AS proposes changes to constitution

Recent changes to the Associated Students Constitution will be available to the student body for approval during next week's special election. The ballot will contain three items, the first of which asks students whether or not they approve the proposed constitutional amendments. These most recent amendments mostly clarify the special election process itself, and establish the Joint Council as solely responsible for determining student fees. This duty applies directly to the other two special election items, both of which are proposals for increasing the AS fee: a Student Representation Fee of one dollar, and a Student Organizing Fee of $1.50. These proposed changes would increase the Associated Student Fee from $19 to $21.50 if approved.

AS president Cameron Henton describes the Student Representation Fee as a way to finance "advocacy and efforts along those lines," allowing Santa Monica College students to represent the college before city, county and state governments. Henton posited that representation on a state-wide level would help SMC broaden its influence and prestige, since "currently, all of our programs are looking inward."

Concerning the Student Organizing Fee, Henton said, "The main objective is to support SMC's CALPIRG chapter, which we couldn't support with available funds."

Henton promoted the retention of a fully-funded CALPIRG chapter, saying it not only "develops a level of activism and civic engagement," but also that "having a fully supported CALPIRG chapter would make us the only community college in California with that level of participation. State CALPIRG meeting would consist of eight U.C.'s, USC and us." Henton clarified that as an AS funded organization, the SMC chapter would have to adhere to strict performance quotas as outlined in the contract between SMC and CALPIRG.

The Student Organizing Fee would also fund other programs, such as the Student Leadership Academy. Henton said, "We would like to develop it into a certified curriculum that could provide leadership skills and a service-learning environment where students could actually take these skills and apply them."

While the AS president promotes the poll, some students are already questioning the wording of the special election's ballot.

After reading the ballot, SMC student Chris Aquino responded, "I don't understand. Is it an opinion poll?" Aquino said that the ballot wording only asks students if they "recommend" additional fees, and asked, "If it's not going to implement anything, why are we even voting? Is anything going to happen?"

Henton responded to these questions by clarifying that "the Joint Council has the power to implement student fees without any student input, but we didn't feel comfortable with that. We want students to be involved, especially with fee increases and decreases." Henton then clarified that the purpose of the special election was to gauge students' awareness of their influence in student government matters, and that despite being legislated by elected officials, decisions like this are still decided by the voice of the student body.

"Do you know the benefits you get with this [proposal]?" Henton asked of students. "Is it worth this amount of money?"

Students can vote online any time from midnight on the night of May 23 until midnight May 27. Ballots can be cast by logging into student Corsair Connect accounts, and clicking on the "Vote!" link.