Last week, Associated Students, Inc. held multiple “drop-in” feedback events about the multi-million dollar renovation of the Titan Student Union. Almost no one who wasn’t directly involved with Associated Students showed up.
One of these drop-in events was even held at Titan Bowl and Billiards. There are few public places on campus more obscure than the bowling alley. Why not hold an event at an undisclosed location in the Arboretum––you’re guaranteed the same amount of passers-by.
The fact that Associated Students did not hold these events in more easily accessible places raises the question of how badly they wanted or cared about student opinion for this project. If they wanted more public input for the new Student Union, they would have held the drop-ins at more conventional spaces and convenient times.
The feedback events were regarding the remodel of the 38-year-old TSU, which was approved in 2013 by the Titan Student Centers Governing Board. It will use $20 million of revenue reserves collected through student fees to expand the building by up to 25,000 additional square feet and replace outdated heating and ventilation systems.
The turnout to the five public drop-in sessions was low. The few participants who attended one of the events were given feedback forms to state their positive and negative opinions about the new designs.
For such an expensive project that uses student fees and involves a building all students conceivably use, one would think more students would show up to voice their opinions. So what went wrong?
It wasn’t lack of interest. Students did in fact have questions and concerns over the $20 million project. Due to the failure of the drop-in events, questions about the redesign became the unintended focus of the recent Pizza with the Presidents event.
Time and location are mainly to blame. For such a large renovation, having only five poorly publicised and short meetings seems exceptionally short-sighted. The hours and locations that the events were held at only added to the lack of attendance.
Three of the drop-in events were held at 5:30 p.m. or later inside the Student Union, a guaranteed time and place to get as little foot traffic as possible. By this time of day, the majority of the school can be found stuck in the gridlock of a parking structure, not inside the lobby of the TSU.
The absence of an online survey or questionnaire is the greatest sign that student opinion was nothing more than afterthought. Cal State Fullerton is a commuter campus with most of its student body spending more time off campus than on. The best way to reach its students would be online.
Instead of trying their hardest to get students involved in the decision process by having large open forums or an online survey, they chose to have information booths in basements and empty hallways.
It didn’t really matter in this case anyway; regardless of the amount of feedback Associated Students could have received, none of it would equate to a vote. The feedback would only be taken into consideration when a group of select students and university administrators vote on the final design for the TSU, according to an interview with Kurt Borsting, director of Titan Student Centers.
After watching how Associated Students handled this event, it would be easy to point fingers and call them blind and deaf. However that would be unfair. They are only partially to blame for the failure in communication between student body and student government. Students at CSUF have been historically apathetic when it comes to getting involved.
Last year, during the Student Success Initiative feedback forums, the school made a concerted effort to get as much student feedback as possible about the proposed student fee increase. After sending out more than 150,000 emails to students asking for feedback in the first month, only 652 were effective in getting students to click the link to the initiative’s website. By the end of the two-month process, a total of 3,809 paper and digital surveys were collected. Despite the school’s best effort in over a two-month period, they were only successful in getting roughly 10 percent of the student population to participate.
It’s understandable that turnout would not be 100 percent since CSUF is a commuter campus, but the turnout numbers don’t even reflect students that live on or around campus. Students should not be allowed to complain about the fees they have to pay if they do not take part in the decision process.
By not taking part in these forums, we are blindly handing over the rights given to us as students to decide the fate of our campus.
We, as a student body, need to care more about our campus and student involvement. Associated Students Inc., as a governing body, needs to try harder in terms of reaching and actually connecting with students.