No two weeks are exactly alike for ASI President Shayna Lynch. One week she might learn the challenges of geolocating students for campus testing, and another week she might work with students to draft a new scholarship.
One thing is for sure, Lynch’s past three years on ASI student government prepared her well to balance all the tasks thrown at a president, even during COVID-19.
After a year in office, the political science senior advised the next president to pick three to five main goals besides their platform that they want to accomplish that year.
“If you don’t prioritize things right from the start, you won’t get them done unfortunately, which is something I knew coming in being in ASI for a while,” Lynch said.
Lynch joined ASI executive staff as a freshman and discovered she had a passion for mental health advocacy, leading her to apply for the executive cabinet her sophomore year and become Chair of Health and Wellbeing. She worked as chief of staff as a junior and was elected as ASI president in 2020.
When COVID-19 hit, Lynch was worried she would have to postpone working on certain projects because of the urgency of COVID-related issues.
“This year is not what we thought it would be when we first stepped into these roles,” Lynch said, “We reevaluated our goals for what we wanted to do during the year and recognized that this was a great year to focus internally.”
Lynch began to look inward at the efficiency of ASI operations to analyze how ASI can improve student support through their budgets and policies.
Lynch and the other ASI officers reevaluated the student government budget and cut down on what they felt were unnecessary expenditures like travel.
Lynch and her officers reallocated more than $100,000 for the next three years to the Cal Poly Food Pantry. They were also able to donate $35,000 from unutilized club funding to Cal Poly Cares, which provides limited financial assistance to eligible students.
Within the fall quarter, Lynch said the executive cabinet completed at least 15 projects to advocate for students under her original campaign platform of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Health and Wellbeing, Sustainability and advocating for the student voice.
Lynch worked with senior political science and comparative ethnic studies major Gina Harris to create a scholarship for students who have demonstrated contributions to American Indian and Indigenous communities. This scholarship was approved by the Board of Directors April 21.
Lynch contacted Harris after Harris and a few other students spoke about their experiences as Indigenous students at the State of Indigeneity in the fall. Harris was the president of the American Indian Student Association and spoke about actions Cal Poly could take to better support native students.
“The way that ASI and Shayna included, were able to follow through with some actions that we proposed through the State of Indigeneity was great,” Harris said.
Harris admired the way she, Lynch and the rest of ASI were able to work together.
“It showed us and me that ASI listens and ASI wants to move forward and work together with underrepresented students to create a more inclusive space at Cal Poly,” Harris said.
Chief of Staff and graduate student Elizabeth Roseman serves under Lynch. Roseman was selected for the position by Lynch after her election. Roseman serves as a liaison between Lynch and the eight student secretaries in charge with enacting Lynch’s platform.
The year was especially difficult for ASI officers because they had to transfer their in-person campaigns to online.
“I think that is something that we still haven’t become perfect at,” Roseman said. “It is hard to get students to want to do more on their computers or their phones after they have been on them all day long.”
In years past, ASI representatives were able to secure student engagement with in-person booths and activities on campus. COVID-19 prevented these interactions.
Roseman worked with the Secretary of Student Rights on the Flex Your Right ASI campaign that encouraged eligible students to register to vote. They made the campaign virtual over the summer and were able to get almost 2,000 students registered to vote.
“I think that that is something that I will forever be proud of,” Roseman said.
Lynch does worry that her team has missed out on some student engagement due to the switch to all virtual platforms.
There are groups of students who don’t use social media, “I worry that we have really missed them this year and that there has been a lack of engagement from both ASI and Cal Poly trying to draw them in,” Lynch said.
Student government is meant to advocate for student needs in places that students might not be considered like major board meetings. A student government official is there in these cases to advocate for student desires.
“Student government is very beneficial in being able to advocate for the student voice in all those various spaces, and making sure that administration, faculty and staff are keeping in mind student concerns through all the work that they do,” Lynch said.
Chair of Recruitment and Elections for 2021 and senior political science major, Jordy Roth, and his team said they worked for months to make the election cycle go smoothly even during a global pandemic.
They started revising the election codes and timeline in fall 2020. This year they have a goal for voter turnout.
“Last year we had a voter turnout of 17% and my committee and I have set a goal to at least hit that number or even go beyond it,” Roth said.
Elizabeth Roseman offered some advice to next years chief of staff.
“It’s so easy to get caught up in the professionalism and the project management and wanting to put the best content that you can out for students, but, at the end of the day, I think we’re all more productive and successful if we’re having fun,” she said.
There are three branches of the ASI student government; the ASI Executive Cabinet, the ASI Board of Directors and the University Union Advisory Board.
The ASI Executive Cabinet is run by the ASI President and their Chief of Staff. For the 2020-2021 academic year, Shayna Lynch served as the ASI President with Elizabeth Roseman, Chief of Staff. The cabinet is also made up of five to nine secretaries that consult on many campus issues from parking and transportation to diversity and inclusion.
The ASI Board of Directors will be elected on April 21 to 22 along with the position of ASI President. The Board of Directors have 25 elected individuals from the six academic colleges. This branch is led by a chair appointed by the last year’s board.
“They serve as the official voice of Cal Poly students. So when anything is passed through the board it is backed by the 20,000 students of Cal Poly,” Lynch said.
The third branch of ASI student government is the University Union Advisory Board who are appointed from each college and foresee the use of ASI managed facilities like the Recreation center, University Union and Dorr Family Field.
These branches work together on certain issues and all students across all three branches serve on committees that cover both internal and external ASI issues.
Lynch had a busy year of budget reallocation, virtual campaigns and Zoom committee meetings. She reflected on her year as ASI President advised next year’s officers to enjoy every minute of the job.
“Even when there are hard parts of the job, you’re there for the students and the students need you to be a student advocate and show up in those spaces,” Lynch said, “Recogniz[e] how much of a privilege the position is.”