Newly elected representatives to the Associated Students Senate pledged to increase student outreach to programs and services provided by the student body and to take a different stance on issues regarding statewide and national programs to support legislation that would help immigrant students earn a college education.
MORE for Students, also known as Movement to Organize for Rights and Education for Students, campaigned for seven Senate seats during the A.S. elections held two weeks ago. MORE for Students won six of eight Senate seats that were available.
Lizbeth Mateo, a Chicana/o studies major who won a Senate seat, said MORE for Students’ elected senators should devise ways to reach out to university students about the services and activities A.S. conducts and supports. Mateo said students ignore the functions and programs conducted by the A.S. Senate.
“Many people don’t know anything about A.S. meetings. I’d like students to become aware of what the A.S. Senate does,” said Mateo, who clinched the upper division senatorial seat. “We have to become visible throughout all campus areas.”
Mateo said the confusing nature of past elections resulted in reduced voter turnout. Mateo pledged to devise programs to build bridges between A.S. senators and students.
Mateo said she’ll work to stop the ongoing threat of fee increases and to develop a welcoming stance on programs like Senate Bill 1, also known as the California Dream Act initiative, which would have paved the way to create financial packages or grants from individual donors and organizations to support tuition costs for undocumented immigrants who are eligible to study under Assembly Bill 540.
AB 540 allows undocumented students who graduated from high school to pay California resident fees if they enroll in any state university or community college.
“The A.S. Senate should have a solid position against fee increases. About the Dream Act, I think education should be made more affordable for those who qualify for it,” Mateo said.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Nov. 15 that the state government projected a $10 billion budget shortfall for the 2008-09 fiscal year. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger warned all state agencies to be prepared to cutback 10 percent in current operation costs. They would include the CSU and UC systems.
Resident tuition costs for full-time students in the CSU system are $3,199, including student representation and health fees. UC full-time annual fees are $6,780. Both figures exclude room and board, books and traveling or commuting expenses.
Carlos Gustavo Flores, who won a seat to serve as academic college senator, said it’s important to educate students about the type of opportunities A.S. government brings to the university population. Most students at CSUN still don’t know about funding for academic activities or the need to be organized to fight against looming fee hikes, Flores said.
“It’s important to organize students and let them know of the job opportunities and services available for them,” said Flores, who is an engineering and computer science major. “We need to bring education to students so they know there are services available for them.”
Flores said the A.S. Senate’s past resolution to reject support of the Dream Act sent a wrong message and that A.S. should foster educational opportunities for those who seek them. Flores said there was confusion about the Dream Act, which led to misinformation about the state and federal proposals.
Funding provided by the Dream Act wouldn’t jeopardize tax-collected funds for citizens and residents. There are 314 students at CSUN who were admitted under AB 540.
“There wasn’t enough information about the differences between the state and federal Dream Acts. We need to think about how it will be a great idea if they (A.S. senators) were to support these ideas,” Flores said. “It’s an issue we should talk about and debate about.”
Nicole Umali, from the Students Rights slate, said she expects the new MORE for Students Senate members to work hard on providing information about the work and services the A.S. student government body implements at CSUN.
Umali, who’s an incumbent senator, was also voted in to serve as academic college senator.
“I expect dedication and ability to communicate with one another,” Umali said of their recently elected colleagues. “Sometimes is hard for new senators to run the ropes and follow strict procedures.”
The other MORE for Students senatorial candidate winners are Cindy Von Quednow, Alma de Jesus, Ricaldo Valdez II and Jacqueline Guzman. They will be sworn in next semester.
A.S. government has nine executive Senate seats, and 26 general Senate board seats. They are At-Large senators, upper division, lower division, graduate division and academic college senatorial seats. Elections for Senate seats are held every semester.
Once students change their academic status from lower to upper division, they’re forced to vacate their seats and run for a different slot.