With no formal measures to critique the progress of Associated Students senators, many CSUN students are unaware if their elected representatives fulfill the duties they were elected to perform.
According to A.S. Vice President Safa Sajadi, a main function of A.S. is to serve as the students’ voice.
“A senator is the main link to a particular constituency or academic college,” Sajadi said. “It’s pointless if senators don’t voice the opinions of the students in their constituency. Otherwise they are just warming the seat.”
A.S. President Chad Charton said also that A.S. has the responsibility of acting as advocates for students.
“We’re here to serve as the advocates for the interests of the students of (CSUN),” Charton said.
Sajadi said A.S. has to support budget requests from clubs and organizations on campus. A significant portion of each senate meeting is dedicated to allocating funds to the particular groups that have requested funds as supplements to their annual budgets.
Senators are also responsible for meeting with the academic deans and chairs of the eight different colleges, Sajadi said.
“There really isn’t a limit to what senators can do,” she said. “The beauty of it is that it’s not defined.”
While this freedom to take on responsibility may in fact be a positive benefit to A.S. senators, the lack of definition may also be a hindrance.
Charton said A.S. does not play enough of a role in the day-to-day lives of students. A certain group does take advantage, but others do not, he said.
Charton also announced that senate reports, which will detail the actions of A.S. leaders, partly for reasons of better accountability, for the month of October have been turned in, and the organization is in the process of compiling them and preparing to launch both the September and October reports on the A.S. website. Charton said his president’s report would also be included in this launch.
In a recent fall A.S. election, voter turnout was about 600 students, a small percentage of a campus with a student body of over 30,000. Turnout was considered low by several A.S. members.
“I told people that I knew (about elections), people that I had class with, and I passed out fliers and told them to go vote,” said Chante Felix, Lower Division I senator.
Felix, a first-time senator, said A.S. is not a corporation or just a student body government. She also said that titles are “too formal,” rather A.S. is a place students could go to receive information. Felix said, however, that A.S. lacks presence on campus.
“Speaking on behalf of lower-division students, I don’t think they know (about A.S.),” Felix said. “There’s not that much of an A.S. presence out there.”
Felix said a lack of senator presence at campus events during this semester, specifically at the Welcome Back fair at the beginning of the semester, is evidence of that.
“(Senators) should be informing people left and right and I don’t think that they have been,” Felix said. “I feel (A.S.) didn’t go all out like it should. There could have been more of a presence there.”
Felix said she plans to attend the floor meetings in campus housing next semester and hopes to coordinate an event between A.S. and the Residence Halls Association. She said her goal would be to get feedback on the residents’ experiences and concerns so that they can be addressed.
Adam Salgado, Upper Division senator, said he currently attends weekly RHA meetings. Additionally, Salgado is the senate representative on the Constitutional Affairs Board.
“As C.A.B. senate (representative), I review constitutions of student organizations to determine what changes may need to be made,” Salgado said.
The process could take three weeks up to a month, he said.
Salgado, also a first-time senator, said he tries to visit with and talk to as many student organizations to determine what concerns they may have, and to ensure that they are receiving the necessary funding.
“(I joined A.S. because) I wanted to voice the concerns of students around me, help increase school spirit, and play a leadership role in student government,” Salgado said.
Though it is late in the semester, Salgado said he plans to attend Tuesday’s African Student Organization meeting, and eventually hopes to set up meetings with Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan and the Filipino American Student Association.
Salgado said A.S. is a bridge for students to address the administration, adding that A.S. senators had a roundtable meeting with CSUN President Jolene Koester during the second week of the semester to discuss the lack of school spirit and problems with the academic advisement process.
Salgado said he plans to remain with A.S. next semester. According to Sajadi, he submitted an application and will be interviewed for the currently vacant A.S. attorney general position.
“We need to think of something we haven’t tried yet,” said Sajadi, regarding the future of A.S.
Michael Salseda can be reached at email@example.com.