A.S. representatives discuss future with CSUN culture clubs

Sam Womack

This semester it began with CAUSA needing more funding for a film festival, then came ASO being recommended zero dollars for Africa Week. A similar situation occurred with MEChA and their request for Dia de Los Muertos, and most recently was AISA’s need for their annual Pow Wow.

For the last semester, cultural groups on campus have continually complained in and out of open forum about the A.S. financial funding process not working for them, but on Friday night campus leaders and A.S. representatives met to discuss new, workable options.

About 14 cultural groups were represented, but noticeably absent were MEChA, the Iranian Student Association, and the CSUN Filipino American Student Association. Discussion began as group representatives went in a circle and voiced their concerns about A.S. behavior and the finance committee’s recommendations. The most common comment concerned the amount of money allocated and the opinion that the A.S. Senate and Finance Committee do not value culture.

A.S. Senator Igor Kagan led the meeting and was flanked by President Adam Salgado and Vice President Sarah Jackson. Also from A.S. as silent witnesses were Attorney General Juana Zamora, Director of Personnel Yolie Vasquez, and Director of Clubs and Organizations Merrilliz Monzon.

Director of Finance Adam Haverstock and General Manager David Crandall sat in the back and were available for questions pertaining to how groups are funded in the annual budget and during the semester. Haverstock remarked that groups are funded based on their record with A.S.

Haverstock also said that new groups are initially given $1,000 in funding.

Armenian Student Association President Terenig Topjian complained about the red tape involved with getting funding from A.S., especially as a new leader with no experience.

“There’s enough red tape to get funding – by the time I’ve figured it out the semester will be over,” Topjian said.

Before the meeting started he had said, “This school could be so much more diverse if only we had the money. We’re just students, not some big corporation.”

Deaf CSUNians President Laura McManus was concerned by the picture Haverstock painted as he explained funding for cultural groups.

“How do you let groups develop without impeding the process?” she asked.

“It’s not a perfect system, but we do our best,” Haverstock answered. “We look at the group’s previous budget and review their proposal. Our intent is not to impede a group’s growth, but sometimes it happens.”

As Topjian said, though, “What’s the point of putting together an annual budget if you base it on our track record?”

Asian American Studies Student Association President Amy Phung admitted that although A.S. helped her through the funding process, her group ran into problems because of a lack of funding. She said her group sends money overseas to support their culture directly, but last year they were left with no money because of leadership issues.

“It’s hard to have three fundraisers but no event to show for it,” Phung said.

If a group does not complete the paperwork before A.S. votes on the annual budget, then the group is left with no money until they submit a proposal to the next year’s finance committee. At that point it is up to the recommendation from the finance committee whether or not the group will receive funding from the contingency fund, set aside for that exact purpose.

Ken Barrow of the Black Student Union kept the meeting on track by continually pointing out the pervasive problem the groups have run into this year and in years past: representation in the A.S. Senate and Finance Committee.

“I don’t think we should leave it in your hands because then we’ll run into the same problem,” Barrow said. “If it comes back to you, I lack the faith that you’ll make the right decision.”

Many of the groups’ leaders agreed that in order to avoid past grievances, some sort of combined cultural group is needed as a check on A.S. Someone spoke up and said, “We need to do this ourselves, without A.S.”

A representative of the Central American United Student Association said to the cultural leaders, “We need to get organized as cultural groups so we can have a voice, have a say in our financial support.”

Several handouts and options were given to the students, but now the process relies on group participation in their own future. Once the cultural groups decided which option they choose, budget language for the new proposal would be drawn up and brought before the A.S. Senate for a vote. After sitting quietly through pros and cons for almost two hours, Marvin Boateng, president of the African addressed the cultural group leaders.

“Don’t be afraid to gain power. You can look at A.S. as a colonial power and us as independent nations,” Boateng said, receiving looks from A.S. members. “I’d rather us fight amongst ourselves than with anyone else.”

Questions like whether a monetary value can be put on culture or if A.S. should continue to fund more than a million dollars for intercollegiate athletic grants are yet to be answered. Cultural leaders present at the Friday night meeting left feeling hopeful and Kagan promised to continue working on solutions.