Students don’t want to join CSUN. Low retention rates, endless vacancies and the current unopposed executive ticket make that obvious. This ultimately begs the question: what steers students away? Is it the toxic environment coupled with the endless gossip flowing through its halls as some students have testified? Or the unbearable workload that leads to inevitable burnout that many former members have recalled? CSUN can be a fulfilling experience and create significant change, but if its toxic environment and workload don’t improve, students should participate in an organization more worthwhile.
CSUN (Consolidated Students of UNLV) is a student-led government that aims to create change on campus by advocating for the student body’s needs. According to CSUN’s website, each year the organization allocates $1.6 million for the school year and is responsible for funding student scholarships, sponsorships and RSOs.
“Students don’t really understand how intricate our organization is,” said CSUN President Kevin Leon-Martinez. “I feel like many people perceive CSUN as a student council (STUCO) in high school. We are nothing of the sort,” continued Martinez. “For one, we are [student] elected officials recognized by the state.”
Though its goals are admirable, most students don’t view this organization or its constituents in the most positive light, some even going as far as describing its environment as toxic.
“CSUN feels like if STUCO and debate kids from high school banded together to create one entity,” said a former CSUN intern, who wished to remain anonymous. “The trickle of drama about the disagreement between people in the office has seeped out. It is still questionable how reliable or trustworthy CSUN is in regard to the email incident last semester.” The members continued their testimony by sharing what they witnessed with the email sent out to students last fall.
Last semester, internal CSUN drama fueled an recall of the elected student body president and vice president at the time, Issac Hernandez and Dyana Melchor. The growing tensions within the student organization resulted in a petition created and led by former members of CSUN’s judicial council. Gaining traction through students distributing the petition link, Hernandez and Melchor resigned from the organization citing the environment to be toxic and unfavorable to their mental health.
“I can’t speak for Diana’s part, but there was a lot of thought that went into our resignations. We were both tired, tired of the amount of hits we took willfully. It messed with our mental, social and academic lives,” said Hernandez.
Prior to Hernandez’s departure, he utilized his CSUN email to send out a message to the student body informing them of what was happening at CSUN. Many across campus found the email to either be informative or problematic for its lack of context, given that so many students often are out of the loop with CSUN’s happenings.
When asked to comment on the email’s effect on CSUN’s image, Martinez said, “Students got a messy taste of what CSUN sometimes is. We are students, drama is bound to happen. In CSUN we solve conflict internally, we don’t really like to showcase all of that. It’s just not what the students need to know or care about.”
CSUN’s toxic environment spans beyond just interpersonal gossip. It can often result in negative consequences on people’s lives. Jerwin Tiu, CSUN vice president, recalled a moment that he found traumatic. “UPD [was] called to my house by another resentful CSUN member for unfounded reasons, others telling lies about what I’ve done,” said Tiu. “I even had a whole Reddit post filled with [statements and] accounts that weren’t true or credible in any regard.”
While Tiu recalled moments when he faced the consequences of gossip, he ironically continues to prove how hypocritical many of CSUN’s representatives are when condoning gossip alone. Before Tiu’s voting in as CSUN’s student body vice president, he had a tarnished image in the organization for his alleged mishandling of CSUN’s social media accounts.
During Tiu’s time as associate director for marketing in the 51st session, he was criticized by CSUN and members of the student body for what many have perceived as childish behavior in taking over the CSUN Instagram. In a video posted last spring, Tiu used bathroom language and said “I just wanted to say that I am visibly upset. That once again people are trying to silence me as an Asian American amidst all of the Asian discrimination going on these days and I am not here for it,” yelled Tiu. “Count your days CSUN, count your days!” Tiu concluded his video takeover by telling viewers that he decided to delete all comments on the social media account as a consequence of his comment not being allowed. “If I’m gonna be silenced, we’re all gonna be silenced,” yelled Tiu. “Is it a bit childish? Sure. But I don’t care.”
Following Tiu’s actions with the organization, he disappeared from the 51st session and later returned once Martinez was installed as student body president. Trying to make his way back into the CSUN senate as a senator, Tiu had a rocky start trying to gain back his credibility after his behaviors on the CSUN Instagram and for his alleged record of problems with other students on campus, which was documented through the UNLV Campus Crime Log. All-in-all, testimony from members like Tiu continues to prove that CSUN is often a hypocritical environment that calls for change but does the opposite.
Not only is the environment negative, but the workload is intense and students receive very little compensation for it. A high workload with little reward leads to inevitable burnout for students. “There were a number of times where I’ve seen every position you could possibly think of in CSUN, and you would see them at some point in time with a face of tiredness. And for me, I can’t be like ‘get back to work,’” said Hernandez.
According to Martinez, senators attend weekly Monday meetings that can last one to five hours depending on the agenda. They must be a part of two committees, whose biweekly meetings also range from three to five hours. Each month, they must also fulfill eight outreach and marketing hours and a couple of office hours. Those are the base hours for a yearly stipend of only $2,500. If a student chooses to pursue a chair or higher position, they will put in more work for slightly more compensation.
“In the senate, the maximum number of students is 25, and it’s rarely been at full capacity. Whenever it is, within two or three weeks, people resign or step down,” Martinez said. This may be because college students have classes to worry about, and many of them also have to work jobs to survive in order to pay tuition.
The time commitment expected from CSUN is unrealistic for so many, especially since it has been reported that at times senate meetings can run until 11 p.m.
“Knowing that UNLV is a commuter campus and there’s not a lot of undergraduate classes being offered that late, it’s inaccessible for students to want to participate in,” said Hernandez.
At its core, CSUN is bestowed with the responsibility of allocating student funds to RSO’s and other student initiatives on campus. This begs the question that if there are no representatives, can the organization still function and serve its purpose? Or will administrators have to step in and start working for students? While the answer to this is unknown, the track record that CSUN currently has predicts that the organization isn’t too far off from dying out.
CSUN, as we know it, is broken.
Between unrealistic expectations about the number of hours CSUN jobs take and hurtful political drama that discourages participation, UNLV’s student government is in dire need of an overhaul. The burning question is whether CSUN will implode or whether someone can rescue it from self-destruction.
If you’re a student considering CSUN as an extracurricular, join at your own risk.