AS Review: What motivates you to seek out this position?
Virgilio Cintron: A couple things motivate me. I guess the first one would be my involvement in the Associated Students for the past couple of years. I think I’ve really been able to see the type of representation you can get, because I think that when you get down to the root of my position, I mean I do all this operations and budgets and all these things, but really gets down to the representation part, so, being able to be there at the table with different administrators and making decisions that will impact students, either through the tuition or through anything like GURs or should we keep the library open longer. Just having that student involvement, I think, is really important because we’re all stakeholders in the university. So, I think that’s one of the primary things that makes me want to run for this position for my last year being here at Western. I’ve really enjoyed my time and I think having not had this experience—and, not only at the board level; like, in clubs, just experience within the AS—I would be a really different person today than I am now.
ASR: What groups of students might be easily overlooked by the AS Board, and what will you do to ensure that you represent them in your work?
Cintron: I think I can honestly say for this board that we’ve really tried looking at a lot of groups, and, obviously, we haven’t looked at every single group because, I mean, what qualifies as a group? Do you really go down a list and say, “Well, these are the groups on campus?” But I think we’ve done a lot of outreach in areas where we typically haven’t, so now in athletics this year we’ve done a lot of trying to bridge that gap, but sometimes there’s, like, “Well, athletics is here and the AS is over here and we’re separate,” so now we’ve tried bridging some of those gaps as well as making sure that we get into more of the departmentally related activities, sitting more on those committees and trying to make sure that we’re more encompassing at the AS Board level because, I think, there’s really two separate things that we do. We [are] the managers of the AS organization and that takes up time, but then we’re also the student government, which is supposed to represent all these people, so a lot of the representation comes through us going out and outreaching and we make sure that all these different populations get served, so I think next year something that I want to do, and I know some of the other people running in this election, too, have talked about, you know, Matt Jarrell said he’s going to do listening posts, and I think what other people have been talking about, too, is just getting more feedback from students, especially during these economic times. People are starting to cut things, and it’s like, well, what are student priorities? I think really going back to that representation part because I think a lot of people just think about the activities. So, “Oh, is my club going to get more money?” or, “Is this going to get more money?” But it’s also about the representation parts.
ASR: Since you came to Western, what has been the most important issue facing students that went unaddressed or was dealt with poorly? What issue would you say has been addressed most positively?
Cintron: Interesting question, because I think that the worst thing that I would say is—I guess, not worst, but the thing that we could continue to address is more oversight over student fees. I think I’ve noticed that it’s just been a trend ever since I’ve been a freshman, it’s just like, “Oh, well, student fees, tuition—how are those going up and how are they being managed?” Like when you talk about the AS and S&A fee process and all these different things, and I know board members have done work on that, but at the same time the university administration is slow on a lot of those processes. So, in the AS the board can look at [a] job description and pass it and that’s fine because it’s within our organization. When you talk about something that’s within the university system, like the S&A fee, the Rec Center, any of those fees-type things, you have to do with the laws of Washington, the attorney general. What does the VP for student affairs think? What does the faculty think? So, I think, because these terms are only one year, you get into this mode where maybe one VP starts something, like, I know Ramiro [Espinoza], he really wanted some reform in the S&A fee process, but he only had a year to be here. He tried his hardest, but of course there’s opposition from different places. People have different views. People don’t understand, so, then, you get to the end of your term, and then a new president comes in. They might have that priority, but they might not. So, I think that’s one of the biggest thing[s] that I’ve seen about student fees and something that I hope to continue focusing on, but at the same time I know I’m not going to finish all the things that I would like to see or what I think would be in the best interests of students, but I think starting those processes and making more of a—I think, we’ve talked even at the Board level about legacy documents and making sure that they’re a lot more [conducive]to not having to restart the wheel every time, every year. People want [to] know why you made the decisions, and I think that’s where I’ve gotten to this year, with all of the transparency stuff, like making sure that our decisions, people know why we made them so in the future, five years down the road, people can look back and say, “OK, I know why they did this. I may not agree with it, and I may want to change it now,” which is fine because that’s what this organization’s about. Every year new students might come in with new ideas and they want to change something, but they should be able to know why we did that change to begin with, not just two sentences. “They changed just because of this: motion number, and the—” “OK, great, I don’t know why they did this. Whatever.” And I think the best thing that I think I’ve seen improvement on is a better understanding of what diversity is, and I know that’s not really within my realm, but I think that’s something that’s been really good that I’ve seen at Western. I think the current VP for Diversity has done a really good job in restructuring things and making sure people are more aware of the different populations that there are, so it’s not just the Ethnic Student Center, not just the LGBT. There’s tons of people and everyone’s really diverse, so, I think that’s one of the areas that I’ve seen the most improvement in my time here at Western.
