Students struggle to represent

By Lizzie Mitchell
Flapjack Chronicle

You have the opportunity to be the voice of all 437,000 California State University System’s students’ needs and wants.

The California State Student Association is looking for a student to serve as a trustee on the California State University Board of Trustees. This student serves a two-year term along with one other student and helps determine new governing policies for the entire CSU system.

“I definitely don’t have time for that!” Robert Barnett said, a 22-year-old biology major at Humboldt State.

Student trustees represent each university’s students and their positions on topics like financial aid, admissions and tuition — to name a few. They learn about student needs through communication with each school’s Associated Students government.

The student trustee position is the highest level of office that a student can hold in the CSU system. Jacob Bloom, one of HSU’s AS student-at-large representatives, said it is a struggle to influence some of the major decisions that these student trustees vote and decide on.

“We’re definitely a very unique area,” Bloom said. “It doesn’t really feel like we’re a part of California, but we’re subjected to the same rules that people in L.A. are. It’s definitely a different school system and a way of life.”

HSU AS president, Ellyn Henderson, also said that HSU’s distance from the rest of the CSUs might be a disadvantage in the policy-making decisions that involve the student trustees.

“I don’t think it’s connected enough,” Henderson said. “Humboldt specifically has a problem with that because we are the most disconnected of all the CSU’s. We don’t have big events or big committee meetings. Plus, LA is where the Chancellor’s office is.”

The Board of Trustees meets six times a year at the CSU Chancellor’s office in Long Beach, Calif. While there, the student trustees communicate with the 23 other board members about different ideas and plans for the CSUs.

In addition to HSU’s distance from the rest of the schools, a lack of student involvement may also affect its weight in the board of trustee’s decision-making.

“People don’t even know what AS is,” Henderson said. “Part of getting all schools included is including the diversity of opinions on the decision making. If we don’t have an input, it hurts the bigger decisions overall.”

Henderson also said the CSSA is considering investing in the appointed students’ tuition who are representing, which would hopefully provide more of an incentive for students to get involved.

Briana Pagdon, a 19-year-old biology major, was interested.

“My tuition would possibly be paid for?” Pagdon said. “Sign me up!”

Bloom also said, in addition to a lack of student involvement, HSU’s AS has a hard time because of how top-down the orders are in their policy-making. There are higher levels of power above each governing body, and the higher-ranking authorities ultimately end up having the most say.

He said that instead of representing the students, he feels that a position like the student trustee is only an opportunity for that student to represent himself or herself.

“It’s a very fine line of being able to qualify for [the position],” Bloom said. “You have to be in good with all the top dogs, so from what I’ve seen, you can’t represent students at all. You represent the people whose asses you have to kiss to get there.”

Bloom said the high status that the position suggests might outweigh the greater interest of the students, because it is so hard to fully represent so many people.

“If I were one of these [student trustees],” Bloom said, “I wouldn’t represent students at all. It’s so painful for AS on campus to know what we want, so much as someone who gets flown down to Long Beach to meet with the governor. I mean, I’d just feel like the shit if I were doing that.”

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