Students in charge: an A.S. primer

    There are a lot of decisions to be made at a university like UCSD. Much authority lies in the hands of the A.S. Council members, who are either elected by the students — 20 percent of undergraduates in the last election — or appointed to their positions. They have discretion over some $21 per quarter of every student’s fees, amounting to over $1 million every year. They are called on to weigh in on varying and crucial issues.

    Sam Scofous
    Guardian

    Through it all, those involved will say the aim of all this is to best represent the interests of the students.

    But naturally, things can be prickly. Resources must be competed for. Priorities must be set. People can get angry.

    “”I enjoy the diversity of thought and opinions people bring to the Associated Students Council,”” said A.S. President Jeff Dodge. “”[But] as elections draw near, people tend to get political. I don’t like seeing council members disagree on things because of whatever political agendas they may have for the future.””

    Anna MacMurdo
    Guardian

    However, Dodge said, “”Every member of council works to cooperatively complete our goals.””

    These council members sit through hours of meetings each week. Along with regular council meetings, most of these students are involved with administrative committees, such as the Housing and Dining Advisory Committee or the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women. Some of them are resident advisers, many are members of the Greek system, and all are involved around campus. Every single one of them is a student.

    THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS

    Normally, the gavel is struck at 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday to start the A.S. Council’s weekly meeting. These official meetings, held in the Price Center Ballroom A, are open to the public, and public participation is encouraged.

    Legislation can be submitted by members of council, including ex-officio members such as the college council chairs. Members of the council can submit legislation on behalf of their constituents, as well.

    Legislation such as recommendations, referendums, constitutional changes, appointments and resolutions are discussed in Senate meetings so the senators — the only members who may vote — can learn about the backgrounds and different sides of an issue. These items then move to the internal committee, made up of senators, which decides what recommendation should be made to council.

    When the items hit the table in council, the council either decides to go with the internal committee’s recommendation or to talk about the item and make another decision. Once the council votes, the rest is history.

    Financial allocations, such as requests for conference travel funding or event funding, go through the finance committee. The process is the same as it is in the Internal committee.

    THE SENATE

    The Senate, the voting body of the A.S. Council, is made of representatives from each level at each college. These are the members who actually get to make the decisions with their votes of “”yea”” or “”nay”” — or, equally important, their abstentions.

    The majority of these senators are political science majors, but there are a few biology and other majors thrown in.

    One of the Eleanor Roosevelt College senators, sophomore Tom Chapman, has gotten involved in the Transportation and Parking Commission, and is currently fighting to keep the administration from revoking freshman resident parking next year.

    “”I like serving for my students and working for them,”” Chapman said. “”As much time as it takes, it is oddly rewarding. On the other hand, it can be very stressful and politics quickly becomes personal.””

    Thurgood Marshall College is represented by freshman Brian Israel, who devised his own method of representing his constituents.

    He spawned the idea of an e-mail newsletter, which he named Marshallfrosh. He said that about 20 percent of Marshall freshmen signed up for this newsletter the first day he advertised it.

    “”It frustrated me early on that I did not have a consistent, efficient means for gauging the opinion of my entire constituency on a given issue,”” Israel said. “”Dissemination of information has been my No. 1 priority since taking office.””

    Muir senior senator Jacob Knapp has his own way of measuring the opinions of his constituents, who can be “”difficult to mobilize”” because they “”just want to graduate,”” he said.

    Knapp’s solution: “”Periodically hold[ing] volleyball office hours in the Muir Quad.””

    THE PRESIDENT

    The A.S. president is responsible for representing the student body both on and off campus.

    Current President Jeff Dodge attends community events, city council meetings, student conferences and campuswide committee meetings. He said he fights for the rights of undergraduates by writing resolutions, sending letters, lobbying congressmen and meeting with university officials.

    The president is also responsible for making sure the A.S. Council functions well by maintaining its goals and generally promoting the opinions of the student body.

    The president has the power to veto action by the legislative branch, the Senate. Dodge has utilized this power only once, in a conflict over conference funding for the humor newspaper The Koala.

    Dodge said he puts in at least 30 hours per week serving as the A.S. president. This includes attending meetings and maintaining relationships with students and the administration.

    “”Being the A.S. president is not an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job,”” Dodge said. “”It’s 24 hours a day. People call me at all hours of the day and night inquiring about A.S.-related business. This is a huge time commitment, one that requires a person to have perfect time management skills, efficiency and maturity.””

    Dodge said being the A.S. president has many benefits.

    “”Representing 18,000 undergraduates is the coolest thing I’ve gotten to do in this position,”” he said. “”The entire experience has been both personally and professionally worthwhile.””

    THE VICE PRESIDENTS

    The vice president internal holds both a gavel and a lot of responsibility.

    Jenn Brown is responsible for two main things: keeping the council rolling, and making appointments to all-campus committees.

    The nuts and bolts of facilitating the council include leading council meetings and providing resources for all of the members of council. Brown said she also finds herself being the emotional support for many members of council at times.

    For her committee appointments, she is constantly in communication with the university about these committees and who the representatives are.

    The vice president external is responsible for representing UCSD at the state and national levels.

    VP External Dylan Nicole deKervor works in conjunction with the University of California Student Association, a board on which she is a voting member, and the United States Student Association.

    The external office lobbies on issues affecting students and education as a whole.

    DeKervor said that her favorite project of the year was the Student Initiated Outreach and Retention Commission. SIORC is a committee that allocates state funding aimed at increasing the enrollment of underrepresented ethnic groups.

