Ahead of an Oct. 29 university budget meeting presented by top Cal Poly Pomona administrators, ASI President Lucy Yu and ASI Vice President Manshaan Singh publicized their decision to decline attending the presentation, citing lack of student involvement and student knowledge of the event.
The Campus Conversation on the State of the Budget discussed the financial impacts of the university’s $20 million budget gap for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. However, information about the event was limited to faculty and staff without a student-wide email ever sent out to provide students login information for the Zoom webinar.
“They’re calling this a campus conversation, but we don’t feel, in our opinion, that it is a campus conversation because there wasn’t a lot of advertisement and communication to students about this event,” said Yu.
In a Reddit post explaining the student government leaders’ decision, Singh confirmed that students were “technically allowed” to attend the meeting and posted the login information for users to join.
Associate Vice President of Finance and Administrative Joe Simoneschi, one of the presenters during the budget meeting, said that he was not aware that Yu and Singh were the only students invited to the presentation.
“Unfortunately, it truly was just a miscommunication, at least from my perspective,” said Simoneschi. “There was no intention to not include them (students).”
Simoneschi added that as this was the first budget forum held virtually the university administration was still adapting in its online event hosting.
This most recent impasse follows a town hall meeting on online learning co-organized by ASI and the university late last month that, according to Singh, was not as conducive to an “open atmosphere” when compared to previous town halls organized solely by ASI.
“I think when it comes to pleasing the student body … our town halls have been very successful in that sense,” said Yu. “Versus, we’ve heard very mixed reviews walking away from the town halls when we’ve partnered with administration.”
Singh attributed these mixed reviews specifically to the webinar format of the event as opposed to a traditional Zoom meeting format, as well as restricted chat and Q&A functionalities.
The Oct. 29 budget meeting was also a webinar — made necessary as the event passed the 300 attendant Zoom limit for meetings. However, it did include a Q&A function where attendees could choose whether to ask questions anonymously or not and were able to vote on other people’s questions — features Singh characterized as improvements.
For Yu and Singh, this experience also demonstrated a broader lack of non-ASI student involvement in university processes.
“I think that when it comes to different spaces on campus, me and Lucy, we are privileged to be there and represent the student voice,” said Singh. “If we look at the history in the past few years, it kind of took a good amount of work just to get us in there.”
Noting that he is the sole student participant in the Academic Senate, Singh added, “I’m the one student who gets to go there …. We’re here in these spaces now, but how many spaces can we open to all students?”
Vice President for Student Affairs Christina Gonzales described student involvement in administrative processes outside of ASI as a complex topic considering that ASI student leaders are elected by the student body to act as representatives.
“They are elected under this umbrella that they’re part of the governing structure. ASI is part of that just as the Academic Senate and Staff Council,” said Gonzales. “So those are our governing boards who are supposed to share governance.”
Gonzales did add, however, that this would be a topic of discussion within the administration and that she is developing a student advisory board of about 15 students that report directly to her and provide feedback outside of ASI.
Following discussions between ASI leaders and university administrators, multiple administrators including Simoneschi and Amon Rappaport, senior associate vice president for strategic communications, said there are now ongoing conversations with ASI leaders to present the budget information to students at a later event.
“Going forward, whether it’s budget related or other topics of interest to the campus community, students included, we will work to be more intentional about how we design these events,” said Rappaport.
It is unclear when a student-centered event will occur and whether such an event would be limited to students or would allow students to see the concerns important to staff and faculty, a dynamic Yu and Singh emphasized they would have liked to see in the budget meeting.
“If student success is the shared, number one priority as a university, I think we can do more to prioritize and unify communications to and with students,” Rappaport added. “I made that recommendation to President Coley, and she agreed.”
(Feature image: Nicolas Hernandez | The Poly Post)
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