ASG represents the voice of the student body

The Associated Student Government (ASG) plans, organizes, promotes, sponsors, and finances a comprehensive program of activities and services for all Saddleback College students.

The Associated Student Government (ASG) plans, organizes, promotes, sponsors, and finances a comprehensive program of activities and services for all Saddleback College students. (Lariat File Photo)

Film festivals, movie nights, transfer days, free food and scholarships—all things we know and love. Things that take careful planning, funding and preparation and wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for ASG—Saddleback College’s Associated Student Government.

If the mentioning of a student body government illicit images of people rallying in the courtyard to loud music, school colors, confetti and exceedingly boisterous attempts to get your attention—erase those images from your mind right now. Fortunately, or unfortunately, however you view it, ASG is not your high school ASB group.

For those of you who don’t know what ASG is, don’t feel too bad because you are not alone. Much like the bacteria growing on your bathroom sink, they are always there, always present and always doing they’re part. Unlike bacteria however, ASG can be seen by the naked eye, if one knows where to look and who to look for.

Perhaps if the student group took notes from their boisterous cousins in high school, they may be more identifiable on campus. This lack of identity affects not only their reputation, but finances, decision making and communication with the student body.

Despite their lack of recognition, the group’s identity and presence on campus is something that can’t be denied. ASG can be found in every corner of the campus, from the bookstore, leadership lab, quad, LRC and even the cafeteria.

They pour money into important organizations on campus such as the VET’s programs or the Saddleback foundation which provide scholarships to needy students on campus.

While rallying in the courtyard may be a good method to get students attention, ASG has a different method other than rallying to improve their identity or what Officer of Finance for the inter-club council, Arya Daroui likes to call ASG’s “brand.”

“We’re trying to brand ASG, because a lot of people don’t know what ASG is,” Daroui said. “Did you know what it was before? A lot of people don’t.”

This statement doesn’t come to a surprise considering that this is a community college. Community college students do have a reputation for a lack of involvement campus.

Despite ASG’s efforts to throw events involving students, these efforts often fall short. ASG faces the job of making these events more know on campus.

This is a job that is sectored to the publicity committee. In which Publicity Director Anjishu Mostafa has taken steps to improve the ASG brand on campus.

“For publicity we wanted to get a stronger following on gaucho gram twitter, Instagram and Facebook and Snapchat, so we have a bunch of social media campaigns rolling out for next year,” Mostafa said.

They even plan to infiltrate Saddleback’s incoming freshman through putting on events during “Welcome Week” and freshman advantage.

“During welcome week, we want to do an ASG awareness day where every new person on campus has the opportunity to know what ASG is, apply and be comfortable talking to us,” Mostafa said. “In turn for us, we want to know the people coming on to campus because we’re supposed to represent them.”

However, until then, publicity will continue to be a problem for the Associated student government here on campus, considering sales for the ASB stamp sales are down compared to past school years.

Members of ASG helping run the Blood Drive. (Kseniya Taranyuk/Lariat)

Members of ASG helping run the Blood Drive. (Kseniya Taranyuk/Lariat)

ASB stamps are stamps that are available for purchase during or after registration for a fee of $10 dollars per semester. It is a stamp that gives students discounts and benefits on-campus and throughout the Orange County area. ASB stamps are also a big part of what funds everything on campus, including scholarships.

ASG has even committed to up funding scholarship funds from $40,000 to $70,000 for the 2016-2017 year, making ASB stamp sales more crucial than ever.

“In our prospective budget for next year we have $70,000 that we’ve allocated towards scholarships. It’s a lot of money especially considering that we are seeing lower numbers this year than what we’ve seen before,” said Arya Daroui, Officer of finance for the inter-club council and prospective Budget Director. “Which is important that we get as many ASB stamp sales as possible, because that’s what funds the activities on campus.”

Fortunately for ASG’s wallet, they have a contract with the cafeteria, bookstore and coffee carts to garner a percentage of their profit for the ASG budget. Even with all these avenues for funding, this commitment will cause cuts from all other events departments throughout the campus.

However, according to Daroui these cuts are a must to give priority to what matters most—the students.

