The Associated Students Inc. (ASI) voted to approve some major action items during a meeting Jan. 31, including a revised ASI budget and funding for an ASI Impact Grant.
ASI Impact Grant sparks debate among senators
A revised ASI budget for the next fiscal year was passed by the senate on a unanimous vote.
The budget will now move to final approval from the office of Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro.
Although the budget was easily approved, the ASI Impact Grant sparked discussion and debate before ultimately passing with one senator choosing to abstain.
The impact grant was introduced as an informational item at an ASI meeting on Jan. 17. The grant would allow organizations on campus to apply for funds for projects related to technology, sustainability, clubs, and general proposals that would make an impact on student life.
ASI Vice President of Finance Cam Patterson, explaining recent changes to the grant before putting the action item to a vote, said the amount of the grant was reduced from $100,000 to a total of $85,000, and the award cap per application was increased.
Under the new cap limits, clubs and organizations would be able to apply for a maximum of $10,000 instead of $5,000.
During the discussion, Sen. Travis Childress moved to decrease the total amount of the project to $25,000, saying that using more of the budget’s estimated $700,000 in reserve funds now could take away from future proposals that may arise during the semester.
“I think this project is fantastic,” Childress said. “I don’t know if it’s $85,000 fantastic.”
Sen. Amanda Smith of the Jordan College argued that the amount should stay the same.
“This money is coming out of reserves,” Smith said. “We are supposed to be serving the students, and I think what better way than to give them their money back and let them apply for it personally. It isn’t taking away from the funds or allocations that we have for something else.”
Members of the ASI executive team have said in past meetings that they are trying to utilize as much of the reserve fund for services and programs as possible to ensure students are benefiting from their fee payments.
ASI Director of Operations Tara Powers-Mead gave examples of a how similar grants have made been used in the past.
Powers-Mead said grants have funded projects for groups on campus when they didn’t fit into their department’s budget.
For example, an ASI grant funded a virtual reality flight simulator for the aerospace studies department and a 3-D printer for the College of Arts and Humanities.
ASI President Blake Zante also weighed in during the discussion, bringing a real-life lesson to the discussion.
“Imagine it’s like you’re paying taxes to the government,” Zante said. “The way students are paying student fees to ASI, and the government was just holding your money. Personally, I would be a little upset.”
After a vigorous debate, the amendment proposed by Childress received two votes and failed.
The main action item was put to a vote and the grant for $85,000 was approved with one abstention.
Senators also approved a proposal by ASI Vice President of External Affairs Demi Wack to install 10 benches in the Peace Garden near the Henry Madden Library. Half of that will cost about $20,000, which will be pulled from the reserve. The other half will be matched by administration. Wack said she will be sharing design concepts for input before the final design is chosen.
The senate also approved a request to withdraw $15,000 to continue to fund sponsored activity grants.
Recreation Center renovations proposed
ASI heard from Alicia Nelson, director of wellness services at the Student Health and Counseling Center, and Derek Walters, director of the Student Recreation Center, who presented a proposal to upgrade existing recreation equipment as well as install two outdoor exercise stations on campus.
The proposal is a part of the “Partnership for a Healthier America Campaign,” which focuses on initiatives to improve healthy food options on college campuses and promote more physical activity.
Nelson said that various campus walking trails were designated by using signs as part of the campaign.
The proposal requested an estimated $140,320 for the project from ASI. Executive Vice President Brandon Sepulveda asked to postpone discussion about funding to the next meeting to give senators time to look over the proposal.
Mental health task force created
Sen. Alexandra Chavez spoke passionately about the newly formed ASI mental health task force, which was created in response to the recent deaths of Fresno State students Omar Nemeth and Ana Alcantar.
“I think this whole month of January has been so hard for us as a community losing two students,” Chavez said.
Chavez shared a list of resources with the senators and urged them to reach out to their constituents and their friends on these issues.
“We have to do something. This can’t happen again,” Chavez said. “I think as a university we are very blessed to have the services we do but it is very apparent that we need to do more.”
Free Wall Street Journal subscription
A few weeks after students received access to a free digital subscription to The New York Times, Sepulveda confirmed a subscription to the Wall Street Journal will be made available to students for a free one-year trial period.
Students should expect to see an email with instructions regarding the subscription in the next two weeks.
New ASI website
Zante previewed the new ASI website, complete with photos and biographies of the ASI senate team and links to upcoming events. Social media, statistics and service hours are showcased on the homepage.
Zante said the new website, which will link out from the existing ASI page hosted on the Fresno State website, aims to increase transparency between ASI and the student body.
A questions and comments feedback page was added and more in-depth budget resources and information will be available in the new “business” section of the website.
“We tried to make it as accessible as possible,” Zante said. “The website is projected to be up within the next two weeks.”