Hot button issues like fixing financial aid programs, adjustments to Title IX policies and a “vehemently” rejected proposal for a raise in executives’ salaries were the talk of the day at this month’s California State Student Association (CSSA) plenary meeting that took place at San Francisco State University, Feb. 16-17. 

ASI leaders at the CSSA plenary meeting at San Francisco State Univeristy, Feb. 16-17. (Courtesy of CSSA)

This March, ASI will be focusing its attention on finding a solution for financial aid issues at the California Higher Education Student Summit (CHESS) conference from March 10-11. 

ASI President Jenny Greenberg, ASI officer of legislative affairs Jason Wong and the ASI external affairs team have been eliciting help from various student councils and gathering students’ narratives of their difficulties with financial aid. 

“We’ve been told that our legislators respond really well to student stories,” Wong said. “So we’re trying to connect with people to see if there are any big hardships that students experience with financial aid that we can share on their behalf.”

CSSA partnered with the University of California system and California community colleges to collectively lobby for improvements. 

The expansion of competitive Cal Grants was another big topic discussed at the plenary. 

An Assembly bill could add more funds to the competitive Cal Grants and allow for more grants to be awarded. The current issue with financial aid, Wong said, is that there are about 400,000 applicants each year, yet only 30,000 are awarded due to a lack of funding. 

The bill would increase the grants awarded by an additional 3,000 grants annually. 

A proposed executive compensation increase that would essentially benefit all the high executive positions in the Chancellor’s office and all the CSU presidents was also on the table. 

According to ASI President Greenberg, the resolution caused a lot of uproar during the plenary.

“The fact that we finally got good funding and they’re proposing to spend some of it increasing the pay of university presidents and executives in the CSU system … Why are we increasing their paychecks by a few thousand dollars when that could go toward a single student’s entire tuition?” Greenberg said about the issue. 

The CSSA “vehemently” rejected any future salary raises for any executive CSU position on the basis of “principle and message of priorities.” 

CSSA resolved that the Board of Trustees should not pass any policy increasing the pay of executives until the CSU is “adequately funded.”

Another hot topic that was brought up at the plenary was the proposed changes to Title IX processes introduced last November by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. 

The regulations would allow for the accused to cross examine the accuser, require a higher standard of proof, enforce a stricter definition of what qualifies as a Title IX case and would release universities’ obligation to investigate incidents that take place off campus. 

“Students are upset,” Greenberg said. Although, she mentioned “there isn’t enough information yet about what the effects will be for us to really react strongly … Until we get a systemwide policy, nothing has really affected us yet,” Greenberg said.

There is no current CSU policy on the proposed changes, but Greenberg said updates should be seen within the next few weeks.

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