Feb 072012
Authors: Andrew Carrera

One of the students responsible for representing CSU came here on a “fluke.”

Rachel Roberson, vice president Associated Students of CSU, had committed to playing basketball at Hampton University in Virginia on a full scholarship during her senior year of high school. Her future was set.

But one summer morning, she woke up and decided that life wasn’t for her. Divorcing herself from life as a student athlete at a private school, she fled into the arms of the one in-state school she applied to –– CSU.

After participating in the campus key service program, three alternative winter breaks and the Black Student Alliance, to name a few, she’s now vice president of the student body.

Roberson sits down to talk about avoiding the spotlight, resignations and the arrogance in ASCSU.

The student body president is always in the headlines. But you work just as hard. What’s it like not being as well-known even though you’re doing so much?

Roberson: I think a lot of it comes from the reason why I ran. I ran as the student who felt like I was from the outside. I definitely had much more involvement outside of ASCSU doing kind of everything other than ASCSU. And I didn’t want to be ‘that representative.’ I did not want to be the voice and the sole representative that Eric (Berlinberg) is. It’s the reason why I didn’t want to be president. I wanted to do a lot. I wanted to give back to the university. And the opportunities that I’ve rendered from being in ASCSU and as vice president have far surpassed anything that I wanted to do. But, I’m happy that my name is not on the hit list on a weekly basis, if that makes any sense.

Q: A lot of your time at CSU has been spent outside of student government in different organizations. Now you’re running it. As someone with such a unique perspective of ASCSU, what do you think is wrong with it?

R: I think we get a little too caught up in ourselves. We take ourselves very seriously, which is good. We’re walking into these arenas with professionals in their fields and experts in their fields. And we need to walk in with a level of professionalism, too. But sometimes we just take it a little overboard. I remember from the outside, my perception of ASCSU was that they thought that they were this entity that was in between the regular student body and the administration. Being in here, I see that in a lot of ways that’s the truth. But, there’s opportunity in that and we don’t have to pretend like we’re not who we are. We can still be true to our own experiences and just apply that to the voice of the students. We don’t always remember that.

Q: One of the things that distinguish your administration is the fact that you promised so much more than previous ones. But the other is that you’ve seen a lot more resignations. Do you think the two are related?

R: I’d be lying if I said that it probably wasn’t. We recruited very busy students. We recruited students who were leaders in other areas before they came into ASCSU, or students who were blossoming in ASCSU but had other outside responsibilities. And with that, the 44 campaign promises crashing down on those positions, there’s going to be a clash there. A lot of students have been able to find that true time management and rise to the challenge. Other students didn’t have ASCSU as that No. 1 priority and it’s not their fault. If you would’ve asked me this time last year even, ‘Is ASCSU No. 1?’ I probably would’ve said no. It’s not that they were bad employees. It’s not that they were bad students. On the contrary, they were taking care of business and I respect them for it.

Q: The way ASCSU elections work is, at the beginning of second semester, people start to figure out who’s running for next year’s presidency and who they’re going to support. How does that affect ASCSU, when people are beginning to form teams in an organization that’s supposed to be a team?

R: I’m surprised it didn’t start a lot earlier … let’s call it what it is. The battle lines are drawn. Anything less than that would be a little too fluffy for what the reality of what our election process can be. I know my position is a little different than, say, Eric’s, where he has that intense personal connection to every single platform. My job is to run senate and make sure that (the Student Fee Review Board) is an equitable process and manage a couple departments in the meantime. But, seeing people gearing up excites me. I like to see students really reach for that leadership opportunity next year and try to build upon the foundation that we have. Call me cocky, but I really am excited to see the ideas that come out of this year, because hopefully they won’t be as negative as they typically are. I’m sure you can attest, in years past, people run from what the other groups did wrong. ‘They promised you this and didn’t do it, so this is what I’m going to promise you.’ I really look forward to this year being where ASCSU changes our character. And instead of building upon the negative, we start building upon the positive and really trying to take some time to illicit some true feedback from the student body and run on those types of principles.

Q: You’re halfway through your administration. How’s everything going?

R: I think things are going well. For me, my biggest learning curve wasn’t necessarily learning how to be a leader, or learning how to work with others. It was learning how to do the job. There’s a lot of different protocols that you walk into and not expect, especially with being vice president and having set procedures a part of your job description. And I’m excited that now I’m finally coming into my own and understanding where the balance comes and how to get things done.

One of the biggest issues on the minds of students is rising tuition. What role is ASCSU playing to address that as the group that exists to address students’ concerns?

Well, personally, I know that tuition and finances in general is going to be my primary focus this semester and has been thus far. I’m co-chairing a tuition task force, I’m working on sending out several different surveys that try to target populations to try to illicit feedback as far as what’s going on within the student body … When it comes to (a recent survey’s) very last question, ‘If tuition was increased again while you were a CSU student, what effect would it have on you?’ The fact that the vast majority of students are seeking financial aid, transferring, dropping out, getting a job, those are things that have underlying issues. And I think that it’s our job to find out more about what’s going into those decisions. So, our focus this semester is going to be on making sure these students are heard, that they know that now is their time to speak. And that burden that comes with ASCSU –– listening –– is going to have to have some results. We’re going to take it up top. We’re going to see if we can add some real student perspective to the table.

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:37 pm

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