‘ASI is not defunding the Cultural Centers’

By ELIZABETH HERNANDEZ & GEORGIA VALDES

Editor in Chief & Staff Writer

Following the town hall meeting held Oct. 23 in the Bronco Student Center’s Ursa Minor, many students were left with more questions than answers as confusion increased regarding the recent Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Student Opportunities Initiative (SOI) proposal. 

ASI responded to the town hall in an IGTV video released Oct. 30 in which ASI President Pasindu Senaratne apologized for his “silence on many situations that have happened to our campus community” and discussed the concerns regarding the Student Opportunities Initiative. 

“ASI is not defunding the Cultural Centers,” Senaratne said. “Our ASI Action Plan (states) that we are committed to ensuring ASI is equitable in funding all of our programs, and propose solutions that ease the burden on students for accessing funds through a process that is also in line with our legal requirements — that’s it.”

Alexis Ramirez Ruiz, CLASS senator, Christine Kuo, College of Business senator, and Augustus Rodriguez, College of Engineering senator, express their concerns for their respective councils. Elizabeth Hernandez | The Poly Post

Earlier this year, an ASI Ad Hoc Committee was created to brainstorm and research how to best increase revenue for Cal Poly Pomona academic and at-large clubs and organizations. This committee suggested that the $135,000 Heritage Fund could be reallocated from the Cultural Centers to at-large councils, with specific amounts varying based on their club counts. 

The Ad Hoc Committee suggested that the reserve policy be rewritten so that the original Heritage Fund benefactors, the Cultural Centers, would instead be allocated funding from the $1.2 million collected in the New Programs and Augmentations (NP&A).  

“The committee was just to determine a proposal,” said Manhaan Dhir, ASI attorney general and Ad Hoc Committee member. “Nothing has passed yet, and nothing is set in stone. It still needs to go through two bodies, the Rules and Policies committee and the ASI Board of Directors.”

Under the changes, certain councils may see an increase in funding, while others may see a decrease in funding. For instance, under the proposal, the College of Environmental Design may go down from $27,528 to $20,494. Engineering, on the flip side, will go up from $91,437 to $152,238. These numbers can fluctuate based on registered clubs. The amount of money allocated per club will be up to its respective council to decide based on its own models and regulations. 

“One of the goals of changing the allocation percentage model was to improve equity and have an established, formulaic way of adjusting regularly as the number of clubs changes,” said Liz Roosa Millar, ASI executive director. 

Valerie Ahumada read her statement regarding the Student Opportunities Initiative at the Rules and Policies meeting Nov. 1. Elizabeth Hernandez | The Poly Post

The proposal has not been received warmly, and student backlash has paused its forward momentum. In the Rules and Policies meeting, held in England Evans on Friday, Nov. 1, senators brought to light some concerns communicated to them by their constituents. 

“Many of the clubs that I talked to in my council claim that with this proposal we’re focusing on how many clubs we have and not on the quality or the attendance that these clubs are getting,” said Alexis Ramirez Ruiz, ASI class senator. “I know the political science club is one of the most active clubs within my council, but just because there’s only 21 clubs in my council they’re going to be potentially getting less funding.” 

Students who attended the Rules and Policies meeting were able to voice their opinions during the open forum. 

Valerie Ahumada, a fourth-year general biology student and a Pride Center student justice leader, requested that ASI carry the process of approving the Student Opportunities Initiative in a transparent fashion. “Drafts should be shared publicly on the (ASI) website for student input,” Ahumada said. “And they need to be advertised … so that students can remain informed and work toward giving the input so that this is something that we can all be proud of.”

With the majority of their programs and events supported by the Heritage Fund, the Cultural Centers felt they were blindsided by the information, which led to Student Justice Leaders (SJL) to advocate for their centers. Under the current model, each of the six centers were guaranteed $18,000 for the year. Students stressed the importance of the safe atmosphere the Cultural Centers provide.

“The cultural centers are always for everyone, rather than the clubs who internalize themselves … if it’s hard for a club to find the time and resources—think about us! This is frustrating for me,” said Kyle C. Brown, a student justice leader at the Native American Student Center. 

ASI’s alleged lack of communication blindsided the Cultural Centers, which receive support for the majority of their programs and events from the Heritage Fund, and led to SJLs to advocate for their centers. 

Currently, what is most unclear is whether NP&A would cover more, less or equal to the Heritage Funds.

“Before this, Cultural Centers were stuck at ($18,000),” Dhir said. “This new model is more towards need-based funding. It would also address how the (Bronco) Dreamers Resources Center and other diversity related initiatives could also access money through the NP&A.”

ASI upholds its goals in making a positive impact for the diverse CPP community. Roosa Millar understands the population’s hesitation for change but stressed that the document at hand is flexible and can be revisited and edited before a passing vote.

“This is the beauty of the process,” Millar said. “We do not expect full agreement. But that’s where the next phase happens, where we bring in voices and rationale. If there’s disagreement, then it’s woven into the decision made by the individual members who vote.” 

Dhir urges the student body to attend upcoming meetings to discuss the allocation amendments. The next meeting regarding the SOI is Friday, Nov. 15.

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