CSUN students complain about A.S.’ lack of participation in protests

Samantha Tata

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Justin Marks addresses A.S. on Tuesday about the lack of support they displayed for student activists during the walk out on March 2. Photo Credit: Marina D. Sandoval / Staff Photographer

Students expressed their disappointment with Associated Students’ lack of public participation in CSUN’s March 2 protest against budget cuts during the senate session Tuesday.

“I want to express my disgust, it was disheartening to see,” said Krystal Brooks, 21, history major, before the senate.  “People with power on campus need to encourage other students to become involved.”

The second annual rally against continuing financial cuts to state-supported universities called about 700 students, faculty and community members to the Oviatt lawn last Wednesday in a demonstration significantly smaller than the year before.

One of the protest leaders, Justin Marks, 22, English and Pan African Studies major, said he was encouraged by the maturity of this year’s education-oriented event but was disappointed in the continuing lack of A.S. involvement.

“They’re not doing enough, or maybe we just don’t know what they are doing,” Marks said.

Marks asked the senate for “more time, money and energy next year.”  He said the student-led protest aimed to bring awareness of the budget crisis, energize CSUN’s campus and bridge the gap between students and leadership, but the handful of organizations could not shoulder the burden alone.

“(A.S. needs) to better inform the students and use their resources and information to point the finger at legislators,” Marks said in an interview.

A.S. President Conor Lansdale said students can e-mail, text, or send Facebook messages to their senators  suggesting what A.S. should shift their focus to, but that responsibility lies with student leaders.

He said students can present senators with ideas or proposals that the representative will then bring before the senate.  After going through a series of proposals and research committees, those ideas may become resolutions that either allocate funds to certain programs or take a stance that may then be sent to various public officials.

“It’s a difficult positions to be in,” Lansdale said..  “(A.S.’s) role is to stay neutral until the student body tells us which direction to lean.”

Although he is aware some students may want him to publicly state his opinion, Lansdale said such a method does not fit his personality.

“I attended the event as a student,” Lansdale said.  “I talked to students in the crowd and engaged with students walking by who were unsure of what was going on.”

Lansdale said he met some students who were completely unaware of the budget crisis and hopes the demonstration gave students a broader perspective of the issues.

Regarding A.S.’s lack of participation   in student protests, Lansdale said senators’ participation depends on how they want to take that responsibility.

“Some people are very outspoken, others prefer to write letters,” he said.  “My style is to educate people and use social media to inform my audience on the whole issue.”

Lansdale recognized that part of the protest focused on A.S.’s $6 million budget and said he has been asked why the organization does not allocate funds to open classes.

“Just because we have a large budget doesn’t mean we can spend it anywhere,” he said.  “We are restricted with what we can do.”

Brooks and Marks thanked Sens. Melinda Hambrick and Amanda Flavin, who they saw at the rally.

Flavin spoke during the demonstration and urged students to inform themselves of the organizations and policies that affect their education, the Daily Sundial reported.

Flavin, the business and economics senator, said Tuesday that A.S. funding of transportation to rallies in Sacramento next week are a way to show students their representatives understand why they are protesting.

“As student leaders, everyone (of us) should be there,” she said.

Lansdale said he would like to know what students would like A.S. to change in order to correct these grievances.

In a separate interview, Marks said increased event publicity could help to solve some of the issues he raised before the student-leaders and critiqued the discrepancy in attention paid to A.S. fliers versus those of other organizations.

Marks cited the glossy, colorful fliers used to advertise upcoming A.S. elections and compared them to the black and white paper handouts A.S. dispersed regarding the rallies.

“They need to increase their publication of events that tie into students’ education,” he said.  “Help us make the movement sexy.”

But, Marks said, contrary to common assumptions, apathy is not the main culprit of students misunderstanding events.

“It’s ignorance,” he said.  “It’s easy to be apathetic when you don’t know what’s going on and can’t be blamed for your inaction.”