Haden Gobel, a nursing major, has served Associated Students of Southern Oregon Justice Branch since 2016. Though this is his first year as Chief Justice, he has held an Associate Justice position and has a healthy understanding of the ASSOU constitution and bylaws.
As the chair of his department, Gobel needed to fill the four associate justice positions in order for this government to function adequately. With only four applicants for these vital positions, Gobel’s challenge was finding students with the knowledge and interest to sit in these seats.
“You have no other choice if you only have these people who you can hire,” he said. “I think having the bigger pool definitely helps for having a better government just in general.”
Gobel hopes that this year student interest and understanding of the student government might be uncovered. He explained that if people understood student government’s powers, they might be more involved.
Student government provides resources including the text share program and child care subsidy. Gobel sits on the subsidy child care subsidy committee– not as a voting member but as the justice who makes the meeting official and ensures that bylaws are followed.
A primary issue for him is the small voter turnout rates in ASSOU referendums, such as one in Spring Term of 2018 on whether to end the Schneider Child Care Center student fee. The center was already shut down by SOU administration. To terminate a student fee requires a referendum of at least 5% of the student body. The referendum done in the spring was not responded to by even close that proportion of students.
“I think that is just a clear example of us not informing our students about the opportunities they have here,” the head of government said. “We do a lot of things they can take advantage of that I think they would do really well to use, but we just don’t tell them about it, and that is on us.”
Right now, ASSOU leans heavily on the all-student emails, but Gobel acknowledged that not all students check their emails consistently. “If they do, they maybe don’t read it, and they don’t really know what applies to them and what doesn’t.”
Competency and compassion
With the current administration in executive and all branches working together this year, Gobel is confident things will improve. “I hope it improves in the future, and I think it will because that is something that Alexis and Danny are really focusing on and zeroing in on,” he said.
The issues facing ASSOU aside, Gobel is proud of the work that he and his Justices do. “I have really great pride in my judicial branch…we can hold ourselves accountable to being unbiased and being a secondary source which I think a lot of students could find good help just coming through us,” he said.
The justice department holds hearings to mediate disputes between any individuals or organizations in the university and sit on committee meetings to ensure bylaws are followed.
In those hearings and meetings, Gobel said it is important to remain integral and impartial. “It is my job to be unbiased, impartial and follow my code of ethics,” he said. “There is a lot of leeway over understanding what is the most fair thing to do, and that is not always what is the most obvious thing, and that is not always what the bylaws directly say.”
At the same time, compassion is another important piece weighing on his decisions making his job. “A lot of the compassion and all the thought for others you need to have in judicial,” said Gobel.
After graduating in spring term, Chief Justice Gobel plans to go to nursing college and become a pediatrician or to work in hospice care.