Cal Poly Associated Students Inc. abruptly left a statewide California State Students Association meeting in Palm Springs after a new policy set by the board stated that non-dues-paying members could no longer participate in discussing action items.
Two other schools – Cal Poly Pomona and Long Beach State – withdrew from the meeting as well.
Cal Poly would have to pay around $11,000 annually to be an active member in CSSA. ASI President Brandon Souza also noted that the meetings were not worth spending student fee money on travel if Cal Poly could not even voice their opinions on the pertinent issues being discussed.
“It is really disappointing because we got there and tried to make a difference as a top auxiliary,” Souza said.
CSSA represents more than 450,000 students and 23 California State Universities, and twelve of those schools, including Cal Poly, are non-dues paying members.
Cal Poly has not paid dues to the association for almost 20 years except for a year in the early 2000s. Even though Cal Poly was a non-paying dues member, they could always participate in the debates.
Souza was already frustrated with the CSSA program, which is why he, other Cal Poly ASI members and the two schools chose to leave.
“The biggest concern in every CSU is very different,” said Souza. “Every dollar spent from student fees should be spent in the most effective manner. For us and a lot of schools, I felt there was no point in spending the money and committing to this organization.”
CSSA chair Dina Cervantes said that the board was given directions to solidify the way they dealt with things.
“The environment at CSSA has always been a political football game being played between dues paying schools and non-dues-paying schools. We decided to address the elephant in the room,” Cervantes said.
The board felt that it was unnecessary for non-paying schools to have the same privileges as schools that do pay. In order to be a dues-paying member, each school has to pay 60 cents for each student attending their respective colleges.
“We felt that a lot of campuses who did not pay influence the debates and guide the discussions in a way that takes away the contributions of paying schools,” Cervantes added. “Whether campuses pay dues or not, we advocate for all students at our meetings.”
The new policy implements the style of a city council meeting, with times when the public can speak. However, in these meetings, the public forum time is the only time the non-dues paying members can speak.
Even though ASI Chairman of the Board and mechanical engineering senior Tony Guntermann did not attend the Palm Springs meeting, he was not thrilled by the new policies.
“It was a huge slap in the face,” he said. “They obviously didn’t want us to be there because we don’t pay dues.”
But it was not just a change in policies that led Cal Poly to remove itself from CSSA. Guntermann feels that there is a fundamental difference between CSSA and ASI at Cal Poly and how they run their organizations.
“Friction occurs because of the way our organization is formed; we are more professional,” Guntermann said. “(The CSSA members) have a lot of potential to be a great organization but they meet once a month and a lot of the people who are involved are also involved in their own organizations at their own schools.”
Both Souza and Guntermann agreed that the organization is run differently from any other company because it is supposed to reserve 5 percent every year from the budget but did not put away funds last year.
Souza and Guntermann are not the only ones questioning the financial stability of the organization. CSU Long Beach ASI President Mark Andrews questioned where exactly the money was going and also claimed the need for a new executive director of the organization in a recent article of CSU Long Beach’s paper, the Daily 49er.
The rumored financial difficulties led to an audit that proved no wrongdoing.
“We had a professional evaluation and there was no proof of financial mismanagement. We heard the concerns and took proper steps to address them,” Cervantes said.
CSSA executive director Rosanna Gonzalez said right now the budget is on track and the organization will put money back into the reserves this year.
“Our fundraising goals have not been reached yet but we have $20,000. This past January we were also significantly underspending,” Gonzalez said.
However, Gonzalez is unsure how many schools will come back as dues-paying schools. Of the 23 CSU campuses, 17 are currently paying dues. Each school will soon receive its enrollment numbers and have to decide with their committees whether they would like to pay CSSA for the upcoming year.
It is unlikely that Cal Poly will return to CSSA. According to Cervantes, Souza wrote an e-mail to the organization shortly after the meeting saying that Cal Poly would no longer participate and wished to be taken off the list for information about CSSA activities.
“Emotions definitely came into play. We hated to see (Souza) walk out especially when the governor’s budget cuts are affecting students,” Cervantes said.
CSSA is working closely with the CSU Chancellor’s office to discuss the upcoming budget changes and is also working with the lt. governor to fight budget crises.
“On Feb. 21 we will be talking about the affordability and quality of the CSU system. It was a personal decision to cut the communication and I respect that. However, students are still welcomed to give feedback to CSSA,” Cervantes added.
The decision to part from CSSA leaves Cal Poly to focus on Lobby Corp as one of the top priorities. Lobby Corp is a group within CSSA that maintains student perspective and presence in the state legislature.
“We are going to intensify Lobby Corp to improve Cal Poly’s own lobbying efforts to lobby the state capital and for separate grassroots organizations,” Souza said.