As the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) elections draw near for the 2009-10 school year, students might want an idea of just exactly what the organization does and how it works.
The student government mimics much of the current U.S. system of democracy, but is altered to fit the universityâ€™s needs.
It is easiest to break it down by branches.
The executive branch ranks in the order of president, executive vice president and vice president of finance and according to the ASI bylaws â€œthe executive officers shall, at all times while holding office, satisfy the eligibility and qualification requirements established by the Chancellor of The California State University.â€
Vice president of finance is a position characterized by the management of the ASI budget, which is approximately $650,000, depending on student fees.
â€œIt is a very stressful position because work doesnâ€™t end when you leave the office,â€ said Vice President of Finance Lauren Johnson.
â€œI have to keep track of all ASI expenditures.â€
As chief financial officer, Johnson gives advice to senators about the appropriateness of their expenditures. The position also requires the creation of the following yearâ€™s budget.
Johnson works closely with executive vice president Jessica Sweeten. According to article two, section three â€œthe executive vice president shall be selected by a simple majority of the voting members of the senate each academic year.â€
The position requires the executive vice president to cast the deciding vote of any ties in senate decision-making and in senate meetings is the senate chair. In the event that the president is unable to fulfill his or her duties, the executive vice president will fill the vacancy.
Serving as the current ASI president is Graham Wahlberg.
According to ASI bylaws the president can fill vacant positions that are then confirmed by a simple majority of the senate, can veto any action made by the senate, can issue executive orders and any is responsible for other duties â€œprescribed by the student senate.
â€œ[University officials] treat my position as an equal,â€ said Wahlberg.
â€œI call to light what we see them doing wrong or what we disagree with.â€
As head of ASI, Wahlberg is given the ability to create a presidentâ€™s cabinet. However, citing a small budget and other important things to focus on, Wahlberg said he did not create a personal staff for the year.
â€œYou have to be very careful with something that powerful,â€ said Wahlberg.
According to the presidentâ€™s handbook, 75 percent of time is spent in meetings, speaking and making public appearances while 15 percent is for special appearances and 10 percent is spent on e-mails and making phone calls.
The legislative branch currently consists of 15 senators, eight of which are senators of colleges and seven of which are senators at-large.
Next year will see the addition of two new senators.
Starting this fall, the senator of auxiliary will be changed to the senator of legislative affairs and there will be a senator serving as a Greek liaison.
All senate members are dignified as representatives for the constituents of their specific areas, and in charge of being the student voice to administration.
ASI bylaws state that senators shall associate themselves with issues that directly affect students and are to approve the yearly budget. In addition, in order to override a presidentâ€™s veto the senate needs a two-thirds vote.
In past years, senate members were required by ASI to complete three projects a year.
However, when Wahlberg entered office, he believed that the senate needed to be working closer with the student body.
Therefore, he made it mandatory for senators to meet with their constituents and department faculty once a week.
â€œAll these senators are really taking this to heart and doing such an amazing job,â€ said Wahlberg.
â€œThey are starting to become infectious on campus.â€
Working in close partnership with their constituents, senators bring their concerns and proposed ideas to senate meetings.
Meetings are held every other Wednesday and are run in strict, professional manner. Senators each give updates about the concerns and future plans of their constituents.
The two most important aspects on the agenda are the actions and information.
Actions are items that the senate votes on, such as issuing money to a senator for a college event. Informational items are simply topics discussed in the meetings, but are not voted on.
In addition, another chief responsibility at these meetings is to pass or deny solutions.
If the university decides to make any new policies or increase any fees, then the senate votes either for or against the proposal.
Five people make up the judiciary and all have lifetime terms, which means as long as they are a student enrolled at the university they are part of the court.
Members of the court are in constant communication through e-mail said Amanda Fine, who is in her first year on the court.
The members do not meet on a regular basis until the end of the school year when election season is near.
According to the ASI bylaws, â€œAny member of the Associated Students who desires to bring an issue to the student court may due so by submitting a written statement to the Chief Justice, in care of the Associated Studentsâ€™ office.â€
While the judicial branch deals with discrepancies between the legislative and executive branch, they mostly deal with election violations.
â€œWe really only deal with issues when it comes to the elections,â€ Fine said.
â€œWe are objective individuals who arenâ€™t really involved in ASI and can look in from the outside to ensure the integrity of the elections.â€
Other than assuring that candidates follow the rules of the election, the members of the judicial branch donâ€™t have any other major responsibilities.
The structure of ASI is not overly-complicated, but at the same time it does take time to understand the specifics.
Those involved in student government have high hopes that students will better understand the purpose of it all to get more involved.