ASR: What are your three biggest goals for next year?
Cintron: Touched on this a little bit, but the student fee aspect. I really want to make sure that we get more control in the oversight over student fees. I know this year the Student Technology Fee incident happened, which we’re still trying to deal with, but at the same time, that’s just one of the fees. What happens to the Green Energy Fee, the Campus Recreation Fee, like, all these different fees? The student government should have more of a say in how those are either recommended and have more insight on those, so I really want to make sure that we can start the discussions for that process. Obviously, I’m not going to finish it within my term. I don’t think I will. If I do, I’ll be really surprised, but I really want to make sure that we can start that process and get something rolling that’s more permanent than just, “Oh, someone had an idea and they left and, oh well, their idea’s gone.” Second thing is transparency within the AS. I think this year we’ve worked a lot on the policies and procedures. People find that boring, but I think I’ve worked a lot on those different issues, but I still think there’s stuff that—I may have made the changes this year, but creating that culture of constantly making sure—OK, we need to be transparent when we’re making decisions and not making them behind closed doors, or people are just making decisions, coming to Board meetings and making decisions. Actually creating that culture, it’s a lot more time consuming than just saying, “Oh, well, here’s a document,” because no one has to listen to the document if they don’t want to, so, working more on that development side, and then also the outreach component. I think this year I know I tried the Meet the AS board and senate thing, and I didn’t see much of a good response on that, so maybe trying to strategize other ways of maybe outreaching and that’s why I think one of Matt Jarrell’s ideas is really good, about the listening posts and stuff. And then bringing in those multiple perspectives, which I’ve done a little bit this year, but it’s just been more on the AS structure side, so maybe bringing it more on student issues side, so, really, making all the Board members focus on—well, we do have specific things that we do within the AS, but then it’s like you’re a mirror, and your other personality’s supposed to also represent students on all these issues, so it’s not just, “Oh, Andrea [Goddard, current VP for Academic Affairs]’s in charge of academics. I shouldn’t care what’s happening in academics.” I should care because I’m representing the students on academics as well. So, it’s making sure that we create that culture.
ASR: Last question. When a student comes to you with a question that is beyond the scope of your job, how will you respond to this student?
Cintron: I think, first of all, it’s trying to, I guess, understand where they’re coming from because, even though I might not know everything about some—if someone came in about an academic issue, I may not know all about the policies and procedures and stuff, but I think it’s pointing people in the right direction and it’s not just saying, “OK, well, I’ll let Andrea take care of it.” It’s also saying, “OK, well, this person had that issue,” and then asking them how the issue got resolved so you’re more knowledgeable as a student representative about those issues. So, I think that’s where programmers are supposed to try to be knowledgeable about a lot of different areas, even if they don’t fall within our scope. Obviously, I’m not going to go to the ACC committee for Andrea and then when she gets there, “Too bad, I’m here. I’m trying to do your job,” because, I think, none of us could really do that, but it’s really getting more knowledgeable about area and then following up. I think that’s the biggest thing, too, is maybe sometimes say, “Oh, Andrea, this guy came in. He said something about academics. Deal with it,” and then I do something else. But it’s following up with that person, making sure they got the help from that VP or from the other resources as well. See, sometimes maybe you say, “Oh, go up to the university,” something, but they maybe had a bad experience with that office and it just stopped there, but you didn’t know because you didn’t follow up. So, I think it’s a dual process: leading them to the right resources, but then following up later as well.