ASI Board Could End On Contentious Note
April 20, 2005 5:56 PM
A feeling of mistrust between several staff members and some Associated Student Inc. (ASI) board members has created an unusual amount of tension during the past year.
Several ASI staff members claim feelings of mistrust began when former human resource director Khrisean Thomas was fired after a dispute over the purchase of office furniture. The board voted to approve the termination after Thomas got into an argument with President David Abella at a board meeting.
"It doesn't feel good," said Associate Executive Director Jamila. "This is the only time this has happend. He (Abella) set a precedent. It makes you feel insecure."
The 19 student-elected members of the board are responsible for administering a $3 million budget. All students pay a $42 student body association fee in the fall and spring - $24 for the summer session – and board members decide where the funding should go. The board members, who are paid from $400 to $925 a month depending on their position, hold term for one year beginning in May.
There are two training sessions, one being optional, for incoming board members. The first training session is at the end of April and the second is during the summer.
“We as a board didn’t serve the students,” said Joshua Castro, vice president of external affairs about the problems of this past year. “It’s all about practice and making mistakes.”
During a March 16 board meeting, the board passed an action item ordering ASI President David Abella to cease and desist from entering into any contracts after he failed to communicate with his board and staff about a contract he established with an outside consultant.
During the same meeting, a heated discussion took place after two board members were asked to resign the day before. Chief Justice Michael Trujillo asked for the resignations of Science and
The termination of an ASI staff member was also brought up at the March 16 meeting. According to certain staff members, the firing of Khrisean Thomas, former human resource director, has left them feeling uncomfortable.
“We’re full-time permanent staff - that’s cold to me,” said Ali. “That’s too much power for students to have.
“(Thomas’) firing was an unjust firing. I’m a professional. I may not like you, but I can work with you.”
“It’s up to you to believe that or not,” said Domingo, “Before I ran, I was David’s (Abella) assistant; I was part of staff, so from my point of view they were fine.”
The mistrust between board members and staff may be the reason a heated discussion left Thomas without a job. Last August, Thomas and Assistant Business Office Manager Alejandro Rios made the decision to replace the furniture for the board’s college and class representative’s office, which certain board members objected to.
“I felt that the money should be spent in a better place,” said Jonathan Kakacek, creative arts representative.
The $1,300 spent on furniture came out of the $20,000 the corporation designates for office supplies.
Less than a week later, on Sept. 15, Abella sent a letter to Peter Koo, executive director of ASI, requesting that Thomas be fired. Later that day, at the board meeting, there was a motion to approve Koo’s recommendation that Thomas be terminated effective Sept. 17, 2004. Thomas had worked for ASI for five years.
Abella declined to comment to [X]press, and Thomas could not be reached.
Thomas was terminated with a nine-month severance package. Though Thomas left the corporation, her workload was redistributed among the other staff members.
“Right now I’m doing payroll,” said Ali. “Why is the associate executive director doing payroll?”
After Thomas left, Abella moved into her office, saying he wanted to be more accessible to the student body. But according to office assistant Mayra Saldana, whose desk sits right outside Abella’s office, she rarely sees Abella during the thirty hours per week she works.
“After five (p.m.) I’ll see him about twice a week,” said Saldana. “From nine to five, (I’ll see him) maybe once a week, and that’s pushing it.”
According to Rios, he believes the students on this campus should be more involved and concerned with the decisions their ASI leaders make for them.
“Students need to hold them accountable,” said Rios. “You can’t hold them accountable in their last month of office.”
Some students aren’t even aware that ASI exists, much less trust that ASI is spending their money appropriately.
“We don’t even know who they are and they’re kids,” said Anamaria Delgado, 24, a liberal studies major and international student.
Diana Castro, 21, English major, questioned how effectively the board controls that $3 million.
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