Student president Cameron Henton looks back at AS accomplishments
It's Friday afternoon. Another school week has drawn to a close and Associated Students President, Cameron Henton, is aware of another deadline looming ominously on the horizon. "We're soon into the transitional stage between one government and the next," says Henton as he prepares to relinquish his position to Tiffany Inabu, AS president elect. Henton has only a few weeks remaining with which to push through any last minute reforms, and a review of his government's performance over the past year by the board of trustees figures prominently on his to-do list.
And so, to the background hum of a student government anxiously waiting out their last few weeks in office, Henton talks candidly about the endeavors of the AS to revisit their original campaign promises, offering in the process some stark advice to their successors.
"I don't think we've achieved all that we should have achieved," says Henton, referring to their struggle to cultivate a community spirit within the college and to raise student awareness of the AS – an integral part of his manifesto. Quickly though, he moves to a topic that has not only factored heavily in recent decision making, but one in which he feels the AS has more than proven its mettle – the college's budget woes.
"It's been a tough year for the college, and various departments have asked us for more money in order to maintain student services…which we've been able to provide. However, it means that the rollover into next years balance won't be as big as it usually is."
The drop, Henton predicts, could be as big as $120,000 – to a rollover of just $80,000 – but he feels justified that the AS has made the right decision to prop-up the college financially, singling out the Big Blue Bus as just one of the many services their support has helped to maintain.
"[AS] can do that for about one more year…probably, but if the budget crisis continues, I don't see how we could maintain that level of support."
Another area in which Henton feels a certain level of personal satisfaction is the introduction during his tenure of the Leadership Academy. A program designed to better prepare students for positions of leadership, it has been somewhat of a pet project for Henton, and he hopes to see it institutionalized at SMC.
"It's a great opportunity to train students about leadership…it would help immensely with the transition process from one government to the next, preparing them for what all this entails. I hope to see it in the curriculum one day as a certified program."
Now we arrive at the recent student elections, and a tangible shift in mood befalls the room. The AS were on the receiving end of harsh criticism regarding their coordination of the whole event, with the Corsair running a staff editorial proclaiming a media blackout of the candidates while questioning the election's democratic process.
Although Henton admits that the event could have been better organized, with greater exposure of the candidates running for office, he believes that the media broadside was unwarranted, and that, judged as a whole, the elections were somewhat of a success.
"We received the third highest number of votes cast in an election," says Henton, admitting that recent turnout numbers have been boosted by the introduction of Internet polling. "Given the narrow time frame in which we had to work, I think we did a pretty good job."
"When it comes to exposure of candidates we have to remain impartial, we can't be seen to be taking sides…it's up to them as individuals to campaign."
Confident that the cracks in the system exposed by the elections have been pinpointed and addressed, Henton says that "it should be better next election," and seems keen to highlight their campaign to advertise the upcoming special elections as a case in point.
All told, you get the impression that while he is certainly proud of the achievements of his government, saying that everyone in the team deserves "a special mention for the hard work they've done this past year," the experience has been a salutary one, rather than a overwhelmingly triumphant one; the innumerable pressures of life and college have placed a very real burden on their shoulders.
"I think everyone's learned a lot from this experience…but you must take into account the personal challenge. We have grades to maintain, higher aspirations. We've had to learn that there is a balance to all this."