Students pick the brains of campus officials during President’s Summit

Anthony Carpio

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CSUN’s budget, student fees and advisement were all fair-game at the President’s Summit Thursday afternoon in the Oviatt Presentation Room.

“The point that I wanted to get across is that we could have an open and respectful dialogue between university administration and student leaders,” said Amanda Flavin, Associated Students president. “We provide an opportunity in a forum for students to voice their concerns in a respectful manner to the university, and for the university to answer back some of the questions.”

Thursday’s president summit was the first in a while and that they would hold another summit when the new president arrives, Flavin said.

Flavin was accompanied by President Jolene Koester, Vice President for Student Affairs William Watkins and Vice Provost Cynthia Rawitch.

Student organizations were represented, including the College of Health and Human Development, a spokesman for the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) community, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) and Students for Quality Education (SQE).

The summit was an invitation-only event, where organization leaders were the only groups invited.

“I came to voice the concerns of students who weren’t permitted to be here,” said Justin Marks, an SQE member. “I hope that we can get past the repetition of table manners and understand that we have to speak to each other respectfully and actually get down to solutions.”

Though Marks had an opportunity to talk to Koester, he thought the conversations were too brief.

“It feels like even though President Koester was on her way out, it was almost as though we were still being introduced,” he said.

A topic that was on the agenda was student advisement, which sparked interest in one attendee.

Martel Okonji, student ambassador for the LGBT community, told a story of his freshman year where his advisor told him if he should be going to college or not. This is an area that he would like to see fixed.

They should make “sure that students know exactly what they’re going to school for, how to do it, understand each different segment, and really marketing to get students to understand what that really is,” Okonji said.

Better teaching environments was a topic that one student leader wants to see stay the same when the new president arrives.

“With CSUN’s population growing and (students) trying to compete with larger schools, (the university might) fall into that research category type of school,” said Brande Hookfin, senator for the College of Health and Human Development.

Hookfin, a kinesiology major, said that CSUN has good student-professor interactions, and would like to see this remain when Koester leaves.

A question that Koester would not speak extensively on was the salary for the new San Diego State University, which MEChA President Daniel Santana Hernandez wanted to know more about.

“My concern (was about) the salary increases,” he said, “And it’s almost unfathomable how some presidents are making a quarter million dollars (during) the budget crisis.”

But Hernandez appreciated being able to talk to Koester and Flavin during the meeting. He said that when he would go to CSU board of trustee meetings, he would not be able to speak because the slots available had been filled up.