“I had this vision in my head for helping those students that have had a harder time than many others and by that I mostly mean financially,” Daroui said. “I have this thought in my head about the exhausted student in the LRC, where they’re basically living off the little power bars that are handed out. They go home hungry—if they even have a home, because there is a pretty decent amount of students on campus who are homeless.”

Daroui recognizes that the budget cuts and the commitment is worth it if it can make a difference in a student’s life.

“I would much rather that a student be able to leave their second job and focus on their schooling and make a change in their life, than to have a fun prize or event for someone who completes there AA—that’s cool, but this is what I consider priority,” Daroui said.

The only problem with this commitment is that ASG’s allocated budget has significantly reduced for the 2016-2017 year.

The budget showed an increase from $375,162 in 2014-2015 to $407,254 in 2015-2016. Although it is still a tentative budget total, the 2016-2017 year shows a tentative total of $264,000—almost half of the year before.

ASG says that this decrease is directly tied to the ASB stamp, which is exactly why the group is trying to push it so much on campus.

ASG hosts several blood drives each year in association with the American Red Cross. (Lariat File Photo)

ASG hosts several blood drives each year in association with the American Red Cross. (Lariat File Photo)

“In the past it’s been about 70,000-80,000 dollars, but this year it might be less by a significant amount because we haven’t sold as many. Although, it is such a great stamp,” said ASG President William Vassetizadeh. “There is so many benefits. You go to the mall get discounts, discounted movie tickets, discounts to Knotts… People just don’t know about it. It’s so cool, for $10 you get $300 of value. Just buy two, three movie tickets and you already get your money’s worth.”

All this profit goes directly into the tentative budget of $264,000 for the 2016-2017 year. Luckily for the students, ASG makes scholarships money a priority. However, these are decisions that students almost have not part in.

While no one can deny that more scholarship money isn’t a good thing, there comes the matter of how these decisions are made. And how the students are involved in theses decisions.

According to Board Policy 5240 “the Associate Students’ organization is recognized as the official voice for the students in the College consultation process.”

In contrast to personally hear the voice of the students, ASG has personally met with as many department deans as possible to hear their opinion on budget and if they are given enough money.

“We’re doing something different this year—we started meeting with all the heads of divisions and got reports on how they’re using their spending. We get their opinions on how the money is working for them and whether they need more,” Daroui said.

By doing this, much of the decision process is made without students. Even though it is made with student’s best interest, it may not be necessarily what the students want.

It is also written in the ASG mission statement that ASG “plans, organizes, promotes, sponsors, and finances a comprehensive program of activities and services for all Saddleback College students. ASG also provides an excellent opportunity to have a voice on the campus.”’

According to their mission and policy, it is the duty of ASG to not only be the voice of the student body, but actually seek out the actual voice and opinions of the student body. This is something that members of ASG themselves admit to not having a strong handle on.

“We’re supposed to represent the student voice and if you don’t have enough voice, that what are we doing? We’re kind of making our own things up and I don’t like that,” Doroui said.

This is not to say that ASG doesn’t provide the opportunities for students to voice their opinions and give their input. Most ASG meetings are open to the public—even meetings considering finances.

“You come into the budget committee, you can give an opinion on the spending and then we can change it. That’s how it’s supposed to work in my opinion,” Doroui said.

Unfortunately, that is not how it’s been working. Student’s rarely do attend these meetings. This may be a matter of not being aware of that option, but it can also be the case that students just don’t care. How can it be legitimate if there is not involvement from the student body?

“I want real legitimacy in this and I do care. What’s the point of doing all this if we’re not making the student body happy? I don’t want to put money in something that’s completely unhelpful,” Doroui said.

This goes back to the disconnection the students have with student body. While it is not necessarily ASG’s fault, it is a problem that students are not involved and don’t care to voice their opinion.

And that is the problem. How do you get students to care? How do you make students feel like they matter and that they are a part of something bigger than themselves? Vassetizadeh says that the solution is for students to get involved.

