The power of illusion

Mar 212004
Authors: Christopher J. Ortiz

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

besides itself.

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.

ASAP Elections

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.

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