What did the A.S. ever do for me?

Student-owned corporation takes fees and turns them into a wealth of services

INFORMATION, PLEASE <br>Nursing sophomore Chris McCauley (pictured right) needed only a quick phone number from the University Information Center, and information specialist Jeff Dill (left) was glad to oblige. Dill said typical questions deal with where something is located on campus, professors’ phone numbers and information about special events.

Nursing sophomore Chris McCauley (pictured right) needed only a quick phone number from the University Information Center, and information specialist Jeff Dill (left) was glad to oblige. Dill said typical questions deal with where something is located on campus, professors’ phone numbers and information about special events.

Photo by Tom Angel

CHICO CHECKPOINT: The name Chico--"little” in Spanish--comes from the original Mexican land grant John Bidwell purchased after striking it rich mining gold on the Feather River. Its name was Rancho Arroyo Chico, or Little Brook Ranch. That “little brook” is now named Big Chico Creek, or “Big ‘Little’ Creek.” Go figure.

Chico State University students don’t know how great they have it. At most colleges, the food services and the bookstore are run by the university or some outside contractor that couldn’t care less about charity and goodwill. Students don’t see a penny of the profits, and the zillion dollars (give or take a hundred) that they pay each semester for textbooks goes to feed the corporate machine.

Take a closer look at your tuition receipt. Some of those vague-sounding “fees” you’re paying (for the most part the activity fee and the Bell Memorial Union fee) come right back at you in the form of services provided by the Associated Students, a student-owned corporation that exists independent (OK, mostly independent) from the university.

The A.S. Bookstore? That’s your bookstore, and the money it generates each year is your money—although you have to share with your classmates. The food services, such as the BMU Marketplace, The Whitney Hall cafeteria and Butte Station, aren’t such big moneymakers, barely breaking even in recent years. But the key point here is control: The A.S. businesses are run in the students’ best interests, with student board members overseeing operations and students helping to hire the career staff members who manage the joints. (The A.S. employs about 900 people, most of them students.)

The BMU fee, which students voted to increase enough to pay for the recent remodel of the building, stands at $103 per semester, which makes for a total of more than $3.6 million a year, not counting bookstore revenues. That fee pays for recycling programs, performances on campus and more.

The activity fee is, as of this writing, $40 a semester, generating $1.2 million a year for things ranging from the Women’s Center to the Re-Entry Center.

Your fees also go to support student government activities, such as elections, councils focusing on environmental and community affairs, and multicultural events.

Once they’re on campus, observes A.S. President Jimmy Reed, students come to know and appreciate these programs and recognize that it’s those pesky fees that keep them around.

Here’s a rundown of some of the biggest programs:

University Information Center 898-4636

One of the most visible services your fees help provide is that of the information center, located in the BMU. The university kicks in money here too, because a lot of the questions from callers or people dropping by are broader than one might expect. Usually, people want to know how to get somewhere or when something is taking place. The staff keeps a semi-secret list of weird questions, which have included such inquiries as, “What’s the quadratic formula,” “What time does campus security close?” and “What’s the university’s policy on animals in the classroom?” One bright mind called, saying, “I’m looking at a calendar and I can’t figure out what day it is.”

Adventure Outings 898-4011

Say you want to take a hiking trip. But you don’t know what to bring. And you certainly don’t have the cash to hire a guide to take you into the great unknown. Well, with Adventure Outings, which has served as a model program for other universities, you’re already halfway there. They even rent out equipment.

There are a variety of planned trips throughout each semester: canoeing, fly fishing, snowboarding and kayaking are among the options. Costs range from $55 for a mountain biking excursion at the redwood coast to $6 for a bike repair class. For all this, you and your fellow students collectively pay $209,000 a year.

A.S. Recycling 898-5033

The A.S.-run recycling program is so good, the university contracts with it to do all the recycling on campus—and that’s a lot of recyclables. Student interns and employees do almost all of this work, making it as much a learning experience as it is a public service. Based in a warehouse at Fourth and Cherry streets, A.S. Recycling puts on awareness-raising programs such as composting lessons, making it much more than a trash-collecting service.

A.S. Presents 898-6005

Like that “nooner” concert you heard in the Free Speech Area? A.S. Presents paid those artists with your fee money. Organizers work hard to book a range of talents and types of music so that you can add some entertainment to your college experience. But it’s not just music. A.S. Presents has secured speakers like Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and nationally known comedians.

As if that weren’t enough, A.S. Presents sponsors new and classic movies on Friday nights in the BMU; salsa, hip-hop and reggae dances and is in charge of the Game Room in the BMU, where arcade games, pool tables and dominos tournaments abound.

Re-Entry Center 898-6583

Re-entry students don’t arrive on campus with rockets strapped to their backs; they’re just those who are back in school—or at college for the first time—after having lived in the “outside world” for a while. They’re of non-traditional college age (over 25) and may need some extra support to stay in school. The Re-Entry Center, located at the University Center, is a place to network, use computers and copiers, and even enjoy free coffee.

A.S. Children’s Center 898-5865

Yep, it’s the Associated Students who are in charge of the parent-cooperative child care center on campus, where children of varying cultures are cared for in a setting with a philosophy of putting the child’s needs first. This is a popular program, so there’s a wait list; lower-income families get priority.

CAVE 898-5817

CAVE stands for Community Action Volunteers in Education, and since 1966 it’s been the place where students and non-students go to offer their services to others, be it out of course requirements, simple altruism or both. Each semester, CAVE matches 1,600 to 1,800 students up with volunteering opportunities totaling more than 50,000 hours of community service. You can work with adults learning literacy, kids playing sports—even people in psychiatric hospitals or youth correctional facilities.

Community Legal Information Center (CLIC) 898-4354

The first time you have a nasty dispute with your roommate, or your landlord holds onto your security deposit like it’s his last dime, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars—and the A.S.—for CLIC, which has been serving students (and, by virtue of a grant from the city of Chico, community members) since 1970.

The list of areas in which CLIC offers legal information is long, including issues from traffic law to welfare rights to alcohol-related offenses. Remember: This is legal information, not advice, as these are paralegal interns operating under the supervision of attorneys.

Women’s Center 898-5724

Don’t shy away from people who spell “women” with a “y.” The Women’s Center, located at the University Center, has a long history of standing up for the rights of women.

Spending only $32,000 a year (it’s run by students and volunteers), the center works to empower women and raise awareness of women’s issues through academic programs and events. They also have a great Web site at www.csuchico.edu/womyn/.

Next: Guide to the student union