    About $1 million per year of students’ money is overseen by one member of A.S. Council: vice president finance.

    Vice President of Finance Sam Shooshtary serves on the chancellor’s budget committee and is responsible for making sure the council follows the thick handbook of financial bylaws.

    The body through which the approximately 320 student organizations receive their funding is commonly called SOFAB, which stands for Student Organization Funding Advisory Board. SOFAB is currently composed of five senators, but come spring quarter will be composed of representatives from student organizations.

    Funding considerations are made with the aim of benefiting the most students possible, according to Shooshtary, but they can be contentious.

    Appeals to SOFAB’s funding recommendations are common. The finance committee hears the appeals from the eighth through 10th week, and makes a recommendation to council at the 10th week A.S. Council meeting. The council then votes on the recommendation.

    The VP finance decides how much money per quarter will be allocated from the yearly budget.

    Shooshtary says his job can be a tedious one.

    “”The hardest part is telling ‘no’ to people,”” he said.

    THE COMMISSIONERS

    Commissioner of Academic Affairs Jenn DeCamp works mostly behind the scenes to represent the student body in matters of academic affairs.

    She is the only student representative on the San Diego branch of the Academic Senate, a UC-wide faculty board that determines the academic direction of the UC schools, ranging from admissions policy to tenure matters.

    She is working to create an online professor evaluation program similar to the C.A.P.E. book, where students can voice their opinions about professors.

    She said that relations with the administration and faculty have been problematic for her.

    “”I do not like the antagonistic relationship that exists among the administration, the faculty and the students,”” DeCamp said. “”I have been criticized many times for not being more vocal about student rights, but I feel like students will gain much more through a cooperative relationship,”” she said.

    The newly created position of commissioner of athletics is responsible for the relationship between the A.S. Council and UCSD’s athletics program.

    Robin Shelton, the new commissioner, has been working to increase the visibility of spirit organization Triton Tide and promote spirit on campus.

    The commissioner of athletics is also responsible for attending meetings of Triton Athletes’ Council, overseeing all appointments regarding athletics and looking out for the needs of the NCAA athletes.

    Since taking office, Shelton has worked to develop the referendum to keep athletics funding at its current level, since athletics are currently facing a huge budget reduction, and is also pushing to have blue and gold awnings put up in the Price Center.

    The commissioner of communications, currently Catherine Algeri, is responsible for overseeing the production of student media, including publications such as Temper, Voz Frontierza, New Indicator, The California Review, Muir Quarterly, The Koala and The Nightcap, and SRTV and KSDT.

    The communications office is currently working on the long-term project of purchasing a wavelength for the radio station broadcasts.

    Algeri said that the “”funny”” part of her job is that members of publications try to make her “”like”” them so their level of funding is increased. However, she stressed that she remains neutral and unswayed by their efforts.

    The new commissioner of diversity affairs position was added this year by the council to support and assist organizations that promote diversity.

    Cathy Medrano, the very recently appointed commissioner, works with the A.S. Outreach Program and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Allies Program to promote an environment of diversity.

    Medrano is working to set up a system of communication with the Student Affirmative Action Committee organizations and the other groups on campus relating to diversity.

    Eisha Christian, this year’s commissioner of programming, is in charge of what bands students hear at FallFest, Winterfest and Sun God, along with Club Ritmo and Nooners.

    She said her office finds bands for these events through research, student input and relationships with people in the music industry.

    “”I think concerts bring students together on this campus,”” Christian said. “”I have always wanted to increase the sense of community here at UCSD. Also, it’s nice to have the campus be alive on Friday and Saturday nights.””

    The A.S. commissioner of services and enterprises oversees all A.S. enterprises, including A.S. Lecture Notes, Soft Reserves, Triton Plus, half of the Grove Caffe, the Micro Fridge rental program for on-campus residents, Triton Taxi and the Ropes Course that is being developed in conjunction with Outback Adventures. A.S. services include the A.S. Internship Office, Volunteer Connection, U.S. Grants and the Academic Success Program.

    Commissioner of Services and Enterprises Colin Parent said that his job as commissioner makes him responsible for the expansion and renovation of the programs.

    So far, Parent has worked to expand services and enterprises by finalizing the expansion of Triton Taxi to the Gaslamp Quarter and increasing the number of Lecture Note takers by 50 percent. Next quarter, Lecture Notes and Soft Reserves will take credit cards, and Triton Taxi will begin running to the U.S.-Mexico border.

    The commissioner of student advocacy’s primary job is to represent students accused of misconduct — mostly cheating.

    Student Advocate Kyle R. Biebesheimer took a more proactive role in his position this year by launching the “”know your rights”” campaign aimed at educating freshmen.

    The student advocate deals with students with varions of dilemmas. Some, Biebesheimer assists. Others, he points in the direction of Student Legal Services.

    “”In a few cases, the student just wants someone to talk to about their problems so they can feel better,”” he said. “”In such instances, all they really want is a hug and the reassurance that they’re not alone on this campus. We’ve become quite good at giving hugs lately.””

    Biebesheimer said that what he dislikes about serving on the A.S. Council is that the administration does not respect the views of the council members when they are working so closely a lot of the time.

    “”Sometimes I get the feeling they do not care what we have to say since, after all, we only have a high school diploma and we’re half their age,”” he said.

    Biebesheimer fought in his early days in office to get a ketchup pump put in the Price Center Food Court. He wrote letters to President George W. Bush, requesting help with his fight. In response, the Office of the President sent him a glossy photograph of the president, which Biebesheimer proudly displays in his office.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal