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State of the AS

Hello & Good Afternoon Everyone: Let me begin by thanking Vice President Logan Vournas and the Senate for the opportunity to deliver the State of the A.S. today during your Senate meeting. As a former senator at-large, I can say without hesitation that I love this board and have great respect for the power it wields. I am also humbled by this opportunity today because it comes in a year where ASI is celebrating its 60th year as a non-profit entity on campus, dedicated to serving students and keeping them first. Thinking about all that ASI has accomplished over the years – what came before all of us – is so important to knowing what we can work to accomplish for the future. I’d be remiss if I also didn’t welcome our viewers on Facebook. In an effort to try and reach new audiences, ASI Communications is here today streaming this part of the meeting via Facebook Live. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the State of the A.S. – each semester the current ASI president is required by the bylaws to deliver an update on the state of the organization. What the speech must contain is mostly undefined, but the way I see it – it serves as an opportunity for us to celebrate what we’ve accomplished so far, reflect on what we still need to get done and set a path for the success of future CSULB students. Over the past few months, your executive team has been hard at work accomplishing the goals we all outlined over the summer. One of the first achievements we received coming into office was being able to represent ASI as CSULB was awarded the Active Minds’ Healthy Campus Award for our part in providing comprehensive support to our students during finals, midterms and throughout the academic year. That includes the work we do programming in the USU and SRWC during Finals Week, but it also largely includes the outstanding work the Student Recreation & Wellness Center does day in and day out to support opportunities and programs for the campus community that are inclusive, constructive and diverse. The Beach Balance office and our inclusive recreation program were at the forefront of this honor and operate as a flagship for other higher education institutions to follow. Turning to our finances, I couldn’t be more proud of the work Treasurer Gio Smith has been engaged in this year. Specifically, he has been hard at work fiscally certifying students left and right to make sure that they can apply for grants, assuring that they can receive the financial support that they need. Treasurer Smith describes his plans for thorough funding by saying, “I want to make sure that the mayonnaise is spread to every piece of the bread.” And from my perspective he’s been doing just that. If that wasn’t enough, I’m also proud to report that ASI completed our annual audit with zero findings (that’s a good thing) and we ended fiscal year 2015-2016 in the black, allowing us to put money into much needed equipment purchases, like a new refrigerator for the ASI Beach Pantry. Chief of Staff Matthew Argame has also been doing a phenomenal job organizing the cabinet and helping to make sure our goals as an organization are accomplished. This year’s cabinet is comprised of incredibly devoted and motivated student leaders that have goals reaching from creating entirely new academic policies, to bringing a stronger voice to the communities they represent. And our vice president, Logan Vournas, created a wave of change on our campus with their extraordinary efforts in helping to establish the ASI Beach Pantry. More than 650 students have used the pantry since its opening, and it is truly an inspiration to work with someone that is so committed to the success and well-being of our students. And the greatest thing about all of this is that these have been only a portion of the achievements that your executive team have been working on, and we each believe our work is far from over. For next semester, some of the goals we have set forth include the creation of the new ASI executive scholarships. These scholarships will be called the Executive Leadership and Executive Advocacy scholarships where Vice President Vournas and I will be donating a portion of our salaries to fund these programs. Applications for these awards will open soon and I encourage you all to spread the word. Another goal for the year will to be to set the foundation for a “University Hour”—a set time period where classes will not be held; allowing students the opportunity to go to club meetings, professor office hours, attend events and simply see what’s happening on campus during their break. While more research and discussion on this topic are definitely needed, we know that universities around the country have systems like this in place and students really enjoy and benefit from the enhanced opportunity to build community and support collaboration. Finally, moving on to the topic of student advocacy – in the spring semester ASI will also be starting the “What’s in Your Way” campaign, where we will be asking students: “What’s getting in the way of your graduation?” We want to know what we and the university can do to ease students’ stress and help them graduate in the time that they want to. Each of us goes through hardships that can impair us from graduating on time, but it’s ASI’s goal to make sure that we do all we can to provide support that helps each student graduate when they plan to do so. On a related note, this past weekend, ASI Vice President Logan Vournas and I attended the California State Student Association (CSSA) monthly board meeting and we were made aware of a possible CSU system-wide tuition increase. In the presentation we learned that the potential increased rates for students would range between $156 and $270 for most degrees and between $720 and $1,048 for doctoral degrees. The proposed increases would be in response to a $168 million budget shortfall caused by various factors, but I believe solving these problems should not be as easy as passing the bill on to the backs of students. From what I understand, the Senate will be discussing this issue further in your meeting today, but I wanted to assure you that I am working with your other executive officers to create a game plan, to articulate why this increase should not be implemented, and create a plan of action on how we can combat this. Some of our initial ideas include: hosting forums, collecting personal statements from students on how this increase will affect them, and organizing phone banking sessions where we contact state legislators asking for appropriate funding for higher education. Now, for many of you I understand this may be the first time you’re hearing about this and the information I just told you may come as a bit of a shock – and you’re right, the solution the State and Chancellor’s Office have given us is ridiculous. “More fees.” But that doesn’t mean we have to accept it. The work ahead of us will take a team effort and we are going to need all hands on deck to accomplish the goals. This year will be one of critical accomplishments, pressing through difficult challenges and, I hope ultimately, a year of progressive collaboration with our student body. Have a great day, and as always GO BEACH!