Associated Students seeks to fix low involvement
Associated Students wants to solve cost problems with the university that limit students’ involvement
Celina Tebor | Feature Editor | USD Vista
Associated Students hopes it can reduce costs that limit student involvement in order to create a more developed and united community at USD.
The University of San Diego is covered in sunlight, palm trees, and beautiful buildings across campus. It is also covered in money — a lot of it. The small classroom sizes and sunny location come at a cost, and for some students, that cost can prevent them from living the college experience.
Associated Students President Will Tate commented that Associated Students tries to help every student be involved in the USD community, but realized that some students may not have a choice whether they can be as involved as they want to.
“There are some students who have no financial aid at all, and we’re forcing students to have a meal plan and live on campus their first and second year,” Tate said. “The university is trying to raise money for all these scholarships, but [is] the cause of all these expenses.”
In order to achieve his goal of increasing involvement, Tate wants more Toreros to personally reach out to Associated Students to discuss their struggles.
“I want to hold a forum where students can tell their stories of ‘I want to be involved on campus, but I’m working two to three jobs,’” Tate said. “I kind of just want more students to share their experiences to administrators because that’s really impactful.”
Sophomore Danielle Amano works a total of 25 hours a week split between two jobs, takes 17 credit hours, and maintains a 3.0 GPA in order to maintain her scholarship. While she admits to generally handling her time well and is able to be involved on campus, she believes that her busy work schedule limits her involvement.
“A lot of times I feel like [working a lot] does hold me back because it heavily limits my amount of free time and eats up the majority of my days,” Amano said. “When I am not in class, more often than not, I’ll be working. I am not able to attend a lot of on-campus events during dead hours, and I don’t have time to join many social or academic clubs and organizations due to the time conflicts.”
To help students who work too much to be involved as they would like to be, Tate has incorporated a ‘Get Involved’ fund into his budget.
“For any individual who can’t get involved on campus, they may be able to receive funds,” Tate said.
On the contrary, senior Jared Green works 15-18 hours a week at ITS, but finds that having a job actually helps his time management.
“When you have a job it really helps fill out your schedule and makes you more likely to do your homework, because you won’t have time later,” Green said. “So for me, it balances my schedule. The job, if anything, has helped me plan my schedule out, because I’m forced to.”
Additionally, Green believes having a job at Information Technology Services (ITS) improves his involvement at USD.
“There’s a lot of people in IT similar to me, which really helps me,” Green said. “And from that, I found other activities and groups that I can work with.”
Many USD students work to be able to afford school costs — something Tate did not realize could severely damage their funds until he experienced it himself.
“Even though I’m super blessed to be in the position I’m in, over intersession I was taking a class and the books were $300 combined,” Tate said. “I was thinking, ‘This is a three-week class, I know I’m not going to get through this whole book,’ and I didn’t want to buy that book. And I didn’t do as well as I wanted to in that class, so I got a small glimpse at those students who can’t afford the book and may have to go through that class.”
Some textbooks can cost upward of $300, and even though renting or buying used textbooks is an option many students choose, the costs can still negatively affect a student’s bank account. In order to combat this issue, Associated Students incorporated a textbook reserve in which any textbook that costs over $100 and is used by more than two class sections can be put on hold in the Copley Library for up to two hours.
The academics, however, are not the only expensive aspect of life at USD. Meals can also be expensive and with eight dollar sandwiches at La Paloma, money can disappear quickly.
Associated Students developed an ad hoc committee called USD Eats last semester in order to solve issues concerning expensive on-campus dining. Speaker of the Senate Tyler Warren found that on-campus food prices were one of the biggest issues students were concerned about.
“The vote was made to form an ad hoc committee on USD Eats following a Student Life tabling that took place in the plaza,” Warren said. “At the table they found out that one of the main problems that people wanted us to look at was food prices, the quality of the meal plans, the way you can distribute your dining dollars, and meal swipes.”
After taking a random sample of prices from Tu Mercado and comparing them to Walmart prices, Warren found that on average the Tu Mercado prices were 175 percent higher.
Tate was shocked by the findings. As a result of the program, Associated Students has sought to lower the costs of Tu Mercado groceries to be below those of a normal grocery store. The ad hoc committee has not taken action to achieve the goal, but Associated Students plans on trying to work on an arrangement with Dining Services.
Carol Norman, Director of Dining and Auxiliary Services, responded to Associated Students’ claim.
“We can’t compare ourselves to Walmart,” Norman said. “We don’t move as much volume.”
Norman explained that because stores like Walmart or Trader Joe’s buy food in large volumes and sell to a large consumer base, their buying price is lower. However, Tu Mercado only sells to the USD community and because of that, USD cannot buy food in the same volume as regular grocery stores.
Norman noted that students would find grocery prices at SDSU and UCSD to be similar to those at USD.
Other USD on-campus dining can be expensive as well. An SLP meal swipe equates to $14.25, and unused swipes do not roll over to the next semester, unlike dining dollars. Amano is one of many students who have unused swipes at the end of the semester.
“Spending around $3,000 a year of my hard-earned money on a meal plan where the majority of that money goes to waste is a heartbreaking thought,” Amano said. “I often don’t have enough time or energy to utilize all of my meal swipes, so all of that money is just lost.”
Tate wants more personal input from students in order to help the USD community members facing financial struggles.
“I want AS to be perceived as invitational to students if they’re struggling with anything,” Tate said. “I want folks to hold us accountable. If folks come into Senate and say, ‘Hey, we don’t like this,’ we want that. We welcome that. We don’t get a lot of students coming in and rejecting something.”
While Amano has enjoyed her time at USD and is able to participate in a variety of on-campus organizations, occasionally she has to make sacrifices in order to afford her meal plan and other expenses.
“This school is not a cheap institution, but I love going to school here,” Amano said. “And honestly feel like I am getting the best education I can here — both in class and at work, but at the expense of my social life.”
Depending on the student, costs can range from a mere inconvenience to an inability to be involved in the campus community. As a result, Associated Students hopes to increase involvement while also decreasing prices.