The ASI Board of Directors began discussing three student fee relief options for the fall semester during its Sept. 26 meeting. The discussion follows two community planning sessions where the organization presented and sought to gauge student opinion on the three relief possibilities.
ASI Vice President Manshaan Singh and ASI Executive Director Liz Roosa Millar presented board members with the same presentation Singh and ASI President Lucy Yu gave to attendees at the two community planning sessions, outlining the three allocation options for approximately $2 million dollars in savings identified by ASI.
Option one would redistribute the savings into both ASI and university basic needs programs. Programs highlighted as possible beneficiaries of this option included The Poly Pantry, an ASI basic needs scholarship, the university’s Basic Needs Emergency Grant and the Career Center’s Clothes Closet.
Option two would allocate the savings to “ensure ASI’s future financial health,” according to Singh. This would mean keeping the savings in the five ASI Reserve accounts to fund current and future ASI projects as well as ASI retirement funds.
While ASI’s pension fund is currently funded at 82.3%, Singh noted that the other post-employment benefits fund, which includes benefits like health care for retired employees, is only funded at 28.1%.
The first two options have been pitched to students and board members alike as options that can be implemented relatively easily and even combined together.
The third option, a partial reimbursement of the fall semester’s ASI facilities and operation fee, has been characterized as a process without precedent, without a concrete timeline and with possible adverse effects to some financial aid recipients.
Unlike the first two options, the reimbursement route would require approval from the California State University Chancellor’s Office. Current CSU Chancellor Timothy White has previously expressed disapproval of any change to mandatory fees and Singh expects Chancellor-select Joseph Castro, whose tenure begins in January, to provide “the same answer.”
While some board members expressed immediate support for an option, most sought further student input.
College of Education and Integrative Studies Sen. Priscilla Munoz advocated for a combination of options one and two. Munoz described this hybrid option as “our safest bet” citing the expected quick turnaround time for the two options in contrast to the unknown time frame for the third.
Yu also sought to confirm that if the board of directors opted for option one, there would be flexibility in how the $2 million is distributed among university and ASI basic needs programs.
Roosa Millar confirmed that the board could prioritize certain programs or initiatives to benefit from this reallocation if option one is chosen. In that scenario, the ASI Basic Needs and Finance committees would work in tandem to recommend a specific budget to the board of directors who would then vote on the committees’ recommendation as a mid-year budget modification.
“If the board went with option one, I personally, as president, would be interested in (emergency grant funding) being a top priority,” said Yu.
When discussing the appeal of option two, both Yu and Singh acknowledged that future economic uncertainty is an important factor in their decision but affirmed that ASI is in a steady financial position to pursue any of the presented options.
Singh said, “Would we be better prepared to face future economic uncertainty if we kept this in the reserves? Yes, definitely. Are we prepared enough right now where we can still present these other options for the $2 million? Yes, as well; it won’t steer ASI off of its course to do this.”
Singh added that both ASI staff and university administrators have warned of a likely drop in enrollment next semester, perhaps requiring ASI to dip into its reserves for programming or salary payments. However, Yu and Singh see the steady enrollment numbers for this fall semester as a sign of encouragement.
Both executive leaders declined to indicate how they ultimately plan to vote, saying they needed to hear more student opinions. This was a sentiment echoed by both Greek Council Senator-At-Large Hillary Deleon and Inter-Hall Council Senator Prabhat Jammalamadaka.
Deleon suggested sending a mass email to the student body with a poll to opine on the three options. The following day, a mass email was sent to all active students though it did not contain a survey.
The three timelines for each option designate Oct. 8 as the earliest date for the ASI Board of Directors to decide on a fee relief option, though the board can also decide to delay its vote. Until then, ASI executive leaders have encouraged the student body to contact their respective senators with any questions and concerns.
The agenda, minutes and Zoom link for previous and upcoming board of directors’ meetings can be found here.
(Feature image by Nicolas Hernandez | The Poly Post)
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