Student organizations represent interests across Cal State

Matthew Urner

Sacramento State student and California State Student Association President Sarah Couch is familiar with the various levels of student representation.

Couch was active in Associated Students Inc. for five years, worked her way up to CSSA Chief of Staff and now represents the 430,000 students spread across the 23 California State University campuses.

Sac State students are represented on federal, statewide and local levels.

Like the Board of Trustees and ASI, CSSA interacts with one another to bring student voices forefront.

In September, Couch went with CSSA to Washington, D.C., where she advocated for greater student financial aid and discussed the student loan default issue with the CSU Office of Federal Relations and members of the U.S. Congress.

“California State University is the largest recipient of federal student aid in the nation,” Couch said. “CSU students end up with $17,000 in loan debt, on average.”

Couch said she went to Washington to give an alternative story to policymakers, one that illustrates the realities of modern people who break the mold of what she said many view as the traditional college student.

She said CSU students have varied backgrounds. They can be counterculture, and in many ways bust through socioeconomic barriers.

“We wanted to bring that voice to (Washington) D.C. and make sure more student stories are heard,” Couch said.

ASI President Nielsen Gabriel said as a collective voice, student concerns or desires move from ASI to CSSA and on to the Board of Trustees for a vote on all the regulations involved.

Any student can write to the board about his or her concerns.

Currently Gabriel is working on preliminary research of student demand for a 24-hour library, all because four students made the suggestion.

Gabriel said there is a diverse committee system within ASI and it is a great way to get involved.

With more than 80 committees university-wide, students are placed on suitable committees after filling out an application.

CSSA also selects candidates from across the state for the two student positions on the Board of Trustees where the governor decides whom to appoint.

Cipriano Vargas is a voting student trustee from CSU San Marcos.

“We give the student perspective on issues being discussed [by the board],” Vargas said.

The Board of Trustees votes on new campus buildings and the selection of new campus presidents.

Although only the second-year student trustees vote, first-year students gain an understanding of duties and procedures.

Including the voting student, the board is comprised of 25 members.