ASCMC Behind the Scenes

ASCMC elections are next week so now is a good time to (re-)explain what ASCMC does and what positions need to be filled for the 2010-2011 term.

Why write this now? Because very few people understand how ASCMC actually operates. Even though the organization serves over 1,100 people on a daily basis, the number of people who actually know "how things work" is only a couple dozen at most. So in the interest of a fair and transparent election, here's "what I've learned."

ASCMC, Inc.

The Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC) is a 501(c)3 organization. In legal terms, that means we file our own tax returns, write our own checks, keep our own books, and are legally independent from the school.

What does "legally independent" mean? It means that ASCMC is responsible and liable for any events we put on, anything in the Forum (ASCMC's official "newspaper"), and any internal controversies that arise. In the past, this has meant that students who take complaints about ASCMC's actions to CMC's administration have no recourse except with ASCMC itself. ASCMC is governed by its own constitution and bylaws, which also helps shield us from overzealous administrators (a future possibility; not a present reality).

Of course, the Dean of Students can still cancel our parties, the Dean of Faculty still chooses our graduation speakers (Kravis 2010!), and if ASCMC really screws up, the school could probably withhold student fees (but that would never happen).

Finances

Student fees are tacked onto tuition at $235 per year for every full-time student. 100 percent of that goes to ASCMC. Technically, it goes to CMC then to the ASCMC CFO in the form of a check for the full amount each semester. The CFO then takes that check down to the Wells Fargo branch in the Village and deposits it into our business account there. The CFO, President, and Vice President are signatories on that account so can deposit or withdraw money when necessary. Right now there is $177,740.54 in the checking account, but a lot of that is earmarked toward something or otherwise unreconciled. Like most corporations, money comes in and out so frequently that it's hard to know exactly how much is available, but it's always easy to get a general idea.

The Budgeting Committee (see Constitution) decides where the money goes. There a few guidelines such as a minimum allocation for Senate, but which fund gets how much is otherwise entirely discretionary. The Budget Committee also creates funds, such as a "Wedding Party" fund for special events and causes.

When someone spends money on an ASCMC event or approved expenditure, they save the receipts, submit a reimbursement form, and Chris writes them a check within a week or two. In extraordinary cases we'll do a wire transfer or advance payment (for Lupe Fiasco's fee, for example), but the policy is generally reimbursement only.

Positions

Before explaining the positions on the Board of Directors, I should mention that the "Powers and Duties" of each board member are very clearly outlined in the ASCMC Constitution. I should also say that those and the descriptions listed below describe the bare minimum that each board member must do. Everyone usually goes above and beyond.

Everyone on Board gets a stipend of varying amounts, which are listed in the Constitution. The President gets free room and board because of the opportunity cost of being an RA (generally, DOS will not let an RA be in a significant ASCMC position because of conflict of interest and time commitment issues). All board members traditionally get certain perks like mass e-mailing privileges and best seating for concerts they help plan. Again, if you're thinking about running or applying for one of these positions, you need to read the Constitution to know what you're getting yourself into.

Elected Positions:

President (Isayas Theodros)

The ASCMC President is responsible for the health of the organization. He presides over the Board of Directors meetings every week and represents ASCMC in discussions with the administration.  The President has many more responsibilities not listed here, but this is the short version. The President is almost always (and maybe always) someone who has been on the Board of Directors before because of the level of experience the job requires.

Vice President (Me)

The Vice President's main responsibilities are running weekly ASCMC Senate meetings, appointing students to and serving on trustee, faculty, and college committees, and working with the President to ensure the health of the organization. Like the President, the Vice President is responsible for more than this, but I'm keeping these descriptions brief. Also like the ASCMC President, the Vice President is usually someone who has been on the Board before.

Class Presidents (William Robelo-Lara '10, Tammy Phan '11, Will Kahn '12, Aditya Pai '13)

The Class Presidents are all given the same basic responsibilities: represent and organize activities for their class. Each president is given a discretionary fund (this year in the range of $2,000-17,000) from which to spend on class activities. This year the junior class went to The Price Is Right, the sophomores had some "SophoWars" thing (I still don't know what that was all about), etc. Additional responsibilities include running Monte Carlo (Junior Class President) and speaking at graduation (Senior Class President).

Social Activities Chair (Andrew Cosentino)

The SAC is the party planner-in-chief of ASCMC. The SAC is more or less responsible for making sure there's something to do on campus every Saturday night. He or she usually manages a budget around $10,000 - 25,000 for the year.

Social Life Chair (Kenley Turville)

The SLC is responsible for throwing dry events on and off campus. For example, the Dodgers games, Hub Quiz, and Gossip Girl showings. The SLC's budget usually matches the SAC's.

Dorm Affairs Chair (Ben Kraus)

The DAC runs Dorm President meetings and oversees TNCs and other dorm events. The DAC also receives a discretionary fund around $8,000. Traditionally the DAC also helps the SAC with bigger events.

Appointed Positions:

Clubs and Organizations Chair (Johnny Ko)

The CO Chair or "the clubs guy" is most recognized for delving out funding allocations to clubs during budget hearings in April and throughout the year on a discretionary basis (with a $5,000-10,000 discretionary fund). The CO Chair also serves on the Budgeting Committee. The CO chair is vital in keeping the organization together as clubs receive a huge portion of ASCMC funding so the CO Chair has to keep in constant communication with club leaders.

Chief Financial Officer (Chris Jones)

This is the guy who writes the checks, manages the books, files the tax and legal documents, and knows what's really going on behind the scenes. An extremely important position because we do not have the resources to pay a full time accountant (but we do have one alumnus CPA who volunteers a few hours now and then).

Executive Secretary (Cara Daley)

A great way to get involved in ASCMC, this job involves taking minutes at meetings and serving on a few internal committees. As with any position on Board, the Exec Sec can also step up and do other things within ASCMC, so don't think it's all taking notes and filing memos.

Other Positions

There are lots of other ways to get involved with ASCMC -- Forum Editor and staff, Senators, Senate President Pro-Tempore, RA Liaison, Financial Advisor, Presidential Advisor -- but I'm not going to detail all of them here. Of course, if you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.