A.S. shakeup

A.S. president looks ahead to a busy semester

SCOUTS’ HONOR <br>This sculpture installation by Master of Fine Arts candidate and Chico State teacher Ulises Meza was removed from the BMU after numerous complaints.

This sculpture installation by Master of Fine Arts candidate and Chico State teacher Ulises Meza was removed from the BMU after numerous complaints.

Photo By Devanie Angel

Associated Students President Thomas Whitcher has seen a lot of people come and go during his three years with the A.S. And over the past year, the A.S. has been in a state of flux.

Several key positions were vacated last semester. Chela Patterson, who had served as activity fee director for the A.S. since 2002, moved on to become director of the school’s Educational Opportunity Program. The A.S. is still in search of a replacement for that position, traditionally held by someone whose role ends up being as much mentor as it is program administrator. The exit of A.S. office manager Lisa Day also left a void.

Student leaders, too, failed to stay put last year. In February 2005, Annie Sherman, the A.S. commissioner of environmental affairs, was removed from office for carrying too many units. Sherman went, but not quietly, saying that the student fee-funded Wildcat Activity Center was passed in March 2005 only due to a costly, biased campaign by the A.S. Then last September, Nichole DeMartini, the well-respected director of legislative affairs, resigned from her post to study abroad, briefly leaving Chico State without the representative in charge of lobbying for students on the state level.

The A.S. has had to deal with even more issues during the past few months, including finding a home for Chico State’s student-run radio station KCSC, which had to move to make way for the rec center, and dealing with the finals-week controversy surrounding an art exhibit by Master of Fine Arts candidate and Chico State teacher Ulises Meza. After numerous complaints about the confusing, two-part exhibit—depicting Boy Scouts with Down syndrome, a rabbit on a crucifix and the Virgin Mary at a tea party with rabbits, the artist took it down.

The A.S. and this publication had a recent run-in as well. The Chico News & Review’s controversial “Goin’ Chico” issue in June 2005 included a story that knocked the school’s party atmosphere. The story was not well-received by school officials, including Whitcher, and the guide was pulled from new-student orientation packets. After some negotiation, the CN&R reprinted 3,000 copies without the offending story, which was replaced by an innocuous welcome from Chico State President Paul Zingg. And with Chico State trying to soften its party school image, the A.S. also took issue with the editorial content of the weekly Stnthesis, and pulled its advertising totalling $15,000 per year.

To its credit, the A.S. has worked to repair its at-times shaky relationships with student organizations like KCSC and has developed a closer working relationship with the city of Chico, including dealing with party-heavy holidays and how fines are assessed when police are repeatedly called out to noisy parties. And the A.S., a nonprofit auxiliary to the university and the owner of the campus bookstore and food services, is also getting along well with university administration, a far cry from the relationship in the 1980s when then-President Robin Wilson wanted to snatch the money-making businesses away from the students.

Thomas Whitcher

Photo By Tom Angel

Now Whitcher, who will graduate at this spring, prepares for what will be his final semester as A.S. president. Whitcher sat down with the CN&R to both reflect and look ahead to the coming semester.

What are some of the pressing issues facing the A.S. in the spring?

A big issue for us is the vice president of student affairs search [VP Jim Moon is retiring]. That position is crucial for us because it’s a board-level position and also [it] affects us directly in our relationship with the university. Assuring that we get somebody that’s going to be a good fit for the campus and the community as a whole is going to be really important. The rec center, keeping that on schedule [is a priority]. So far things are moving along at a really good pace, but at the same time [we have to be] making sure we keep that momentum going, especially as we transition officers. There’s probably going to be a referendum or two that will be going through [the A.S. Board of Directors] to be put on the ballot. The language still has to be worked out, but one has to do with getting referendums on the ballot and trying to make that easier for students.

How have things been going with Chela Patterson being gone?

In my three years, I think if any group could have handled it, this was the group. Just because we have a good amount of people from last year that came over this year that knew the office, they knew the A.S., they knew the university and really didn’t need a lot of the hand-holding that we usually get at the beginning of the semester. Things are falling through the cracks, but we’re trying our best to catch them if we can. The big thing is going to be the hiring of Chela’s position and Lisa’s position, making sure that we get the right people.

Why did the A.S. push for the removal of the art exhibit in the Bell Memorial Union?

I didn’t really have an issue with the exhibit itself; my issue was that we were taking up lounge space in the dead of winter as we’re heading into finals. … The sidebar is that some people did take offense to it and I said, “You know what? It’s art, come on, deal with it.” … The artist was very much, “I don’t have to tell people exactly what it is, they should be thinking about it and figure it out.” I can understand that, but you need to put them in the ballpark to figure that out. Yes, there were some relationships that were probably strained because of that. We have a strong relationship with [the art department] in helping fine arts students, so that kind of took a little bit of a hit, but it wasn’t severed.

Going into your final semester, what do think has been the most important thing you’ve done as president? What do think you’ll be remembered for?

I’m not a big person on leaving your stamp on the organization. I tell officers if they have that kind of agenda, they’re going to get lost in that. It can turn out good, but I think a lot of the time it fails because they don’t really focus on their job. I think one of the greatest things that we were able to accomplish, starting with [2003-04 A.S. President] Michael Dailey, was building a lot of those relationships that we lost in the past with the university and with the city leadership. [Now the A.S. is] a respected member at the table when it comes to tough issues. And a lot of that has to do with President Zingg and Jim Moon being very student-focused and [believing], “We need to bring students in and get their input on this.”