Proposal Includes Recategorizing Organizations Within A.S.
Leaders of various campus groups under Associated Students convened with A.S. executive officers at a forum called “BC4” on Friday to discuss upcoming projects within Associated Students, particularly a controversial proposal to radically restructure A.S. work flow processes and governance.
During the meeting, hosted at the Multicultural Center, A.S. President Jonathan Abboud presented his ideas to chairs and co-chairs of A.S. Boards, Committees and Commissions, or BCCs, after completing a revision of another restructuring plan, which was presented at the last BC4 meeting. In the revised restructuring plan, A.S. would no longer be divided into BCCs, and instead the Association would be divided into Senate Standing Committees, Senate Administrative Committees, Units and lastly, Boards and Commissions. Thus, current groups — or BCCs — would be placed into one of these categories according to their function or issue of focus; for example, the A.S. Bike Committee would be considered a Unit. This new organization of BCCs makes for increased involvement of the A.S. Senate through several different implications and changes — such as one change to the electoral process for selecting BCC chairs.
Currently, BCCs have primary control over the selection of their leaders: the majority of groups have an internal election and then forward the names of elected officials to the A.S. president and Committee on Committees, which fills out the necessary paper work. The A.S. president gives a ‘rubber stamp’ approval of the decision and Senate ratifies it, but the Senate does not play a major role beyond this brief approval process. In the new restructuring plan, Abboud proposed that members of Senate and the Executive Board be part of the process of selecting the incoming board members of each group. In this process, two members of the group and the outgoing position-holder would remain as voting members. However, many chairs felt that this proposed process would jeopardize their ability to function independently and as best as possible.
Friday’s presentation, which also included the participation of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Young, was generally met with extensive questioning and criticism, as many BCCs were skeptical of its effects on their autonomy.
Abboud, along with senate Pro-Tempore Ali Guthy, used a PowerPoint presentation to show how they planned to change the structure of Associated Students. Abboud prefaced the discussion with a plea for civility.
“I’ve been disappointed with how negative things have been,” Abboud said. “Let’s just try to be constructive.”
While most attending BCC chairs were not enthusiastic about any aspect of the presentation, the most contentious issue was the proposed change to the selection process for chairs and board members.
Anisha Ahuja of Human Rights Board said she did not “understand how cutting the amount of voting members” would be beneficial to the selection process.
According to Co-Chair of Take Back the Night — a sexual assault awareness group — Kelty Kauffman, her organization’s mission is to create a safe space for sexual assault survivors; thus, it is important that the selection committee be well versed in the field. With the current process, Kauffman said the group is able to follow this mission and she rejected the idea that such a selection process may result in unfair exclusivity.
“Take Back the Night is such a sensitive space and it is considered a safe space for survivors … it’s not so much a cliquey thing it’s about choosing people who are sensitive to the issues at hand,” Kauffman said. “I personally think that there are people in the past who have been involved who have not been sensitive to the issues at hand. Picking people who are heavily involved … is not being cliquey.”
Several members of Program Board were present at the meeting to voice their concerns about the restructuring plan. One member said he felt creating a uniform process for appointments of new board members was inherently ineffective because “BCCs operate at different levels and operate in different ways.”
Abboud defended the inclusion of senators in appointments, as a way of instituting “checks and balances” and for senators to be more informed of the process, so that when it came time to approve the appointments in Senate, they would know what they were approving.
“They have to be present so they know what’s going on [and] they’re not making uninformed votes,” Abboud said. “What I’ve seen for four years in A.S. is every time appointments go up … they kind of just pass … what if there’s a problem?”
Kyle Trager, general manager of KCSB — which would be exempt from the addition of senators in the selection process, as KCSB is an entity of the press — still took issue with the need for a change in the selection process.
“Should it not be the job of the president and the non-student staff of A.S., who have an institutional memory, to really push the senators to be proactive?” Trager asked Abboud and Guthy.
Abboud responded that he has “no authority over the Senate.”
Abboud and Guthy eventually agreed to scrap the idea of the selection process and take the concerns of the chairs into consideration; however, many were still unsatisfied with the restructure as a whole. Hani Tajsar, of Student Commission on Racial Equality, said he felt Abboud was “trying to fix imaginary problems,” and Mohsin Mirza of Student Lobby said “a one-size-fits-all solution might not be the best idea.”
How, Guthy said that grouping BCC according to the new categories outlined will make for a more efficient and fair process that does not infringe on any organization’s individual autonomy.
“Nothing about the restructure will change the way that these groups function,” Guthy said.
Abboud and Guthy plan to revise the restructure plan once again and bring it back for yet another discussion.
In addition to the restructuring plan, BCCs discussed a bill recently passed at A.S. Senate regarding food budgets, presented on-going projects and engaged in a question-and-answer with Vice Chancellor Michael Young.
Speaking at the meeting about his opinion of A.S. as a whole, Vice Chancellor Young said no one could better represent and advocate the needs of the student body.
“Even though people like me truly do care about you — I work for your best interests — in many ways, you are the best protectors of your interests,” Young said. “I can’t speak for students … the vast majority of the presidents that I’ve had the pleasure and opportunity to work with have done just that.”
A version of this story appeared on page 1 of Monday, February 3, 2014′s print edition of the Daily Nexus.