Jan 222012
Authors: Bailey Constas

When it comes to construction and parking on campus, students aren’t exactly happy, an Associated Students of CSU forum found.

Last semester, ASCSU and the Department of Governmental Affairs put on an event dubbed “Gripe to the Government” as a means for students to voice their complaints and concerns.

Statistics about the event found that common causes of complaint were that of student life, followed by construction, ASCSU-related concerns and parking.

Overall, only 1.5 percent of respondents felt that nothing needed to be changed.

After more than 500 responses, Leah Gonzales, deputy director of Government and Legislative Affairs said she was most surprised by the reasoning behind some of the complaints.

“Someone wrote that they came to this campus because they fell in love with how beautiful it is, and now that it’s just construction here and there. They thought it took away from the reason for them coming here,” Gonzales said.

Diversity was also a common cause for concern.

“I never thought that people would genuinely feel passionate about (diversity), but maybe that’s because I never thought that there was a lack there, but so many students are overlooked. That’s what we’re here to do: represent these students that are under-represented,” Gonzales said.

Chase Eckerdt, the director of Government Affairs, explained that Gripe to the Government was a way to pick student’s brains.

“Sometimes, we think we know what everyone’s thinking on campus,” Eckerdt said. “But this was an opportunity for people to vent and say what was on their mind… a gauge on what students care about.”

Eckerdt said Gripe to the Government was able to give ASCSU a long-term benefit for people in the future, whether it be deciding platforms for future elections or for different administrations that want to try something new.

ASCSU was able to anonymously send out feedback to different task forces and people in beneficiary positions with the hope of changing things around campus, Gonzales said.

They have heard back from the library staff, which is coming up with a plan to run things differently and more suited to students’ needs.

When filling out the feedback forms, students were able to write down their emails to get a response from ASCSU in the future with updates on their specific complaint.

“A lot of times people in organizations forget why we’re here, and this was a really good way to remember that and a way to assess that we are doing our job and that we are doing what’s right,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales personally emailed more than 300 students until she ran into a problem.

“I created a Gmail account and responded to over 300 emails, and then all of a sudden the email account was marked as spam because there were too many emails with the same subject in the email,” Gonzales said. “I guess I’m a spammer now.”

ASCSU is planning a new event, Student Advocacy Day, on March 5 inspired by Gripe to the Government. Registration forms will be out for all students that are interested.

“We are starting this week representing student initiatives,” Gonzales said.

The focus this year will be on tuition and making students aware of the process of tuition increase, a common complaint with students.

“It’s way too expensive to come here, I can’t afford this,” said Crista Ortega, a freshman human development and family studies major.

“It’s a very common misconception how student rates are affected; a goal is more student awareness,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales hopes to get more people involved in the next Gripe, explaining while there was a good amount of feedback, it wasn’t an overwhelming response in the grand scheme of things.

In the future, Eckerdt hopes to have forums more often and narrow the response to more political topics that ASCSU can directly handle.

“It gave us a lot of perspective on a lot of issues for us as a department,” Eckerdt said. “What I would suggest is narrowing it in on issues that are specifically related to state policies, political policies. For us it was a lot of local things that we can’t exactly take to the capital.”

This upcoming week Eckerdt and Gonzales will be speaking at the Capital about upcoming bills that affect higher education and CSU.

“We track bills, anything related to higher education. We take a summary of the bill and float by policy makers,” Eckerdt said. “Tony Frank’s administration, lobbyists –– we come to different people to formulate a position. We’ll put it in front of Senate, then take a stance. We don’t like to take individual positions but as an organization to figure out where the students sit on a particular issue.”

In the future, Gripe to the Government responses may be focused on different topics. However, Gonzales believes it will promote change.

“I’m not the complaint committee, we’re the empower-and-change committee,” Gonzales said.

Collegian writer Bailey Constas can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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