Katie Morrow, social sciences junior running for president of Associated Students, Inc (ASI) talks about women in student government, how the Student Success Fee is a temporary solution and why she’s never without her signature eyeglasses.
You’ve been in Kiyana Tabrizi’s cabinet for almost a year now, and in ASI for two years. How has that changed your perception of Cal Poly?
I get to see a different side of things. Going into committee meetings and learning things about budget structure and about how administration works, as a whole, is an experience most students never get to see. It gave me a chance to have personal relationships with administrators, in addition to business relationships, I don’t think most students get to experience.
So how has your view of Cal Poly changed since you joined ASI?
The biggest thing I’ve learned is administrators take a lot of pride in how our students work. And they make very, very difficult decisions on a daily basis about classes, about funding, about salary. It’s easy to get wrapped up in that and get angry when decisions affect you. I’ve definitely experienced that in the past, you know, when you see your tuition going up and your access to classes going down, that’s very frustrating. But the thing I’ve learned this year is that every single person that I’ve had the chance to work with loves the students and wants them to do so well.
If elected, you would be the fifth female ASI president in a row, dating back to 2008. Do you feel there is a disconnect between men and student government?
I don’t know why it is that this position attracts females to it. I really have thought about this quite a bit, because we have one member of our leadership team right now who is male. Only one of six. And his relations are as great as anyone with the administration, completely equal, if not greater. There are many men in student government that would do a fantastic job as president. I think it’s just a coincidence.
If elected president, you would be co-chairing the Student Success Fee Allocation Committee. How important is student input on where the money goes?
It’s critically important. I would never make a decision without the students’ input. It’s very important to get input from student groups, especially those who have the special interests or who have more expertise in those fields who might need more money in the future. It’s also really important to get in touch with students who don’t have an easy connection, but who have an opinion, and whose opinion is just as valid. A big part of my job would be to hold the (ASI) Board of Directors accountable to reaching out to their colleges and really making an understandable plan of how they’re going to do that.
Kiyana Tabrizi chose not to take a stance on the Student Success Fee in the lead up to the vote. Would you endorse or disapprove of a controversial issue like that while you’re in office?
We chose not to take a stance because students had the option to vote. And so they were going to have their own opinion, so it didn’t necessarily make sense for the student body president to have her own opinion. I would certainly be comfortable taking a stance if the students didn’t have that chance and couldn’t voice their own opinions. If I felt like the students didn’t see something that I would be able to show them, then I would take a stance.
CSU-level discussions have put Cal Poly under pressure to switch to semesters in the next few years. President Jeffrey Armstrong and Provost Kathleen Enz Finken have both expressed their preference toward semesters; what do you think?
I don’t know enough about semesters versus quarters, but my opinion is a student’s opinion. I want to work with the students to make sure our voice is part of that process. I want to make sure it’s not all of a sudden we’re on semesters, but make sure we’re in the conversation the entire time and are part of that decision that’s being made. And if they are against it, then that’s what I’m going to represent. If they’re in favor of it, that’s what I’m going to represent.
If the students were overwhelmingly in favor of staying on quarters, would ASI’s position be to stay on quarters?
It would be the outreach and figuring out if they have a strong opinion. Personally, I’m not sure what that is. I’m absolutely willing to take a stance if I feel the students are strongly one way or another.
The California Faculty Association’s (CFA) relations with the CSU are at a boiling point on several fronts. What role does the ASI president have in these discussions?
I don’t know as much about CFA as I should, but I know the biggest role ASI plays with faculty is with the Academic Senate. Obviously this affects students strongly, if they decide to strike or if they do decide to come to that conclusion then that affects every single student on campus. So I think it’s just that constant reminder to the faculty that this is what they could do to us, and this is why you need to consider that as you’re making that decision. It’s the role of the ASI president to make sure the faculty are thinking about students while they’re making the vote to strike or not, because we’re the ones that are getting affected.
What are your feelings toward the unit cap coming to Cal Poly next quarter, and would you mitigate negative effects on students in light of the financial restrictions Cal Poly could be facing next year?
It’s looking at other ways students can move toward graduation. Things like improving our advising, improving our registration process, kind of looking at — with administration — some of the more creative ways we can operate and the way we get students closer to graduation. It’s important to have the classes available students need to take, but we can only do so much with that. Eventually, we just need to make the system more efficient. There are many CSU and state schools that operate more smoothly or efficiently than we do. We need to look at those as models and not reinvent the wheel.
Is that the role of ASI president to do that, or would it fall on someone higher up?
Yes, that’s my role. I think it’s definitely my role. I may not be an expert, but I think I can ask all the right questions.
Let’s say you’re Governor Morrow for a minute, and you can fix the CSU’s budget woes however you’d like, what would you do?
I think it’s too hard to say. And that’s why we can’t really depend on our legislators any more. We can’t expect in the future they will increase our money, so we have to go back to the drawing board and get creative. The Student Success Fee is a temporary solution. We can’t just exponentially increase student fees. That’s just not fair. In the future, we need to look at alternate revenue sources. The alumni basis is a strong opportunity we have. We have such strong alumni in fields across the country and they’re very, very successful. So I think it’s about encouraging them to give back to where they came from.
We’ve never seen you without your glasses; do you think you have the eyeglass-wearing vote locked down?
You know, I really just hate wearing contacts. Since I was in the seventh grade, I’ve always had these glasses. I was always that dorky kid in the class with the glasses. My vision’s not that bad, but they just don’t make contacts that fit my eyes well. My glasses are a part of me now, I’ve decided.
Despite the challenges Morrow admits she will face as ASI president, she said she believes her experience makes her a more qualified candidate than her write-in opponent, Nha Ha.