Get ready. Today kicks off the Associated Students of CSU
elections. For the next two weeks candidates will be revealing
their platforms on how they want to improve student life on
They’ll talk about how they want to change things or how they
want to improve what we have already or how bad it is now and how
they have the plan to fix it.
They’ll make promises about things over which they have no
power. Despite having the title of a student government, the
Associated Students of CSU does not really govern much of anything
Look at the senate, which is comprised of representatives of the
colleges, including the Intra-university and the graduate school.
The senators spend hours every Wednesday night debating bills and
resolutions that really have no authority outside of ASCSU. In rare
and extreme cases, the senate approves or disapproves of requests
of more than $25,000 from Student Funding Board and an increase
above the Consumer Price Index from Student Fee Review Board. But
withstanding those exceptions and internal affairs matters,
legislation that comes out of the senate chambers is merely
recommendations and suggestions and opinions.
Yes, you can argue ASCSU legislation represents the voice of the
students, but you can also argue, specifically I would argue, that
overall senators don’t meet with their constituents and senate
outreach is paid with merely lip service.
I have yet to have a senator ask me about any issues. I can’t
recall that last time I saw a senator on the Plaza or in the Clark
Building asking students what they think about the academic bill of
rights or other important issues debated in the senate.
Let’s look at the prized president and vice president positions.
The president of ASCSU gets to dress sharply, invited to a lot of
dinners and sits through a lot of meetings, representing the
student body. But despite he or she doesn’t have a vote in most of
those meetings. I lived with the last year’s ASCSU president, Dave
Bower, and he did care about CSU and put in hours and hours of
effort in doing the best he could. But ultimately, the ASCSU
president is powerless outside his office. The president is a
non-voting member of the Board of Governors of the CSU System.
The only real power the ASCSU president has is the power over
Transfort. The ASCSU president signs the agreement Transfort has
with CSU. He or she decides the amount of student fees Transfort is
allocated. Previously, Transfort received a percentage of student
fees, but now the public transportation company receives a flat
If I were running for president, which I debated doing before
ultimately deciding staring at a blank wall would be a better use
of my time, I would simply have Transfort fund my election campaign
in exchange for guaranteeing they would be funded next year.
The vice president of ASCSU chairs the senate and the Student
Fee Review Board. Taking a look in the student planner that ASCSU
distributes every year for free (if you consider using student fees
to be free) you will see the breakup of how student fees are
distributed. Athletics, the health center, the recreation center,
among others – including Student Media (in which the Collegian
receives roughly 8 percent of its budget) receive a portion of
student fees every year. SFRB reviews each entity that receives
student fees – hence the name – and ensures that student fees are
spent appropriately and the board also approves any increases a
department asks for above the CPI.
Anything the SFRB does has to be approved first by Linda Kuk,
the vice president for Student Affairs, and then sent to the
Executive Budget Committee and then signed off by the Board of
Governors. Do you think these bodies would allow SFRB to just
decide not to fund, let’s say, athletics, for a year? No, the SFRB,
which the ASCSU vice president merely chairs, is only an overseer
of the student fee allocation.
The message of this column is students need to be cautious of
promises made during the next two weeks. During elections,
candidates rely on the power of illusion to sell their platforms.
Candidates will try to win votes by answering questions with ways
they can fix problems on campus, but in reality, in most scenarios,
they don’t have the power or the capabilities.
Recently, the Association for Student Activity Programming had
its elections for executive director. ASAP receives its funding
through ASCSU and could arguably be called the fourth branch of
ASCSU, but no one really knows for sure. Every dollar ASCSU spends,
save for the money it makes itself, is from student fees. But
students don’t get a say in who controls programming, or the lack
of programming, on campus. ASAP’s own members vote it its executive
If you ask me, it is inappropriate for a student organization
that operates almost solely on student fees to not allow students
to vote on who leads it. When an organization does internal voting
for the president, inside politics and quid pro quo can affect the
voting outcome, which can prevent the right person for the job
actually getting the job. I am not accusing ASAP of anything; I am
simply saying internal voting can lead to these problems and it is
not fair that students do not get a say in who leads ASAP.
Hopefully, ASAP will change the way it does voting, but unless
more students than just the one writing this column voices
opposition, I doubt it will.
Chris is the opinion editor for the Collegian. He is hosting CSU
Idol, which is produced by ASAP.