ASI votes on student vote for semesters

Students will vote on the issue of semesters or quarters next month after an Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) Board of Directors meeting decided to allow the vote.

Sean McMinn

The Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) Board of Directors decided Wednesday to allow students to vote on quarters and semesters next month, the results of which will ultimately help to inform Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong in his decision on the issue. The board passed the motion 17-7 at its Jan. 16 meeting.

The Board of Directors spent more than an hour debating the vote, which ASI President and sociology senior Katie Morrow originally introduced. Morrow argued that whether or not board members believe they know enough today to represent students in their formal recommendation to Armstrong, she would rather they solidify their knowledge in an online vote.

“Why not know?” she asked the board. “Why not have the opportunity to reach out to every student in a vote?”

The Feb. 6 vote will cost ASI approximately $1,500, Morrow said. The expenses primarily include outreach to inform students about the issue, including advertisements in Mustang Daily.

The university previously received more than 5,800 student responses to the question of whether Cal Poly should switch to semesters in a survey distributed before the Semester Review Task Force issued its final report.

Proponents of the vote said that data is outdated, since it was collected before the task force formally declared its opposition to semesters.

But others say they believe this data already gives ASI enough information to make a decision. Some argued the Board of Directors’ voice would be diminished if they punted such a large decision to a student vote.

“It’s our job to be representatives, and not to defer large decisions like this to the campus students,” mechanical engineering junior and second-quarter board member Melinda Phan said during the debate. “That’s really the only reason we’re here, aside to be the most informed students on campus.”

When asked why she passionately opposed a vote — Phan attempted to exceed the normal speaking limit for an individual during the meeting but was denied by the board — Phan said her reasoning wasn’t based in a superiority or power struggle.

“I understand that people want to reach out to their constituents,” Phan said, “but there are better ways to do that than in a vote.”

Holding a vote will not bind the Board of Directors to agree with student opinion, opening up the possibility of conflicting opinion between the board and the general student body.

But that outcome doesn’t appear to be a likely one based on the decision to let students have a vote.

“The Board of Directors, if it was going to oppose the students, would not have called for a vote tonight,” Morrow said.

In an interview with Mustang Daily during winter break, Morrow said she thought students were clear in the earlier survey that they were against switching to semesters. Though she had previously remained ambiguous on the issue, Morrow chose to endorse quarters.

The report ended months of semester-related debate across campus in which three Board of Directors members participated by serving on the Semester Review Task Force. Armstrong, who commissioned the task force, said he wants to hear more feedback from the Academic Senate and ASI before speaking with incoming Cal State University Chancellor Timothy White, who has the final decision on whether Cal Poly will convert.

Andrew Davol, Academic Senate representative to the ASI board, said Wednesday that there is no plan for faculty to vote on the issue.

The three student representatives on the Semester Review Task Force split on whether they want students to have a vote: biological sciences senior Derek Majewski and psychology junior Nate Honeycutt opposed the idea, while agricultural sciences Tatiana Prestininzi was in favor of it.

The ASI Board of Directors will meet with Armstrong in two weeks to discuss the task force report.

In other business:

  • Morrow reported the search for a new ASI executive director has begun and programs director Marcy Maloney will serve during the interim.
  • Inter-fraternity Council President Jason Colombini reported that IFC is reexamining its judicial bylaws and voted to oppose deferred recruitment, which does not allow freshmen males to pledge a fraternity during fall quarter.
  • Cal Poly Corporation spokesperson Yukie Nishinaga announced Ciao! restaurant will begin all-you-can-eat nights on Wednesdays.
  • University Union Advisory Board Chair Haley Houle reported Recreation Center prices will drop for faculty and staff beginning Feb. 1. Those who purchased a yearlong membership will receive a refund for the difference already paid.