A California assemblyman is the first in U.S history to have assembled a Student Action Committee, allowing students to join his staff to discuss higher education issues.
The organization, which meets with Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, monthly at the Sacramento State campus where the group was formed, has had two meetings. The topics in both meetings consisted of tuition increases, limited class seats and what the government is doing to help these issues.
Pan explained that since becoming an elected official back in November 2010, he has desired to have his district office located on the Sacramento State campus.
“As a pediatrician and educator at UC Davis, I know our college students are the key to a better economy, yet they have so many hurdles to overcome,” Pan said. “The SAC was sort of an organic next step, creating a forum for students to let us know what they need, but also for getting their foot in the door when it comes to jobs, internships and other opportunities.”
The SAC meetings have been taking place on Wednesdays and Thursdays in order to be more flexible for student work schedules, according to Pan.
The first two meetings did approach issues, such as budget cuts and class-size limits, but it also addressed issues that were not known to Pan before, such as funding for student veterans and engineering programs.
Pan also explained that in this week’s upcoming SAC meeting, he’ll be announcing the introduction of his bill to help stop CSU fee increases.
“Specifically, this bill will allow ex-officio members of the CSU board of trustees to send a staff member to vote on their behalf during board meetings, most of which take place in Long Beach,” Pan said.
Another part of the SAC’s agenda is today’s march in March, that will have students and teachers marching to the state Capitol supporting higher education, Pan said.
When asked if other assembly members will follow his steps, Pan responded that he is uncertain, but hopes others will also take further action in addressing student issues.
“I would say that most of my colleagues in the Assembly genuinely believe education is key to stronger communities.” Pan said. “I certainly hope that my office at Sacramento State can serve as a model for other legislators to connect with universities in their districts and having a group like the SAC helps strengthen the connection.”
Rachelle Bowen, an Associated Students senator at CSUN, said having an assembly member’s district office on campus at CSUN would better help students voice out their opinions on higher education issues.
“I think that is a fantastic idea!” Bowen exclaimed. “Student here don’t think A.S. does anything. But having an authority figure coming down and asking questions would really allow students to get more involved than before.”
Karen Swain, senior at Sacramento State who is involved with SAC believes the work they have done will make a difference.
“As a member of the SAC, it is amazing for a college student like myself to have the ability to voice opinions that translate into sound policy that represents our best interests,” she said.
Cathie Pacheco, who is a double majoring in gender and women studies and Central American studies, believes that having an assembly member located on CSUN campus would help in some way but not fully.
“I think it would help us address issues like the state budgets, but at the same time, those aren’t the only people in power, we have board members that need to be addressed,” Pacheco said. “The board of trustees are the ones getting a blank check and using that to give raises CSU presidents when students should be their first priority. Yes, it would help out in some way, but it wouldn’t really help us face all of the issues there are.”