ASI leaders discuss student government appointments and racial justice event, preview 2020-2021 action plan

Coinciding with the start of the fall semester, Associated Students Inc. (ASI) President Lucy Yu, Vice President Manshaan Singh and Officer of Diversity and Inclusion Moriah Easley convened on Aug. 21 for a virtual interview with The Poly Post. The trio discussed the organization’s recent racial justice student planning event, policy agenda, and ASI structuring via cabinet and committee appointments.

Following a summer of successful student government appointments, the only cabinet-level position that remained vacant was for the ASI elections chair. However, when asked about the progress on filling that position, Yu revealed that their main priority was now once again interviewing for and appointing an ASI secretary of basic needs after Jayla Littlejohn, who had been recently appointed to the position, suddenly stepped down.

“If I’m being honest with you, we’re super upset that she had to leave,” Yu, a fourth-year hospitality management student said. “When interviewing for that position, she was literally the shining star; she was exactly what we were looking for. But we totally understand why she has to step down”

Singh, a fourth-year environmental biology student, explained that this development is slated to be discussed with the ASI Board of Directors during its first meeting of the semester on Aug. 27.

Besides the cabinet, ASI leadership is also working on appointing both student leaders and students-at-large to university and ASI committees.

In her capacity as president, Yu is responsible for appointing students to more than 50 university committees that require student representation. So far, most of Yu’s appointments have consisted of already-elected student leaders, though one student-at-large has been appointed to the university’s transportation committee and more student-at-large appointments are expected once students’ eligibility requirements are confirmed.

With ASI senators having completed their own internal elections to ASI committees in August, it is now formally up to Yu, in consultation with committee chairs, to appoint students-at-large to ASI internal committees—although the process, according to Singh, is largely delegated to the chair. Internal student-at-large appointments must also be approved by the board of directors.

Interested students can find more information and the application to serve as an appointed student-at-large to ASI and university committees at https://asi.cpp.edu/student-government/opportunities/committee-appointments/

The three leaders also discussed this administration’s largest student outreach operation thus far.

Marketed as an opportunity for students to directly shape and discuss ASI’s racial justice policy priorities, the Student Community Planning on Racial Justice event was hosted by the three leaders virtually on Aug. 14.

In evaluating the event’s success, Easley, a third-year kinesiology student, said, “I think the event went really well, especially since it was kind of a new space for students to feel like, ‘Oh shoot, ASI actually wants to hear our ideas….’ I thought it went really well and a lot of the ideas people were saying were ideas I had already talked about with Lucy and Manshaan, so it was really cool to see that confirmation that I’m on the same wavelength with the students.”

Easley also revealed that in a post-event survey, respondents largely favored similar events in the future.

Yu largely attributed the event’s success to ASI student leaders’ strict desire to maintain students at the forefront of the planning session by discouraging ASI professional staff and university faculty and administration from attending—a dynamic, Yu remarked, that she had not seen at previous ASI events.

“As much as I thought the event went well, I don’t think that the work is over at all,” Yu added. “I’m glad we had the event. I’m glad it went well. I’m glad everybody really enjoyed themselves and are looking forward to coming back to the next one. But it’s not time to pat ourselves on the back and say, ‘Okay, the job’s done…we had the event, we’re good.’ I think that the work is just beginning. So, I think that we’re kind of excited to pull everybody back again, invite everybody back again to have another conversation like that.”

With this event’s uniquely majoritarian structure, where students could voice and play an active role in shaping ASI policy, the leaders were asked for their personal philosophy on weighing the policy desires of their constituents versus their own beliefs of what is best for students.

“I would say my personal philosophy is, really, you should only be going against what your constituents want if you really believe that that is the best thing,” Singh said.  “You need to have genuinely very good reasons, because, more often than not, I feel like most people are intelligent enough to know what would be best for them. And if they tell you that, you need to, really have a good reason as to why you think that would it be best for them.”

This view was shared by both Easley and Yu and Singh noted that most of the recommendations expressed by students were consonant with ASI’s planned actions.

Yu and Singh also explained that while many recommendations by students were well-received by ASI and may receive attention during the year, not every proposed policy will be included in the 2020-2021 ASI Action Plan. A policy’s inclusion in the organization’s main policy-guiding document depends on its impact and the amount of time necessary for its implementation.

For example, one student demand during the event was for faculty to spend more time and effort outlining Title IX requirements and existing discrimination policies. According to Singh, this change could be as simple as having a conversation with faculty leadership. Depending on the idea’s reception, it could then become subject of advocacy for ASI to pass through the Academic Senate.

Similarly, students’ suggestion that BroncoDirect include a name pronunciation feature was described by Singh as possibly being “as simple as shooting an email to someone who works (in the registrar’s office).”

On the other hand, advocating for family housing at Cal Poly Pomona, on-campus policing reform and more funding for the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) were all characterized as longer-term issues that require more time, effort and resources—thus meriting a place in the upcoming action plan.

During the mostly unified student event, the role of the University Police Department (UPD) stood out as an issue where there was a wide range of opinions voiced by the student attendees. Some sought the removal of police on campus as the ultimate goal while others argued training and hiring reforms to be sufficient—a debate, that Easley noted, is ongoing at a national scale.

“I think that we can definitely promise you that we will be having those conversations this year about policing on campus,” Yu stated. “Our actions need to mirror what the student body needs and what they want.”

None of the leaders took a definitive stance on how ASI policy would tackle this ultimate debate. Instead, they focused on the specific issues where they believed there to be consensus and promised further conversations with students as the year progresses.

One such issue was to advocate for CAPS counselors to conduct student wellness checks, rather than UPD officers. Singh said he was happy to hear students’ desire for this change because it was a subject of ASI conversations with UPD and CAPS over the summer.

To continue the stream of feedback from the student body to ASI, the organization plans to continue to hold these events, ideally once a month, according to Singh.

Future topics of discussion highlighted by the student leaders included policy forums aimed at issues of concern to LGBTQ and transfer students.

Easley, however, also detailed a possible event focused not so much on policy planning, but rather for Black students who faced racism and discrimination on campus. Easley envisioned a panel of therapists and psychologists who focus on racism and prejudice speaking with and advising Black students whose academic performance have suffered because of those issues.

Yu provided a timeline of the action plan’s release, estimating that the policy agenda’s content would be completed by mid-September and rolled out to students by the end of that month

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