CSUN A.S. closes year by voting against two resolutions

Samantha Tata

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Senator Johnathan Polus helped author an unsuccessful bill that would be in support of tax extension. Photo Credit: Herber Lovato / Assistant Photo Editor

A.S. senate voted against two resolutions drafted to express their official stance, a rare occurrence for the body that generally approves all memos put before them.

“We’ve had an actual discussion,” said Senator John Biltz, after back and forth contemplation was over.  “I usually assume everything will pass but we have progressed some and gotten into substantial details of discussion.”

The final senate hearing of the semester heard debate over A.S. support of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax extensions and opposition to an Arizona house bill that would cut funding to ethnic studies in that state.

A proposed $500 million cut to the CSU system could be doubled if current levels of personal income tax, sales tax and vehicle license fees are not extended.

California legislators denied the issue’s inclusion on the spring ballot and if these extensions are not voted on in the fall, the CSU may see a budget cut of $1 billion.

Reaction to official A.S. comment on the 2011-12 state budget was mixed.

In senate discussion, A.S. President-elect Amanda Flavin said she does not support the senate-drafted resolution in support of the budget because it still includes cuts to higher education.

“We should be in support of a budget that does not cut CSU funding,” she said.

Senator Johnathan Polus, who co-authored the resolution, said he drafted the piece realistically considering the state of the economy.

“There will be cuts in homes, government, everywhere,” he said.  “We wanted to support something that would hopefully grant more funds to the CSU.”

Polus added that he intended to identify CSUN’s campus as a population of voters, potentially sparking increased concern for the issue among elected officials.

Senator Ryan Melander spoke in support of the resolution, claiming the extensions would not change the fees that Californians already pay.

“I realize it’s the better of two evils,” he said.  “We should support the tax extension as the best case scenario in a really bad situation.”

While most senators focused on the financial facet of the resolution, some spoke within the context of student-reaction.

“I think it would be good for our last meeting to give attention to the issues that students have been focusing on all semester,” said senator William Ryder.

CSUN students organized a protest against budget cuts in March, demanding a stop to the constant financial reductions incurred over the past decade.  The campus has hosted other demonstrations with a similar message throughout the semester.

Senator Janessa Kelly expressed her opposition to the resolution, agreeing with the sentiments expressed by her colleagues that the document accepted the large cuts as inevitable.

“I’ve never spoken to a student that said they would take what they could get,” she said.  “It’s not appropriate for us to settle, the students would not.”

In their second rejection of the afternoon, A.S. senators tabled, or agreed to currently reject with the possibility of future proposals, the resolution opposed to Arizona’s law prohibiting ethnic studies.

Formerly known as HB 2281, the law was passed in May 2010 and would prohibit school districts or charter schools from including any courses in their curriculum that would promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treating pupils as individuals.

Should a district choose to retain curriculum deemed to violate this law, they risk losing funding for the programs.

Humanities Senator Jose Juan Gomez drafted the resolution and defended its approval before the voting body, noting that CSUN has a significant ethnic studies program itself.

“These courses do not exclude anyone,” he said.  “We need to recognize the importance of ethnic studies at any institution.”

Some senators expressed concern that any public stance on the issue would plunge them into an unnecessary political battle.

“This (resolution) is highly political and it’s poor timing,” Ryder said.

He said that after denying the California budget resolution, supporting an out-of-state issue might confuse students as to where A.S. priorities lay.

“We have our own problems and are not taking enough care of our own house,” Ryder said, adding that the Arizona house bill was an unrelated issue.

However, Kelly echoed Gomez’s sentiment that the campus was obligated to comment on the happenings of a similar institution.  She said that as a university with a strong ethnic studies program, the senate should support that education elsewhere.

“We are a large entity and our name means something,” she said.  “We cannot reject this just because it is not a specifically California issue.”

A.S. has drafted resolutions for national events in the past, such as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Polus said.

“These issues are used as a springboard to comment,” he said.