By this fall, one of Cal State Fullerton’s major student government boards will be no more.
After statements from 13 public speakers and over an hour of dialogue, CSUF’s Associated Students’ board of directors voted 13-2 to dissolve the Titan Student Center’s board of trustees, the student-majority board that developed policies for the Titan Student Union and Student Recreation Center.
The decision comes just one week ahead of the ASI elections, where 12 students were running for the 2021-22 board of trustees.
Most of the public speakers voiced their support for dissolving the board, some of whom said they wanted a more accurate representation of the campus community.
“The Titan Student Centers board of trustees has historically been represented by mainly the College of Business and one fraternity,” said Lulu Halisi, a CSUF alumna and former ASI elections coordinator. “The ASI board of directors are elected by every college - all eight of them. By approving this proposal, you are ensuring that every student and every college will now have a voice in how the SRC and TSU are run.”
The prevalence of business and fraternity members was brought up by several speakers, both on and off the board.
At least six of 10 seats in the 2019-20 board of trustees were members of the fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha, including the board chair. The same statistic occurred the following year at the time of the election, where at least 60% of the students elected to the current 2020-21 board were part of Pi Kappa Alpha.
Opponents of the vote pointed out the closeness of the March 9th election, which candidates have campaigned for since early February.
“As the campaign has already started, I feel that there is just a lack of transparency considering that we're in the middle of a campaign and we have already started campaigning for position for about two weeks now,” said Chrystina Heuerman, a CSUF sophomore currently running for the board of trustees.
Dave Edwards, ASI’s executive director, said in a presentation of the proposal that although the board of trustees would be dissolved, those running for a spot on the council would still have the opportunity to take part in ASI.
Although 10 posts would be eliminated, approximately five to seven engagement positions will open for students to campaign for, Edwards said. The board of directors’ treasurer usually doubles as secretary, but the roles will be separated in an effort to compensate for the scrapped trustees’ positions.
With the reassignment of the trustees’ responsibilities to the board of directors’ committees, two additional committees — facilities and programs assessment — were included in the proposal.
“A great deal of thought was put into trying to mitigate and minimize as much as possible the impact on those candidates,” Edwards said.
As outlined in the proposal, ASI would save around $100,000 to $150,000 dollars in student financial awards, board expenses, leader training, supplies, staff and advisor time, Edwards said.
Marcus Reveles, ASI president, said running the board of trustees adds up to $86,695 per year in direct costs, on top of $30,000-$50,000 in indirect costs.
Reveles added that the board had to find additional money to fund organizations such as SWANA, also known as the Southwest Asian North African club, to which ASI has committed to financially support. If the funds cannot be found, it would have to come from inter-club councils and other programs, Reveles said.
Selene Hanna, board of directors’ treasurer and secretary, voiced her opposition to the proposal as she said it would take away students’ opportunity to grow professionally. Hanna urged the board to look for other solutions to save money.
Erik Murillo, a representative for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said though he heard the comments about the prevalence of one demographic within the board of trustees, his main reason for wanting to dissolve the board was because he wanted to save students’ money.
“Although we can't give money back to our students, we are finding a way to restructure, restructure their money and go towards places where it can help out other students more than just a committee where their agendas aren't even filled, where they don't even do enough,” Murillo said. “It just seems to me that if you aren't in an exec position, or if you're not in the vice chair, board chair or any important position, such as the board of trustees, to me, you're just really sitting there wasting our students’ money.”
Carol McDoniel, ASI director of administration, said that the number of action items on the trustees’ agendas and their meeting lengths have been decreasing since 2017.
“In the past three years, not including the past two pandemic semesters, the action items have decreased from 31 to eight and then six,” she said.
Since 2017, not including the past two semesters, McDoniel added that 49% of the Titan Student Center board meetings lasted less than one hour, as did 75% of the operation subcommittee meetings and 67% of the facility subcommittee meetings.
With the reopening of the CSUF campus on the horizon, some expressed concerns over how facilities would meet safety regulations without the board of trustees overseeing them. But McDoniel said that the management of facilities is the responsibility of staff as it follows university and California State University regulations.
Any plans to return to campus are currently being discussed by the campus re-entry team and President Fram Virjee so it would not be handled by any ASI entity, McDoniel said.
The restructuring of the governing body is inevitable, said Skylar Soria, ASI vice president, as she expressed her support of the proposal. She added that student leadership opportunities are not being lost, but rather reallocated based on necessity, offering consolation to those running for a spot on the board of trustees and those currently serving.
“I recognize that this is a difficult decision, and a hard spot that we're putting you in and I can only commend you on your hard work that you've done over this past year, and what you've been doing,” Soria said. “I urge you to not only think of the constituents that put you in this position, but to think of the other 40,000 students when we're looking at representation and opportunities for those to come.”