A small, crowd gathered Friday in the University Center for a panel discussion focused on how students, particularly minorities, can run for a student government position as part of the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) at Fresno State.
Tara Powers-Mead, director of university affairs and ASI coordinator, informed students on where to sign up and how to start a campaign for one of the ASI executive positions, the senator at-large positions and a senator position for each of the eight colleges such as the college of arts and humanities and the college of science and mathematics.
Powers-Mead handed out cards that detailing the student government positions on one side and the five steps to running for those positions on the other.
The first step is to submit completed petitions for office, which are available in the ASI Business Office located in University Student Union (USU) 317. The final date to turn in completed forms, which must be submitted to ASI, is at 5 p.m. on Feb. 12.
The second step requires candidates to read the election code, which can be obtained in the ASI Business Office. Candidates are expected to have a copy of the document prior to attending an all-candidates meeting, a mandatory orientation on ASI elections scheduled from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday in USU Room 314. Professional attire is required as individual portraits will be taken.
Candidates may then formally campaign by posting flyers, signs and possibly holding talks in the Free Speech area. Campaigning will officially begin on Feb. 17 directly following the all-candidates meeting.
All-student elections begin at 9 a.m. on March 15 and will conclude at noon on March 17. Newly elected representatives will take office Jun. 1.
Powers-Mead said her main goal was to promote student leadership and to tell students about the opportunities that ASI has for them and encourage them to get involved.
“Considering they came up to me asking more questions, I’ll take that as a positive sign that they think that there might be an opportunity for them within ASI and I think that is encouraging,” Powers-Mead said. “With ASI, we are just trying to get as many people to run as possible so we can try and have the strongest student voice we can have.”
Dr. Francine Oputa, of the Cross Cultural and Gender Center, said it is important to her that students understand that Fresno State and all the student government positions are for everyone enrolled and wanted to also shed light on the process and what it takes to hold a leadership role.
“Sometimes people don’t know what the process is so that is what we wanted to do, to encourage students to consider getting involved in leadership and help them know how to do that,” Oputa said. “I hope students now have the desire to maybe run for an office or serve on a university-wide community or serve on the USU board. Our hope was that it might spark something in some of the students.”
Cameran Patterson, a sophomore majoring in political science, who also serves as the senator at-large for athletics and recreation, said his main goal was to help students understand and recognize that they too can have a voice on campus.
“I was just trying to send a message that every student on campus has something viable to contribute in whatever fashion whether that is being a part of a club or even being a part of the louder student voice on campus, which is ASI, and just getting that active participation and engagement is really what is most important to me today,” Patterson said. “I’m also hoping that they really understand their self-worth, and that they can be valuable members to the community.”
Christopher Collins, a graduate student in the student affairs and college counseling program, who was also one of the panelists, said he often hears students, specifically of African-American descent, say that they want to do things at Fresno State like start a club or a group of some sort, and he constantly tells them, “If you want it done, then go do it.”
“You know, you have to be the change you want to see. If you want this, that and the other, then just go do it,” said Collins, who helped put together the panel discussion. “I mean it’s either that or fail trying, but at least you tried to get the attention of someone, and then from there, who knows what will happen after that.”
Collins said he hopes students now understand that their feelings, voices and actions will be heard and that it is up to them to make the most of their time while in school.
“We gave them the information, and now it is up to them,” Collins said. “They heard about the senate. They heard about all the other positions and what it takes, so now it is up to them.”
Dr. Carolyn V. Coon, associate vice president for student affairs and enrollment management and dean of students, said she attended the event not only to help raise awareness of student government positions for African-Americans and other minorities, but to also help send out the message that there are opportunities for everyone, including those who don’t want to serve as an officer of a group or organization or for those who are not the most outgoing.
“There are so many opportunities for students to be involved in things and in becoming engaged with the campus that we just need to help students understand what those opportunities are and how to engage themselves and how to involve themselves in things,” Coon said. “I don’t think it is a lack of desire of students. it’s just where do I even begin.”
Ciara Armstead, a third-year public health administration major with a minor in Africana studies said the discussion gave her a broader outlook on the different leadership positions that are out on campus.
“It brought awareness to my own organization and about how others feel that black people want to stay in their bubble and not go outside,” Armstead said. “I don’t necessarily know if that’s the case, but I definitely can do a better job of making sure that people know that the leadership positions are available and when they are available.”
Josiah Wilson, a sophomore majoring in business with an emphasis in sports marketing, is thinking about running for the vice president of finance position and believes that, if elected, he will do everything in his power to help out African-American students.
“To be honest, especially after hearing the things that they are offering, it sounds like a pretty enticing offer,” Wilson said. “Mainly I don’t really feel like African-Americans are represented or catered to on this campus so if I were to get the position with that type of power, I would definitely try and implement something that would help us as African-American people.
“Of course I would be towards diversity as a whole, but I would like to help my people out as soon as possible because being at a school where you are only like 3 percent of is kind of like they need some help so that would be one of the main things I would do.”