CSI Vice President: Student Participation Needs to be Higher, Plans to Form Committee

VP Borrero plans to form a committee to Brainstorm solutions

By Clifford Michel

College of Staten Island is aiming to increase student participation and engagement in campus elections, CSI administrators told the Banner in an interview.

Jennifer Borrero, CSI’S Vice President for Student and Enrollment Services,  is aiming to raise participation in student elections from the student body to 15%. Last spring, 6% of students at CSI participated in student elections.

Borrero recently launched a committee made up of faculty, staff, and students to convene and come up with suggestions in order to reach their earmarked goals.

The committee will also be tasked with finding ways to better communicate the rules of student elections and coming up with processes to promote fair elections.

Borrero hopes to receive formal suggestions by January or February and implement the strategies in time for the spring elections.

“This supports [President William Fritz’s] vision of student engagement, the things that we can do as far as a division to really help students engage; particularly, civic engagement,” said Borrero. “And that’s important to the President as well as this division. I think students should be encouraged to actively participate in decisions that will impact them.”

Borrero tasked CSI’s Office of Student Life with selecting an alumni who previously served in student government, but has no social attachments to members of the current student government body.

Student Government was the subject of much controversy last year as President William Fritz ruled the spring election results null and void after a review by CSI’s Student Election Review Committee. The committee found several issues surrounding the election, including the eligibility of certain candidates,  heavy electioneering, and outright cheating.

The last student government body also came under wide scrutiny for appropriating funds for a trip to Ireland that many members from student government were attending.

Though last year’s campus elected officials came under fire, their actions didn’t translate into a high voter turnout for student elections, signaling potential difficulties for Borrero and her committee.

“I feel like a hypocrite, because I was one of those people who complained about them,” said Dianna Ortiz, a sophomore political science major. “But I just didn’t feel like I needed to vote when it came down to it.”

The current Student Government President and Vice President have prioritized the creation of a new student government constitution. The initiative would need at least 10% of the student population to vote in an election for the change to be considered.

Student Government President Rana Mohammad welcomed the idea of a committee to further student engagement around elections, but warned that students need to be informed.

“Increasing student involvement has always been Student Government’s main concern over the years that I’ve been in Student Government. It’s just that our students due to their limited knowledge on how things go in CSI don’t feel motivated to get involved in anything. I’m on board with anything that will [increase] student involvement,” Mohammad told the Banner in a statement.

“But my whole focus is towards making that involvement an informed one,” Mohammad continued. “Last year student’s signed the petition for the ferry shuttle without realizing that they’re going to pay $40 for the transportation fee. But me and my board will play our part in increasing student involvement.”

Borrero, who is new to her VP position, told the Banner during a wide ranging interview that she is aiming to make student participation easier in a myriad of other ways by rethinking the way students initially get involved.

“We challenge the directors and their staffs to really make assessments from a student centered and service delivery lens. Which means that you’re putting the students’ needs over institutional functions,” said Borrero.

“And that can be a different way to think about how we go about doing our jobs. Sometimes we may have a process that works well administratively for the institution, but the students find it very complex, or difficult to access, or cumbersome.”

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