year, but not always in a positive way. Trust is going to be really important to build with the OSU community.”
In October, Hopoi was facing impeachment based on refusing to send representation to Oregon Student Association meetings. There were also controversies concerning her decision to raise the pay of the ASOSU cabinet when she didn’t have the right to do so.
After being impeached, Hopoi’s main goal was to maintain transparency, accountability and responsibility in the Executive Branch.
“Even when things got tough, we lived by those qualities,” Hopoi said. “Your campaign is your job description; you set out goals and when the students like what they see, they elect you.”
In Hopoi’s eyes, she was a voice for the students in regards to bringing their discussions to the table. She believes her openness and willingness to talk to students gained her popularity. ASOSU Speaker of the House, Drew Hatlen, agreed with this statement.
“Tonga’s presidency aimed to raise the concerns of traditionally underrepresented students to the forefront of discussion.”
However, Hopoi doesn’t always enjoy being in the spotlight.
“I like to walk into a space where no one knows who I am. That allows me to tune in and find out what people are really concerned about with the university,” Hopoi said. “Being able to listen in and get a true sense for what people like or dislike and bring those things to the table was the most important thing for me. If I don’t mention them they go unnoticed, and I would be untrue to my promises.”
Hopoi believes one of her defining moments was her impeachment and the way she reacted to it.
“One of the biggest challenges I faced as student body president was my letter to the students when I got impeached. Everyone expected me to let the system play out, but I’m not one to just apologize,” she said. “Writing that letter that came from inside and it was when I started realizing who I am here for. It’s not for me. It’s for the students — especially the voters who expect something.”
Hopoi believes taking her presidency away would have been a huge mistake, not only against her but against the students.
Hatlen showed awareness of Hopoi’s dedication to stay true to what she believes in.
“Hopoi stood up for the decisions she believed were right, even when those decisions were being questioned,” Hatlen said.
Hopoi believes representing the unheard students has always been the most important duty as ASOSU president. In her mind, impeachment was nothing but a decision to make the students’ feelings unnecessary.
“I felt that when I got impeached, they were taking away the voice of the students; it was 12 people who were making a decision for everyone,” she explained. “I felt like they should have considered what everyone else around here needs.”
While the impeachment was divisive in some corners, Hatlen believes that there were some positives that came out of impeachment.
“The impeachment was very difficult for all students involved or affected,” Hatlen said. “It really acted as a catalyst to give us experience during the whole process. I believe we all grew quite a bit.”
Hopoi says that she fell back on the executive branch for various things.
“If I could share my presidency I would, I believe that the president is more than one person, the president is a chorus of people.”
Hopoi comes from a background that is family-oriented and encourages people to leave a mark wherever they go in life, and her legacy is very important to her. Being the first president who was a woman of color in twelve years and the first woman president in seven years does not satisfy her. Hopoi says that the newly elected ASOSU president, Amelia Harris, defined her legacy in a way she thought appropriate.