Saddleback College's Associated Student Government gathers volunteers to shave their heads for pediatric cancer research fundraiser on May 2, 2014. (Lariat file photo)

Saddleback College’s Associated Student Government gathers volunteers to shave their heads for pediatric cancer research fundraiser on May 2, 2014. (Lariat file photo)

“I would recommend for any and every student who has a passion for a cause, who wants to learn, to join student government—if not as a volunteer, but as an officer or director because you will learn more I believe on student government than in your classes and you can also contribute to a great cause, to participate and represent student voice,” Vassetizadeh said.

For those who don’t have the desire or time to be a part of ASG, Vassetizadeh says that it can be as simple as buying an ASB stamp.

“Get involved, that is my message to everybody, even if it’s just buying the ASB stamp so you can contribute and be a part of something,” Vassetizadeh said. “Kind of have that membership card so you can participate in everything ASG does.”

The ASB stamp does give students the opportunity to participate in activities. It does give students a significant amount of benefit. It doesn’t inform the students of these events. It only funds these various events on campus.

According to the SOCCCD Board Policy 5402 ASG “activities should be as self-supporting as possible.”

Based on ASG member’s feedback, it seems to be the belief that a stamp is the solution to a lot of involvement on campus and being a self-supporting organization, while it certainly is the solution to the finances most of the events on campus. It is not the solution to increasing student awareness, voice and participation.

Like many organizations, the organizations success is often directly tied to the people that are in charge of running it. Perhaps, students in the past didn’t make it top priority to get the student voice, but it is certainly a priority now.

“For student voice, we have been pushing for it since our whole mission is to represent the student body. So we’ve learned this year how to do survey’s and have the students actually give their input,” said Publicity Director Anjishu Mostafa. “It’s a very meticulous process, but we’ve perfected it this year and we really hope to roll it out next year just to get full feedback.”

Even though Mostafa believes they have perfected the system, there is always room for improvement. Since students don’t typically attend ASG meetings, ASG took the initiative to have students fill out surveys to get their opinion.

“We survey people, we draw from experiences, but that’s pretty much it,” Vassetizadeh said.

Surveying seems to be the primary way to get student opinion. It is even something taught in an ASG members training.

“There’s three levels of representation: There’s your own personal opinion on ASG (you have to be careful to not represent your opinion as everybody’s), then there’s ASG’s opinion where we are a group of students and we have an idea of what the student opinion is and we vote on an opinion, after that we survey people,” Vasseitzadeh said.

Are survey’s and “experience” really enough to make decisions? Is having an “idea” really enough to get an accurate idea of what the student body wants? That is up to personal opinion. Though, It is a factor that cannot be ignored.

However, it is a factor that ASG has taken notice and is working to improve on. A factor that new Interterm Director of Student Life, Erlynne Ball believes is something that ASG has done a good job on.

“They’ve already done a really great job at starting the process of branding themselves,” Ball said. “They’ve created a seal for themselves, they are really wrapping up their social media outreach, they’re working on pre-planning events on getting their name out for when the new school year starts.”

ASG presence on campus is not Ball’s main goal. Her goal as an advisor is to learn and apply skills that they learn from taking part of student government, a skill that involves being a representative voice on campus.

“My main goal for the students that want to participate would that they learn leadership skills, they develop confidence, basically navigating what it means to serve as a governing body and a representative voice on a college campus,” Ball said. “So the students that are actually on ASG learn leadership skills, communication skills, how to affect change in their position.”

Perhaps it should be more of a goal to get a better data base of the student body voice. Which Ball does want to see.

“As a whole I would like to see ASG get really engaged with serving the community and serving the students they represent,” Ball said.

The SOCCCD Board Policy 5240 says that ASG is required to “provide an opportunity for all students to participate.”

ASG does provide this opportunity, but student don’t know and will continue to not to know if ASG does not follow through on the initiatives they’ve proposed.

This is an initiative that will to be determined on its success. However, ASG does live up to the mission statement of supporting “student success by providing scholarships, special topic grants, funding clubs, and other extra-curricular activities.”

Whether you not it or not, they are there—SSC 210 to be exact. They’re always available to hear your opinions and to help. So break the barrier—if you care.