Snoop Dogg or status quo?
Candidates face off for student body president as fee increase looms
Money is the campaign issue du jour as students—those who bother to vote, anyway—gear up for the Associated Students elections to be held April 14 and 15.
Battling for the title of student body president of Chico State University are Adam Dondro and Bob Ray.
The clean-cut Dondro is a 22-year-old psychology and political-science senior. Ray, who won’t reveal his age, is a locally prominent progressive who has been attending Chico State since 1994 and is now a political-science graduate student.
Dondro, who as current A.S. executive vice president works closely with the A.S.'s $23 million budget, strongly supports the fee increase that’s on the same ballot. Ray says he’ll vote for it, but only because he feels students are backed into a corner where they have to say “yes” to preserve A.S. programs.
The ballot advisory measure asks students to approve increases in the activity fee, the student union fee and the instructionally related activities fee for a total of $26 per semester.
Dondro says that, with 1,000 fewer students next year, the funds are falling short. If the fee increase doesn’t pass, the A.S. will have to cut $200,000—and that’s beyond the nearly $90,000 that’s already been cut or is under consideration for cuts.
Besides popular A.S. programs like the Women’s Center, the Children’s Center and Adventure Outings, Dondro says, going without the fee increase would meet fewer events and the reduction or demise of the free student shuttle service that gives 250,000 rides a year on city buses.
Ray, who is making his third attempt to snare the seat, says money wouldn’t be so much of an issue if the A.S. would take his suggestion to hire a grant writer to seek outside funds.
Ray’s campaign strategy has been a mixture of the serious (safe lighting and community policing) and the seemingly not-so-serious (bringing big-name bands and rappers to campus). His running mate is Jonathan Maples, whose statement to voters includes the promise that he’ll try to bring Snoop Dogg to town.
“An election is about appealing to as many students as possible,” Ray said. “That includes students who like to have a good time.” Ray believes the A.S. should have spoken against the city of Chico’s police-heavy, “don’t go out or we’ll arrest you” attempt to shut down Halloween last year.
“I don’t believe that a representative’s jurisdiction ends on campus,” Ray said. “I’m not afraid to take a position.”
He says the A.S. is in a rut and it’s time to create new things to serve students while preserving the existing programs.
Ray recently blanketed the A.S. with a Public Records Act request for several budget-and employee-related documents. While he was invited to view budget documents, other elements of his request were rejected, with A.S. staff arguing that personnel privacy rights forbid the release of salary information, and that the A.S. falls under the California Corporations Code, not public-records laws.
Dondro, who supports the decision not to release the records, said some of Ray’s campaign statements are “at best a stretch.”
Ray contends that the A.S. has become too corporate, and career staffers making $100,000-plus salaries are calling the shots, not students.
Dondro says he would lean more toward the diplomatic than the confrontational in his dealings with students and the university.
“My personal style is to build relationships first,” he said. That way, he said of Chico State administrators, “they know me, they trust me and they know I’m not just giving them a hard time.”
Ray said rumors of his adversarial style are greatly exaggerated. “Nobody who’s ever worked with me on a project thinks that I’m unreasonable.”
Dondro says that, if he doesn’t win, he’ll stay involved. Next week, he’s being interviewed as one of the finalists for the position of student trustee—one of two students who sit on the California State University Board of Trustees.
Because students must vote online this year, election organizers are hoping to draw more than the usual paltry turnout of about 22 percent.
Also on the ballot is a pair of advisory measures asking students if they want to exclude from the purchase of parking passes students who live within one mile of campus. At the same time, the expansion of the city bus service in that area would be encouraged.