A row of photos hangs over the main desk as if watching over the office. Each bears an inscription: Senator of the Kremen School of Education; Senator of the Craig School of Business.
Toward the end of the row, a frame depicting the senator of the College of Arts and Humanities holds a blank piece of paper, indicating yet another resignation from Associated Students, Inc. (ASI).
Since June 2008, seven of the 18 ASI student officials have changed positions or resigned. The Collegianâ€™s analysis of ASI minutes and agendas found that this rate is the highest the student senate body has seen in the past four years.
Graham Wahlberg, president of ASI, said there are currently three senators who have held office for less than a month.
â€œItâ€™s unacceptable to me,â€ he said. â€œI want to see the senate stay from start to finish.â€
Over involvement cited as reason for departures
ASI Vice President of Finance Lauren Johnson, currently the only ASI executive who was elected to her post by students, said that she has seen an increase in resignations due to studentsâ€™ overcommitment.
â€œItâ€™s not good practice to resign because you overloaded yourself,â€ she said.
Former ASI Senator of Arts and Humanities Paul Herrera admitted this was true of him. â€œI have a lot on my plate this semester,â€ Herrera said in an e-mail to The Collegian, â€œthree part-time jobs, 20-plus units and multiple touring ensembles through the department of music.â€
Executive Vice President Jessica Sweeten said, â€œThe people that want to be involved are the ones that are already too involved, and they try to justify to themselves that they can do it.â€
Before they are appointed, senators are asked what they are involved in â€” both on and off campus â€” how much time those activities require and whether they have time for eight hours of office hours per week, according to Sweeten.
Senators are allowed to miss two meetings per year. If they exceed two, they must step down.
Of the four years examined by The Collegian, the 2005-2006 academic year had the second-highest turnover, with four senate seats changing hands. Records show only one, Senator At-Large Michael Karbassi, was a resignation. The seat for the Kremen School of Education remained vacant the entire year.
Stemming the flow
Time lost in training is the biggest problem that occurs when the senate turnover is high, according to Johnson and Wahlberg. New senators must form relationships with the colleges and organizations they represent and take over projects begun by previous senators.
Sweeten and the other executives have used the yearâ€™s high turnover as impetus to create handbooks for senators and executives. They hope that this â€œpaper trailâ€ will make for smoother transitions between officers in the future.
Wahlberg has been in touch with other California universities to find out how their ASI branches keep their senators. He said each school asked him if Fresno State was paying its senators.
â€œWhen I said, â€˜No,â€™ they said, â€˜Well, thatâ€™s why theyâ€™re leaving.â€™â€
Wahlberg said he hasnâ€™t decided yet whether he will push to get senators paid. But with elections approaching, he wants to develop some sort of incentive package to encourage more people to run. Priority registration and pre-purchased staff parking passes are a few of the perks he is considering including.
He said that California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo aims to have at least three people campaign for each senate seat.
In contrast, two seats at Fresno Stateâ€™s ASI had no candidates at all run in the last election.
â€œI love our senators because theyâ€™re dedicated to their jobs,â€ Wahlberg said. â€œBut theyâ€™re not being held any more accountable than any other volunteer.â€
A Year of Changes
In the 2008-2009 school year, ASI has had seven resignations, more than in any recent year. Here are just a few of the other changes:
â€¢ Excluding appointments made following resignations, appointed senate seats this academic year are Joe Cha, senator for health and human services; Melissa Mata, senator at-large and senator of parking and safety; Debbie Monroe, senator for the Kremen School of Education; Jorge Hernandez, senator at-large for academic affairs; and Ezra Payton, senator for the Craig School of Business.
â€¢ On Oct. 6, 2008, ASI President Mackee M. Mason resigned from office following his admission that he did not stop underage drinking at an ASI leadership retreat. Sandra Flores, EVP in 2008, also resigned on Oct. 6 for allowing ASIâ€™s â€œsubstance free pledgeâ€ to be broken.
â€¢ Graham Wahlberg was elected by the senate as the new president, vacating his seat as senator for the Lyles College of Engineering. That seat remained vacant until the senateâ€™s appointment of Mathew Todd on Feb. 4.
â€¢ Beatriz Campuzano became the new EVP, vacating her seat as senator at-large and chair of ASIâ€™s activities committee. Campuzano resigned as EVP, citing health reasons, on Jan. 16.
â€¢ Senator Jessica Sweeten replaced Campuzano. Sweeten had been the senator for the college of agricultural sciences and technology, a position to which Brie Witt was appointed on Feb. 18.
â€¢ Campuzanoâ€™s vacated senator at-large seat was filled in November by James Pierce, who resigned following ASIâ€™s Jan. 21 meeting. The position was filled again on Feb. 4 by Maddie Shannon.
â€¢ Jorge Hernandez, senator at-large for academic affairs, and Paul Herrera, senator for the college of arts and humanities, both resigned early February. Hernandezâ€™s seat has been filled by Brett Sodini. Herreraâ€™s was filled on Wednesday by Robert Peugh.