The final meeting of the year for the Associated Students was filled with laughter on Friday as the student leaders reflected on the hard work of the past year, just before the new senate was sworn in.
One of the members even quoted the late Leonard Nimoy, as he sought to inspire his successors. Students had nothing but positive words for their fellow colleagues, sharing thanks to their advisers and focusing a lot of praise on Bianca Zamora, the former chair of the senate, for a job well done.
“You can imagine trying to get nine people to agree on something; trying to formulate an opinion for over 9,000 people is an incredibly difficult challenge,” said Erik Dickson, the Executive Director of Associated Students. “This year’s Associated Students did a great job trying to speak for such a diverse and varied audience. They really pushed for the university to realize that the student voice is important.”
Predecessors were in charge of swearing in new members and passing down their positions. The new Associated Students Senate members consist of Brandon Mercer as president, Kevin McMahon as vice president of finance, Olivia Smith as the senator for the School of Arts and Humanities, Russel De Jong as senator for the School of Social Sciences, Shannon Garcia as the senator for Community Affairs, Ana Tongilava as senator for diversity, Jasmine Delgado as senator for involvement, Matthew Goodin as senator for student services, Claudia Sisomphou as senator for sustainability and Lucas Ammerman as senator for undeclared.
The newly inducted Associated Students Senate discussed their appointees for positions no one ran for. All votes to fill those positions then passed unanimously. Biology major Bianca Rose, is the new Chair of the Senate and political science major Kate Chavez is the new Executive Vice President. Associated Students is still in the search of the School of Business and Economics position for the upcoming academic year.
“There’s a lot of new energy, it’s going to be a great year,” said Dickson about the 2015-16 Associated Students Senate. “There are actually more people around this table than there were for the 2014-15 senate, more of the positions are filled and I think you see a lot of new faces. There are a lot of excited students coming in saying, ‘I want to make sure Sonoma State is the campus I want it to be.’ ”
Former Associated Students President Anthony Gallino had his own closing thoughts to share about his time spent in the organization.
“It has been a real pleasure serving the students of Sonoma State,” Gallino said. “Frankly, I believe it was the most important thing I have done in my life so far. I am forever indebted to them for giving me the opportunities I’ve had through being elected. Sonoma State University is a special place, and I will forever remember it.”
Gallino hopes Associated Students will continue to grow and become closer with the student body. Some of his wishes for future members are for them to more effectively engage with the campus and make themselves more visible to students.
The former president also endorses Brandon Mercer as his successor and offers words of wisdom.
“I have full confidence and faith [Mercer] will do amazing work for the students, as will all of student government,” said Gallino. “My advice to him will be to stay the course. No matter what setbacks and struggles you may encounter in your term, always remember your purpose: connect and serve the students of SSU. Do what’s best in the interests of all. Don’t settle for less.”
Brandon Mercer spoke of his future at Associated Students president.
“This summer is all about unifying our executive team,” Mercer explained. “I hope to develop a set of realistic objects for Associated Students to fervently pursue as soon as the senate comes back into session in late August. As for myself, this summer I hope to develop bonds with Sonoma State’s administrators and faculty to better understand all avenues of change on our campus.”
Mercer said his primary goal in this position is to unite the university and help create a stronger bond between Associated Students and the student body. He feels as though people think student government has become somewhat irrelevant on this campus in recent years and wants to correct this misconception.
“Above all else the students elected me to advocate on their behalf,” he said. “I am calling on our student population to bring their ideas forward as to how we can make long-lasting, positive change on our campus; utilize your school-specific senator, reach out to our officers and let your voice be heard so that these issues can be brought to the table and discussed.”
Mercer said he wants students to know that student government representatives are available through all forms of communication and urges them to email or meet with them in person to relay their thoughts about what changes should be made on campus.
The new president also praised Sonoma State students for voting in favor of the fee referendum in March in order to fund vital campus services; however he feels as though not enough is being done financially in support of students.
He believes the campus is in a critical time considering the state of the economy, post-recession.
“As the economy picks up,” said Mercer, “it will be interesting to see whether Sonoma State and the State of California will make a commitment to our students and expand our current services or whether students will continue to bear the burden of greater fees in order to support the education they deserve.”
The new Associated Students president has taken on a variety of leadership positions and has served on multiple committees alongside higher administration.
He is comfortable speaking to those people on behalf of all Sonoma State students and hopes they will see eye-to-eye on issues presented.
“I have come to the realization that I am not going into meetings alone as me versus the university,” said Mercer. “I am going into those rooms with roughly 9,300 students behind me. This institution would not be here without our students showing up every day. We need to demand more; more classes, more high-level faculty, more services, and above all else, more right to dictate the future of Sonoma State in all regards.”
While Mercer hopes to be the catalyst for big changes on this campus, he also hopes to become a relatable friend to students. When he isn’t overwhelmed with student government, he likes to play golf and focus on fitness. However, his free time has drastically diminished since taking on this new position.
“I have quickly become enthralled in the student government lifestyle,” said Mercer. “As finals wrap up I can’t wait for the new semester to begin and our new senate to begin passing legislation and serving our students.”