On Oct. 10, the open forum portion of the Associated Students Senate meeting lasted more than an hour as students voiced their opinions, fears and frustrations over the finance committee’s decision to recommend $0 after hearing the African Student Organization’s proposal for the annual African Week. The Senate later decided to give the ASO an additional $2,500 for the event.
One by one, more than 30 students begged, pleaded and demanded that the Senate consider allocating money to Africa Week in spite of the committee’s recommendation.
Journalism student Donnella Collison reminded the senators of the mandatory $72 A.S. fee and said, “Just give us back our money so we can educate the campus community.
“I pay tuition, we all pay tuition and we want our money so we can educate people about Africa,” Collison said, which echoed the statements of many of the other speakers.
The guidelines for receiving money from the unallocated reserve require students to first present their proposition on a Monday to the A.S. finance committee, which then recommends an amount for the A.S. Senate to accept or amend the following Tuesday a week later. If the committee does not recommend any money, it can be put on the agenda by the A.S. president.
After reviewing the funds already given to the ASO in the annual budget, the committee chose to indefinitely postpone a recommendation, meaning the plans would not be put before the elected students who comprise the A.S. Senate.
On Oct. 2, 2006, ASO President Marvin Boateng presented the organization’s plans for a week devoted to the enlightenment and education of students, faculty and the community on Africa during the aptly named fourth annual Africa Week, which would be held from Oct. 16-20.
They planned to have many speakers, including Joan Hecht, author of “Journey of the Lost Boys,” which is a series of one-on-one accounts of child survivors from the 1983 slaughter of the southern Sudanese by the northern Sudanese; one of those lost boys, Atem Ajok; and Dr. Lako Tungun, one of seven lost boys from a 1962 war in Sudan who all came to America and all received Ph.D.s. Kimberlee Acquaro, a photojournalist who traveled to Rwanda to capture on film the women who survived the recent/ongoing genocide, is one of the speakers, as is Keidi Obi Awadu, author of more than 20 books and “Living in Black” programming director and talk show host.
The cost of these speakers and their travel and hotel arrangements alone is more than $7,000. The ASO was given $2,000 in the 2006-2007 annual budget to be allocated to Africa Week. Last year $900 was allocated to Africa Week in the annual budget.
According to the A.S. Constitution, available at its Web site, the finance committee is supposed to consist of eight students to represent the eight colleges at CSUN, according to the A.S. Web site. Of the four names given to the Sundial, one student replied that he had not been to any of the meetings since spring of last year. This means that the finance committee, which is charged with making monetary recommendations for groups, organizations and individual proposals to the A.S. Senate, consists of three non-elected student representatives, the non-voting Director of Finance Adam Haverstock, A.S. General Manager David Crandall, and advisers.
At the finance committee meeting that Monday, the three students voted to indefinitely postpone the ASO proposal, thereby not allowing the A.S. Senate to hear their request for funding at the next senate meeting.
“The A.S. is a corporation and we (the finance committee) have to make business decisions, business recommendations,” Haverstock said in response, later saying that the Senate is able to make their own decision based off of this. He said that some A.S. senators had approached him before the decision was made in the Senate meeting and asked finance-related questions about the event and how much money had already been given to the ASO.
Kalic Chambers, president of the Black Student Union, said during open forum that although Africans and African Americans only make up 10 percent of the students on campus, they are the majority of students in attendance at A.S. events like this year’s Big Show.
“This is an institutional hypocrisy. We need more, but we give more,” Chambers said. “We are not the commuters.”
Boateng spoke with A.S. President Adam Salgado after hearing from Haverstock that there would be no recommendation to the A.S. Senate about additional funding for Africa Week. Salgado was able to grant a special hearing for the ASO so at least the elected student members of the senate would be able to decide on whether or not to increase support.
“I think every group and organization should have the opportunity to present their proposals in front of the elected Senate members,” Salgado said.
Haverstock stuck by his committee’s decision and said that recommending nothing and postponing proposals is “standard practice” although it hasn’t happened recently.
“Sometimes we have to make the decision between what’s good for business and what’s good for students,” Haverstock said.
Boateng said he was told by Haverstock that the committee decision was based on the substantial increase in the A.S.O. annual budget.
In an e-mail to the writer Boateng wrote:
“The African Students Organization for the past four years has been working hard to educate the CSUN community about Africa (and) its challenges and its future. We would think that the Finance Committee would respect a program that has brought U.N. Representative Audrey Kitagawa to this campus. How easy do you think it is for students to meet a U.N. representative yet alone to dialogue with one? How often does a King come to CSUN? When the King of Rwanda King Kigeli V came to our campus last year students were packed outside of the room to see him, to ask him questions and to take pictures with him. To allocate us $0 and to postpone our supplemental budget indefinitely is to slap us in our face. No organization who is trying to educate the CSUN community should ever have their supplemental budget postponed indefinitely.”
After hearing from the students, the senate’s final vote was to allocate $2,500 from the unallocated reserve to be used toward Africa Week.
“We are still very angry,” Collison said.
In the spring of 1968 at CSUN, then called San Fernando Valley State College, black students took over the top floor of the administration building after a black football player was shoved by a coach. According to the Pan-African Studies Department Web site, “Out of that protest, the CSUN black studies department – since renamed the Pan-African studies department – was born.”
According to the same Web site, in the spring of 1992, black students protested racism on campus, seen in “the exploitation of Black athletes, a biased, Eurocentric curriculum, inordinately low graduation rates for Black students and the absence of a center for Black student development…” As a result of demands issued to the administration by the Black Student Union, the facility now called the Black House was granted jointly to the BSU and the Pan African Studies Department.
The A.S. Finance Committee rarely recommends full funding to groups and organizations, but newer student organizations are finding it difficult to get what they would consider decent recommendations. Last month the Central American United Students Association was disappointed and filled the open forum at an A.S. meeting similarly to students on Tuesday.
“It makes no sense, because a lot of people not part of minorities would want these events and activities too,” CAUSA adviser Beatriz Cortez said.
“It was great having a lot of people show up and voice their concerns,” Salgado said of Tuesday’s meeting. “I wish more people would show up for open forum.”
This year’s A.S. budget allocated $358,838 to clubs and organizations and $1,122,756 to A.S. programs and servic
es, like S.P.A.C.E., the children’s center and recycling. These programs were born out of student votes on referendums. This November, the referendum for the A.S. $15 fee increase states that no additional money will be allocated to clubs and organizations.
Many senators came to Haverstock beforehand in order to better inform themselves about the issue at hand.