A year in review for AS government

The 2009-2010 Associated Students fought an uphill battle against budget cuts, student apathy and campus culture. Although under fire regarding accusations of disorganization and bureaucratic inefficiency, the student representatives implemented and pursued a variety of issues that have left a lasting mark on AS history.

Cameron Henton, AS President, maintained that much has been accomplished this year.

"It's been a great year," said Henton. "The constitution amendments, fiscal policy, and special elections were all highlights for me. We accomplished a lot."

Following a precedent set by the 2008-09 fiscal year, the AS Board made a specific effort to work with faculty in coordinating funds to offset district budget cuts and contribute funds toward various campus departments. AS designated $800,557 towards a wide variety of diverse school programs, from Cheer Camp for SMC's cheerleaders to debate team tournaments.

During the May special elections, the constitution was amended and revised to include reorganization of student government elections and increasing public awareness by making mandatory announcements through the school newspaper as well as online.

Major initiatives in environmental consciousness were enacted. Programs with Zimride, Bikerowave, and the City of Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus system were all implemented and maintained to help provide alternative commuting methods to students.

There was also an effort to encourage all campus events to have zero-waste options, with both composting and recycling bins available to participating students. Henton concedes however that, on a whole, the campus isn't quite there yet. "We had a goal of making all campus events sustainable," he says. "But it hasn't quite worked out that way."

He attributes the disappointment to a lack of commitment by participating clubs and student organizations, both in participation and resources.

Legislation regarding a campus garden was solidified after a three-year push by both student and faculty, and will be breaking ground over summer session on land near the Arts Center complex.

The Cayton Center computer lab received much needed renovations. Along with new chairs, printing problems were resolved and software updated, making the student work area more efficient and productive. The incoming AS Board will pursue further issues, such as upgrading bathrooms and carpeting. Attention will also be given to the audio and visual equipment, as the Board hopes it will encourage more student events.

Another broad goal of the past year was to improve the campus' overall lack of community spirit. "It's our biggest problem," said Henton.

In an effort to build community, the AS dedicated $3000 of support to aiding rally and homecoming events. A "homecoming committee" was organized to specifically spearhead future student activities.

It takes two to conjure the communal tango, and sometimes student support is simply not willing to be available. Although a ‘club retreat' was organized in a related effort to help train and unify student organizations, only 25 out of the registered 50 sent representatives.

Even so, Henton remains hopeful that changes made will help the new government. "I hope we've made it easier for them, especially in creating sense of campus culture," he said.

This year, the AS was under fire regarding student government elections. The overall lack of organization left many students feeling uniformed and rushed through the process. Henton insisted that the control is in the hands of the participants, rather than the AS.

"We can't control the candidates. It's up to them to campaign," said Henton. "As government, we've got to be careful to remain neutral. But perhaps we could have been more proactive."

Nevertheless, the AS made some changes during May's special elections to reflect criticism. The AS generated more exposure, including leaflet distribution, e-mail blasts, and information sessions initiated in the weeks before they were held.

A three-day orientation retreat is planned for the summer in order to introduce the incoming student government to the rules of the AS road.

Henton recognizes many odds and ends that still need improvement, such as the AS website which has fallen under chaotic disrepair and the need for an integrated social calendar of events. However, instead of only assessing blame and pointing fingers, he wants to create an interchange of ideas that goes beyond government policy.

"We're open to any suggestions," he said. "We welcome it."