ASI Senator Daniel Clark (center) participated in summer retreats, where he and other senators learned parliamentary procedure. Collegian file photo
Before there are any votes, proposed resolutions or budgets, Associated Students, Inc. senators have to be trained how to do their job during the summer.
Candice Amico, the executive vice president of ASI, said the boot camp sessions crammed a lot of new information into the men and women tasked with representing the students on the Fresno State campus.
“I think we fried their brains,” Amico said. “We gave them a break before school to recharge.”
At the end of last school year, the incoming senators and executive staff met with the people they were replacing at a retreat in Lindsey, Calif.
“They met with whomever they were replacing to learn about what happened last year: what they did, what they fell through on and what they can improve,” Amico said. “They got used to what they can do.”
Daniel Ward, the senator-at-large for academic affairs, said that meeting was his first lesson of what to expect as a senator.
“Before the training, I met the outgoing executive vice president and three senators from areas I was interested in representing,” Ward said. “I got an understanding of what their jobs were like beyond the job descriptions. Hearing it from people who worked through issues was helpful.”
During a two-day leadership workshop, Amico said that staff from organizations in the University Student Union met to collaborate and learn together. During the first day, senators were taught parliamentary procedure for meetings.
There was a practice meeting, Amico said, during which the senators learned how to make amendments and motions.
“We definitely needed practice,” said ASI President Moses Menchaca. “You could see which senators wanted to speak and knew how to speak. We hope the individuals who weren’t as talkative feel comfortable later.”
Amico said senators should never hesitate to ask a question because when they vote, they could be deciding on an issue that affects the entire school. She added that parliamentary procedure is one of the hardest things to learn as a senator.
“It’s so structured and to the book with how you do things during meetings,” Amico said. “We’re still learning and making mistakes, but that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to learn and grow as leaders.”
The inaugural ceremony on June 3 was also the senate’s first meeting. Amico said that many of the executives and senators were nervous. As a result, the meeting was quiet and quick.
“I did feel a little out of place in the first meeting,” Ward said. “I was not as comfortable with parliamentary procedure as other senators. I was a little hesitant at first, but I’ve taken steps to be more at ease.”
The quiet, Menchaca said, may not last long and could be missed by the end of the semester.
“I was joking with Dr. [Paul] Oliaro about this. Our meetings, when we got to some of the issues, there were maybe one or two questions,” Menchaca said. “Dr. Oliaro laughed and said we’re lucky now because by the end of the semester we’re going to be wondering, ‘Why is this guy continuing to talk?’”
Menchaca said ASI is taking steps to make the meetings simpler and more casual to encourage discussion in a friendly environment. He said the traditional structure makes it easy for senators to feel lost.
Beyond the meeting room, Amico said training senators to know how to interact with students was a priority. During the leadership workshop, senators split up with members of other organizations to force them to learn how to interact.
“You had to talk to people because you didn’t know the other people in their groups,” Amico said. “It helped them break out of their shell. Senators need to be able to put their ideas out there. They’re still working on finding their voice.”