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Student government moves forward after ambiguities post bond measure donation

Kirsteen Wolf
Tobey Veenstra
The Broadside

This is part two of a two part series. Part one is available here.

The Story so far (ASCOCC Timeline)

With the definition of autonomy reinforced during the donation question and with the longstanding lack of close oversight from the college, the Associated Students of Central Oregon  Community College understood itself to be a separate entity.

In a September and October 2010 series of emails from India Simmons, ASCOCC’s PR representative, to Charley Miller, COCC’s board chair, Simmons mentions the “ambiguities that have been difficult for both entities since the election” and described the students as “trying to define boundaries re money, authority, etc.”

“It is one of those issues that could turn out really well for everyone-or turn nuclear,” said Simmons in an email.

However, the conversations to help clarify these “ambiguities” have not been explosive.

In a Nov. 12, 2010 joint statement, COCC and ASCOCC referred to the talks as “cordial, informative and mutually beneficial.”

A $30,000 reason to be proud

One impact the donation had on the student government leaders was a sense of pride.

Terry Link, ASCOCC’s legislative coordinator, Brenda Pierce, ASCOCC’s marketing coordinator and Matt Coito, ASCOCC’s clubs and program coordinator, all expressed this pride in their involvement with the bond measure when looking back through the year.

“The idea I’m the most proud of … was to invest in the bond measure,” said Link. “We’re all proud of it.”

In 2009, ASCOCC donated $10,000 to COCCYes!, a Political Action Committee that advocated a ‘yes’ vote on the bond measure to raise $41.6 million for COCC.

With other contributions however, the total donation of student fees to the bond measure was closer to $30,000 according to Simmons and Pierce.

The advisor for ASCOCC during the time of the bond measure to July 2010 was Gordon Price, COCC’s director of student life.
Price viewed his role, in part, as “allowing them (ASCOCC members) to make … decisions.”

When asked if Price had concerns about ASCOCC spending he declined to comment.

Rewritten Roles and Responsibilities

One project ASCOCC members tackled after the bond measure was a rewrite of their constitution.

There wasn’t much documentation of ASCOCC’s roles and responsibilities when Pierce started as member four years ago.

“When I first started there wasn’t a book, there wasn’t a emanual,” she said.

One of the documents in place was their constitution, which, according to Pierce, was not up to date.
ASCOCC’s constitution was recognized as an important document in the legal opinion allowing the student government to donate student fees.
“There is not a limit on how much the students may give as long as it is within their constitution,” stated the legal opinion.
Another ongoing project is the redrafting of the bylaws, which outline the members’ “duties, position descriptions and responsibilities,” according to their current constitution.
The new bylaws document was passed unanimously, Dec. 3, 2010, despite still being worked on.
“It’s a work in progress, just as life itself,” said Link.
The sections marked “done” on the document have been read into the ASCOCC minutes.
While ASCOCC meeting minutes do not follow Oregon Public Records Law, they will be publicly available soon, according to Link.

“Just standard fiscal policy procedures”

In August 2010, COCC’s former admissions advisor and recruiter Taran Underdal started as the new advisor to ASCOCC.
Underdal came to the advisor role with experience in fiscal procedures and past student government experience. When she started the job, she characterized the changes she made as small.
“Nothing extravagant, just standard fiscal policy procedures of the college,’ said Underdal, adding that she considers herself “detail oriented” in making sure the paperwork was in order.
The job entails providing fiscal oversight to ASCOCC but other issues are not at Underdal’s discretion to act on.
“Their authority is their constitution and their bylaws,” said Underdal.
Underdal had no comment when asked if she had concerns about spending.

Options A and B

In September of the 2010-2011 school year the college had contracted with a lawyer “to assist in clarifying issues surrounding student government and student fees,” according to public documents.
Alicia Moore, COCC’s dean of student and enrollment services, sent a Sept. 24, 2010 email containing a draft of recommendations from the attorney.

There were two options set out as next steps for ASCOCC, according to the email.
Option A was to “bring the program into alignment with college and generally accepted practices,” including a rewrite of the constitution which would include a minimum of six credits to be an “officer” as opposed to the current requirement of one; updating job descriptions; writing a fiscal policy that aligns with college policy as well as “applicable state law (including ethics law).”
In addition to the reduction in budget, removal of access to credit cards and the “petty cash being maintained under current College policies,” ASCOCC members would have to “sign an agreement to comply with the constitution, By-Laws and college policy.”
Option B is for the COCC board to dissolve ASCOCC as an organization. The draft goes on to make provisions for the maintaining the funding for events, programs and clubs while the process was underway as well as the set up of a student fee committee to oversee expenditures. Current ASCOCC members would be welcome to apply for council positions.
ASCOCC issued a memorandum on Oct. 11, 2010 stating they had hired a lawyer and a PR representative to help clarify the relationship with the college.

Over two-thirds of projected budget spent already

In addition to the ongoing conversations with the college, ASCOCC still has the fiduciary responsibility in allocating their budget’s money.
Some goes toward funding clubs and programs, including The Broadside, and for hosting events around campus. According to the January 2011 issue of “The Voice,” ASCOCC provides funding for 14 programs and 13 clubs.
The projected income for ASCOCC this academic year is $280,000. ASCOCC members have spent $191,000 so far in the 2010-2011 school year, according to documents received from ASCOCC.

Upcoming elections

ASCOCC continues with their duties as COCC student representatives, allotting money to clubs and programs, bringing events to campus and it is unclear if the current members of ASCOCC will run in elections this spring.

“It’s too early,” said Link. “I think it’s inappropriate to even think about it at this point.”

Some of ASCOCC’s accomplishments

  • Thanksgiving Food Drive
  • Food pantry for students
  • Created “The Voice” magazine
  • Revision of the ASCOCC Constitution
  • Soles for souls shoe drive
  • Free mechanical bull rides throughout campus
  • Candy machine throughout the campus
  • Bowling night once a month, free to students
  • “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” as a fundraiser
  • Discounted monthy public transit passes
  • Allocated student fees for clubs and programs
  • Partial Revision of Bylaws

Current Bylaws progress

Items in the Bylaws marked “DONE

  • Meetings
  • Responsibilities of Officers
  • Petition/amendment Process

Items in the Bylaws marked “NOT DONE

  • Bowling night once a month, free for students
  • Elections
  • Clubs
  • Budget Commitee
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1 COMMENT

  1. Eric Ercanbrack should have been credited as a researcher for compiling the time line for last week’s issue involving ASCOCC. Corrected by admin

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