by Beatriz Espinoza
With many things changing this year, leaving many to adapt to a virtual student environment, one thing will never end. That is students being leaders and advocating for other students all across the state of California.
The California State Student Association (CSSA) is a non-profit, student-led organization that was founded by student body presidents in 1959. CSSA is recognized by the CSU Trustees and the California legislature as the official voice of the CSU students. CSSA advocates for access to affordable and high-quality education. Just as Student Government advocates for students at a campus level, CSSA comes together with all CSU students and works together with the Student Trustee to promote student needs at a state level. Now, with many students having to adapt to having classes online, CSSA has also adapted and continues to have meetings through Zoom every month.
CSSA meets each month to discuss higher education issues in order to organize and talk about solutions, with the goal of improving the college experience for students. This is done through different committees, which include the Board of Directors, Finance committee, Legislative Affairs and Systemwide affairs committee.
The student representatives come from the 23 CSU campuses as voting members on the Board of Directors. Each committee serves a different role in bringing issues to attention to the Board of Directors. Once something is planned and voted on by the Board of Directors, elected CSSA student officers and professional staff perform the day-to-day work. CSSA is open to the public and is currently virtual and free so everyone can have access to attend the monthly meetings.
Every meeting has an Open Forum, which is time reserved for the public to address issues that are not listed on the agenda. Students are encouraged to use this time to speak up about the issues that are affecting them. Most of the time, when there is an issue affecting one student, it is affecting many more across the CSU.
With conferences and events throughout the year, CSSA depends on students to keep the organization running and effective throughout their needed agendas. CSSA is funded by a $2 fee called the Student Involvement & Representation Fee, which is assessed twice a year to all CSU students. Initiated and developed by the CSSA, the Student Involvement and Representation Fee creates a more independent and effective statewide student association with the main objective of expanding CSSA’s efforts to serve all CSU students.
Every Spring semester, CSSA holds one of its major conferences which is known as the California Higher Education Student Summit (CHESS). CHESS empowers students to become change agents in advocating for an accessible, affordable and quality system of public higher education for all Californians. During a two-day conference held in the state capital, students participate in various training sessions on state governance, higher education, public policy and conducting successful lobby visits in preparation for Advocacy Day at the Capitol. In addition, students are provided the unique opportunity to collaborate and network with state legislators and student leaders from all 23 CSU campuses.
CI students attend CHESS every year through the Lobby Corps program. If you are interested in being a part of Lobby Corps the application is still open for students. The deadline to apply is Sunday, Feb. 7, at 11:59 p.m. Do not miss out on the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful experience. Applications can be found through CISync (https://csuci.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/asi-student-government).
While there are a lot of clubs and organizations throughout campus that help build leadership skills, CSSA is a unique opportunity for all students who want to be involved in the larger CSU student community and advocate for policies that bring systemwide change. If you are interested in being a part of CSSA, you can attend this weekend’s CSSA plenary meeting starting on Saturday, Jan. 23- Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. Once again, the meeting is free and open to anyone and can be accessed through Zoom. To access the meetings, visit csustudents.org for meeting details. If you are interested in being involved with CSSA advocacy or other Student Government leadership opportunities, email firstname.lastname@example.org.