A.S. Senate discusses CSUN’s Hurricane Katrina relief plans

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Plans for relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Katrina were at the forefront of discussions at Tuesday’s Associated Students Senate meeting, as members discussed various ways the organization could send financial assistance to those affected on the Gulf Coast.

Both Vicki Allen, assistant director for student involvement at the Matador Involvement Center, and Tom Piernik, director of Student Development and International Programs, were present to discuss the university’s plan to hold a five-day drive for donations from students, staff and faculty. The fundraising begins today at the Welcome Celebration on the Student Services Lawn.

Piernik said the university’s goal is to raise $500,000 by Sept. 14, which amounts to an ideal donation of $15 from every student, faculty and staff member. Collection sites will be placed around the campus, and their exact locations will be announced today at the celebration.

“All contributions will be diverted to the American Red Cross,” Piernik said. “Our goal for the five-day campaign is to raise half a million dollars for the victims. We want to perceive ourselves as a grateful campus. Help came quickly for us when the Northridge quake happened, now it’s our turn to send help.”

The body also discussed a possible plan to deduct $1 per student from the mandatory $70 students pay to A.S. as an additional donation to support hurricane victims.

“We were in this very same position a little more than a decade ago,” said Chad Charton, A.S. president, referring to the 1994 Northridge earthquake that heavily damaged CSUN’s campus. He said “this is a humanitarian crisis that warrants such a decision.”

The A.S. Senate will review its fiscal year ending balances in order to be sure there is enough of a surplus to justify sending the money to the Gulf Coast, but Charton said he is more or less certain the surpluses have far exceeded the amount A.S. intends to send.

“This is an instance where we have the financial resources to assist the victims of this tragedy while keeping the students’ best interests at the forefront,” Charton said. He added that A.S. will do its best to ascertain the general opinion of the student body on the subject of donating student fee money. Student opinion, he said, “is not an issue I want our student leaders to take lightly.”

Selene Salas, Humanities II senator, said she feels it is important for students to consider the national impact of sending financial assistance to those devastated by the hurricane to demonstrate that “we are all united.”

In other matters, Charton cited students’ concerns over such issues as the newly implemented credit card fees, the exclusion of Visa as a method of payment, and the astronomical gas prices, stating that A.S. was looking at ways to help students cope.

He also announced there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new B3 parking structure today at 11 a.m.

Mohammad Qayoumi, CSUN’s vice president of Administration and Finance, also gave a presentation informing A.S. as to how the state’s higher education budget is allocated, and how CSUN puts the funds to use.

He outlined how money is divided and prioritized. Charton said the special presentations are intended to educate A.S. members so they can better serve and inform their constituent students.

Peter Gallego, director of Legislative Affairs, stressed a need to begin registering and mobilizing CSUN students to vote. He brought up several issues that will be on upcoming ballots, including the Nov. 8 special election, that students need to be aware about and vote on, as they will directly affect students.

“(Los Angeles County) is holding elections Nov. 8,” he said. “We are going to try to get 3,300 (10 percent) of CSUN students to vote. We are a large campus, and that is a reasonable projected goal.”

Leila Varzideh, A.S. director of elections, announced tentative plans to begin conducting A.S. elections online.

“The goal is to hopefully institute online elections by spring semester, so instead of using a paper ballot, students can vote online,” she said.

Varzideh said the aim is to increase the number of students who vote for A.S. representatives. Varzideh said that her committee would go ahead with plans to conduct elections online if research shows that online voting at other campuses had the desired effect of bringing out more voters.

“If the results are positive, we will go ahead,” she said.

Bethania Palma can be reached bethania.palma.45@csun.edu.