With the Cal Poly Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) election April 25, campaigns are in full swing as ASI looks to reach out to more students and encourage engagement in the upcoming election.
As a student government organization, ASI has the ability to pass resolutions aimed at changing university policies. However, these bills and resolutions are simply recommendations to the administration, which has the ultimate authority to accept or reject the legislation.
ASI student government consists of three bodies: Executive Cabinet, Board of Directors and University Union Advisory Board (UUAB). According to the ASI bylaws, the Executive Cabinet is responsible for fulfilling the ASI president’s goals. The Board of Directors is the official voice of Cal Poly students and oversees corporate operations and approves allocation of student fees. The UUAB is responsible for overseeing and running all University Union (UU) facilities, as well as the Recreation Center.
The Board of Directors’ webpage contains archives of several bills, endorsements and resolutions from previous years. One editorial resolution from last year was Resolution #17-06, the feminine hygiene bill that stated Cal Poly would provide free feminine hygiene products in bathrooms on campus.
Another important resolution from the Board of Directors is Resolution #18-07. The board passed the resolution to oppose the Opportunity Fee that would fund a grant for low-income California students by increasing out-of-state students’ fees.
ASI has tried to pass other bills and resolutions for other issues, but some of these ideas do not pass the board. In 2017, members of the Board attempted to pass a bill that would have established a Social Justice and Equity Committee that would address different issues of diversity and inclusion. However, the idea did not pass to become a bill.
Despite ASI’s responsibilities and influence at Cal Poly, the majority of students do not vote in ASI elections. According to the ASI Recruitment and Elections Committee, the student voter participation rates for the last six ASI elections have all been lower than 40 percent with an average of 27.18 percent in the past six elections.
The 2013-2014 ASI election, in which Jason Colombini was chosen as ASI president, had the highest voter turnout of any election in the past six years and was one of the highest in the entire California State University (CSU) system, according to Colombini. At the same time, fewer than half of students voted in the election.
“I was told at the time [that] it was the highest voter turnout for an ASI Presidential election at [Cal] Poly and one of the highest ever in the CSU [system],” Colombini wrote in an email to Mustang News.
The members of student government work with the Cal Poly administration to address problems on campus, but some students do not engage with ASI because they believe the organization is ineffective.
Environmental management and protection senior Hannah Chou said she feels ASI lacks diversity in its representatives.
“I am not sure how ASI can [reach out] to students. Those who do not want to get involved won’t, unless there is an issue or event that is valuable to them. I think that there hasn’t been a lot of [minority students] who have been elected. This is probably because there aren’t a lot running. It would be cool [to have] more diversity, but honestly I’m not sure if that would happen since ASI seems like a popularity vote,” Chou wrote in an email to Mustang News.
Some students said they feel ASI fails to engage more students because of greek life’s impact on the organization.
Statistics senior and former College of Science and Mathematics Board of Directors representative Gianna Ciaccio said she believes greek organizations have a large influence on ASI.
“I think something that goes overlooked is the proportion of greek ASI members relative to the proportion of greek life on campus. That’s not to diminish the contributions of greek ASI members, but I wonder if this majority representation sometimes impacts the way that ASI responds to situations compared to [the way ASI would respond if] that representation [was] a little more reflective of our campus composition,” Ciaccio said.
ASI has tried to reach out to more students to encourage them to vote and engage with the organization. The Recruitment and Elections Committee is responsible for organizing the elections for ASI. Biomedical engineering senior Denae Dupray is the chair and she described some ways she has tried to increase student participation.
“I’ve re-developed social media platforms, put out flyers, notified all the clubs and [organizations] on campus. There’s definitely more work to be done, but it’s definitely in the works,” Dupray said.
Dupray is not the first ASI member to try reaching out to more students; indeed, several current and past ASI members have tried to increase student participation in both elections and the issues ASI handles. Colombini recalled that voter turnout was high in the election he won, but he made it one of his focus points to reach out to more students at Cal Poly.
“Most ASI president campaigns revolve around a platform of that candidate’s ideas and goals. When I ran, I ran on a platform of servant leadership and my personal values. Instead of saying what my goals were, I promised to survey the campus on issues and ideas and the results of this survey would be my and my Cabinet’s goals,” Colombini said.
While the ASI Recruitment and Elections Committee will continue its outreach efforts, some members of ASI feel the students are responsible for being attentive and voting in these elections.
“I’d say that this is one of the avenues that students choose to take on leadership. We do have a large pull with administration, the Academic Senate, Cal Poly Corporation and other administration groups. I would really encourage every single person to vote and get informed about who they’re voting for and on what platform because that platform will be what [the candidates] are held accountable for in the eyes of their constituents,” Dupray said.