When Matti Cone started his leadership role at the Veterans and Family Student Association two years ago, Cone said he felt overwhelmed.
“I didn’t like how the process went,” Cone said. “It’s a huge learning curve that not everyone could keep up with.”
Every year, when new students settle into leadership roles in student groups, they find themselves lost in ASUO procedure, formality and legal terms. They’re all bounded by the Green Tape Notebook, the official rules and bylaws that ASUO has to follow.
ASUO Senate meets every Wednesday to evaluate multiple special requests from student groups that want to spend outside of their approved budget.
Earlier this year, a survey conducted by senator Abel Cerros showed a majority of students felt unwelcome at these meetings. Some of the quotes read, “Harsh environment, hard to hear, unfriendly senators.”
Cerros, who’s a returning senator, said he felt the same way when he first got involved with ASUO.
“ASUO is not open to everyone,” Cerros said. “It could be a hostile environment at times.”
Cone said the problems could be a lack of understanding about ASUO’s process and a lack of preparation.
“It’s hard for student groups to present their requests for the good of their own group,” Cone said. “Sometimes groups come in with only chicken scratch and a very poorly formatted request, so we want to help them out.”
Every week, Jason Kim, a VFSA board member, would attend senate meetings to take notes and reach out to groups that need help with paperwork, Cone said.
Rachel Mallinga, a coordinator at the Multicultural Center, said the lack of diversity in senate could also make students feel uncomfortable at these meetings. MCC advocates often come to senate meetings to support other unions, especially student groups that are considered a minority, Mallinga said.
“MCC is there to support the unrepresented union groups at the ASUO meeting,” Mallinga said. “Everyone should have a voice, even if you are the minority.”
MCC often hosts workshops on Mondays to help student groups become familiar with ASUO procedure and functions.
Cone said because senators alter every year, there is a learning curve for them too. The problem could be “out of their vision,” he said.
In fall term, senator Cerros proposed a liaison position to “connect senators and students” as the result of the survey.
Cerros said he’ll be as open and available as possible for students to come with concerns and questions.
He is not working on the proposal at the moment. The senate still hesitated about the legitimacy of the position, he said.
“What [senate] wants to know now is a more concrete, step-by-step plan,” Cerros said. “And we are still trying to figure out the payment for the position.”
At this point, the position is not likely to be created, Cerros said, but he hopes the work this year could shape up into a reality next year.