By Meg Clasper
The student government at the University of Utah is a mixture of administrative and representative bodies that collaborate on issues and projects across campus. They are seen as a sturdy group of students who are relied on by the student body and other figures to make decisions for the student body. Seeing the student government disrupted is rare.
During the fall semester of 1960 the Daily Utah Chronicle recorded the life cycle of the Bennion Plan, which moved to streamline functions of the student government. From October 26 to December 8, the Chronicle published articles, updates, editorials and letters to the editor covering the status of the plan and the views of students involved.
On October 26, 1960, the Bennion Plan -— later named after its originator — started its first stages. John Bennion, president of the University of Utah ASUU (Associated Students of the University of Utah) announced his desire to abolish the position of class officers. The positions, he believed, lacked any responsibilities that made them meaningful to the student government. With ASUU second vice-president Steve Brockbank’s support, Bennion requested time for the student body to be made aware of the issue before any decision was made.
The announcement of Bennion’s proposal to the Alumni Association was deeply discussed between members of the student government. Then, on October 27, less than a day later, the ASUU Senate barred any discussion of the proposed issue until the next meeting on November 3.
No opposing side took a public voice until November 1. Paul Cracroft, the Alumni Association secretary, stated his opposition on the basis that abolishing the positions wasn’t the answer, they just needed to be made meaningful. Cracroft made a comment about class officers taking over the responsibilities of the senatorial body, but he didn’t create a formal solution.
Even students weighed in on the issue. On November 1, the consensus was that class officers had no jobs. “The worth of class officers might be compared with having a new car each year but not driving it.” This was the opinion of Ron Magnuson, who continued to express how he agreed with the worthlessness of class officers. Another student, Jolene Ogden, questioned what the officers did. Some students expressed their support to keeping the position of class officers. Philip Hallstrom compared the abolishment resolution to having a totalitarian system.
On November 11, the current class officers were able to defend their roles in the student government system. Kathryn Cannon said officers were elected without any prior knowledge of their responsibilities. She offered up a solution to create an occasional meeting with the ASUU Executive Council.
The second stage of the Bennion Plan was created on November 30 in response to a solution made by the Alumni Association to increase the duties of the class officers — the first official solution. This solution was discussed at the time of the original proposal with John Bennion rebutting that creating responsibilities would take a University constitutional amendment or individual initiative. The Board of Regents was then handed the decision.
Bennion voiced on November 28 that he was opposed to the decision. He believed nothing should be done about the issue without student body opinion. In the end, three solutions were made by the ASUU Executive Council: 1) do away entirely with the class officers and have a senatorial delegation created with the Senior delegation organizing themselves as an Alumni Committee. 2) Elect a president of each class who would act as an administrator with four class senators or representatives. 3) Maintain the position of class officers but justify their existence by assigning them responsibilities. These solutions became the second stage of the Bennion Plan.
University President A. Ray Olpin, on November 30, promised Bennion and the Executive Council that the Board of Regents would not act upon the proposed solution “unless it has gone through proper student channels.” These channels referred to the student government and body.
The third stage of the Bennion Plan, electing three or more delegates per class as representatives to the National Student Association (NSA) delegation, was also proposed. The delegation would run on national and educational issues and report back to each other and an annual NSA National Congress. Olpin felt it was a big position for someone to represent the whole student body nationally, but was assured the representatives would act on their own accord while keeping student opinions in mind.
Bennion then urged students to weigh in on the issue and requested the ASUU Senate to send the Bennion Plan to a student referendum. He believed if the student body had a voice in the decision, they would be less likely to undermine it.
Dick Paul, ASUU senate president, wrote to the Daily Utah Chronicle on December 6, stating he believed that polling an uninformed student body would only lead to wrong decisions. He was also quoted as saying that polling the “relatively uninformed members of the student body” would be “highly impractical and inefficient.”
The uninformed members of the student body, as Paul referred to them, spoke up. In a Letter to the Editor, David Gillette, Martin Zachresen, Stephen West, and Bud Billeter questioned why these proposals and decisions were being made. The students, on December 7, wanted to know why class officers were going to be abolished on a lack of responsibility. They described their confusion on the decision to expand the NSA delegation when less than a month prior there was a debate on if the University of Utah was going to remain a member of the NSA.
In the end, on December 8, the Senate made the decision to pass the NSA proposal but kill the student referendum.
Presently, the ASUU assembly does not include an NSA delegation. The student government now consists of a Senate and Assembly filled with students from each college on campus. Compared to the current state of the ASUU, the decision over the NSA appears to lack what was needed to make it sustainable.
The Bennion Plan changed during its time and showed the true nature of some ASUU representatives. The debates and conversations that took place on this issue made the representatives appear less sturdy than they had before.
Meg Clasper is a junior studying journalism. She specializes in gaming journalism and pop culture.
“Bennion, Brockbank Defend Stand on U Officer Proposal,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 26, 1960, 2.
“Senators Postpone Officers Debate,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 27, 1960, 1.
“Class Conscious?” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 1, 1960, 2.
“Student Consensus: Class Officers Have no Jobs,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 1, 1960, 3.
“ASUU Execs Hear Class Officers Defend Roles,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 11, 1960, 2.
“Bennion Frowns on Alum Move,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 28, 1960, 1.
“Execs Meet with Olpin, Discuss Alum Resolution,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 30, 1960, 1.
“Bennion Urges Student Poll on NSA Proposition,” Daily Utah Chronicle, December 5, 1960, 1.
“John vs. Dick,” Daily Utah Chronicle, December 6, 1960, 2.
“Letters to the Editor: We Know,” Daily Utah Chronicle, December 6, 1960, 2.
“Senate Approves Bill But Not Student Poll,” Daily Utah Chronicle, December 8, 1960, 1.
Gillette, David, et al. “Letters to the Editor,” Daily Utah Chronicle, December 7, 1960, 2.
“A Poor Show…,” Daily Utah Chronicle, December 8, 1960, 2.