News Analysis: A.S. takes a few steps in meeting goals

Analysis of A.S. President Mark Heath’s letter to students, which, among other things, mentioned what A.S. has done to promote service.

Kathryn Watson, Writer

A.S. President Mark Heath emphasized his role as a servant and enabler of students in his address to students as he completes his first semester in office.

Heath’s address comes as the senate passes the Coalition for Social Actioon (CSA) as a permanent chair position starting next fall, with 14 votes and one abstention. The program, which has been temporary for the past three semesters, was denied permanence by the senate two previous times. Cameron Spencer, A.S. vice president of marketing and communications, called the addition a “monumental step” for A.S.

Heath’s address also correlated with the senate’s approval of the spring ’10 budget, which was finalized Tuesday night. Departments across the board (with the exception of Spirit Board), the senate and payroll are expected to see increases over the spring ’09 budget, according to the budget compiled by Terry Coon, A.S. vice president of finance. Spirit Board’s spring funding is expected to drop from $5,930 in ’09 to $4,335 for ’10. Payroll saw the biggest cut, down from $85,000 to $75,000.

The senate will see no difference in funding. Percentage-wise, marketing will see the biggest increase, from $500 to $1,550, but Social Board saw the largest increase numbers-wise from $23,500 in ’09 to $34,905 for ’10. Contingency currently stands at approximately $40,040.55 according to Coon.

The four positions Heath mentioned were those of Alpha West senator, South Horton senator, both of which were vacated and refilled this semester, and for the Block senator and Alpha East senator, both of which were vacated and refilled over summer. The senators for the Block and Alpha East were unable to return to Biola, Heath explained.

Budgets and senate members aside, “service,” the second component of Heath and running mate Justin DeVesta’s campaign slogan this spring, has been implemented -— somewhat. Around 40 students participated in the first-ever A.S.-run Biola Serve Day, an event DeVesta hoped to see grow next semester. At the March A.S. Presidential Debate, Heath went so far as to advocate the reinstatement of mandatory service projects.

“That puts you in a better position for God to grow you,” he argued at the debate.

Evidently, that’s one idea that hasn’t been implemented. On the flip side, Heath recognized that much of the idea behind “service” entails A.S.’s responsibility to serve the student body too.

Heath promised in his address to continue advocating for students in spring, something he did in September, when he presented a proposal to a few members of the board of trustees to alter the policy prohibiting social dancing on campus.

A.S. has also continued to welcome speakers from outside Biola, a vision Heath carried with him as the former director of religious and academic relations. Heath, who was largely responsible for making the appearance of atheist Christopher Hitchens possible in April, made it clear in his campaigns that drawing outside intellectuals onto campus was a priority of his.

But A.S. still has work to do.

One such goal yet to be actualized is establishing a “centralized interdepartmental center” at Biola to address issues of culture and diversity, something Heath called a top-priority project of his in March.

Heath said the idea, which was introduced by others before he began his presidency, will continue to take shape over the next five-or-so years. But the senate may see proposals for steps in that direction as early as spring, he said.

Heath’s concerns over the SUB center around the fact that student-useable space has decreased, while student population has increased about threefold since the building was created decades ago. Heath hoped spring would hear discussions and decisions over that issue too.

“My hope is that we will grow with concern so much that administration will look at this and say, ‘Okay, this is a serious problem,’” he said.

Heath was right — the spring semester should be an eventful one.

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