“My name is Denise Rinaldi, I’ve had several different positions over the last 27 years with UCSB. Currently I am back here as a retiree being rehired as the Assistant Director for Special Projects, but before that for a lot of my career I was the Assistant Director for Human Resources and External Communication.”
Interviewed by: Christine Hoang
When did you first come to UCSB?
Well, I came as a student. I actually transferred here as a student, I started University of Colorado in Boulder for two and a half years and then transferred here and took a year off school to establish residency in California and then many several many years later I came back on staff. I started in a 50% time job down in the main office helping with the legal code in 1990 and legal code at that time was sort of a mess, that this the Senate had computers were still fairly new there we had a little Mac network, but this Senate had written something like a hundred bills what was called Legislative Council then and sometimes I still slipped and call it Legislative Council had written something like a hundred bills that it was March when I started and not a single one of them had been entered into the legal code and every piece of legal code wasn’t its own separate document. But of course like I say we had those little tiny Mac SEs, these little tiny boxes, you probably have never seen one. It was definitely before your time, computing and networking was all very new. Email didn’t exist at that time so it was, everything was kind of hardwired, but that’s what I started.
What is your favorite aspect of UCSB?
My favorite part of Associated Students is even though I’ve been in a lot of different positions over the years, it’s always new. It’s always interesting. The students always bring fresh ideas or sometimes it’s about the same issues if you go back into the historical files, but they don’t give up. There’s new technology, there’s new things happening in the world and students are always the ones who are on top of that. So one of the things I love about being here is it keeps me in touch with what’s going on in the world and what matters to students and it’s always just new and different. There’s never a dull moment, so the job itself at Associated Students is always, you can come in and plan your gonna get this done today and something happens and in fact it’s sort of thrown out the window and you’re doing something else, which you know, can be frustrating too I suppose, but it’s really it’s just so it’s flexible it’s a it’s a great environment, we have great colleagues. UCSB in general, I think well one of course it’s a beautiful, beautiful college campus and I’ve seen various college campuses but it is really beautiful. And there is a lot of different stuff going on. There’s a lot of arts offerings, theater offerings, dance offerings… lectures. There’s so much happening on the campus in this beautiful place and Associated Students is part of the Division of Student Affairs and I think Student Affairs is really always tried to find ways within the limitations of their budget and people to really make things work for us to do to help students as much as possible. And it’s not always perfect, there’s certainly a lot of need out there that’s not met I’m sure, but I think that there is a lot also that is offered and so that really is one of the exciting things I think about this campus. It’s wonderful and my time here in Associated Students I’ve always felt really supported as a staff person, there’s been, I’ve been through about four different executive directors, but the culture for staff has been supportive of that work-life balance and you don’t always find that everywhere. Even though, the campus in other departments and on campus, I think but there has always been support there for people who have different needs and I think what happens too, is in the staff I know for myself because I’ve given so much. I’m willing to do stuff that is outside my working hours or jump in and try to help with different projects. I want to give the best to this department because that it’s a wonderful place to work, I love the students and the department is supportive of me. So I wanted to be around and be supportive too.
Elaborate a little bit more, so I understand you recently retired but you worked at UCSB and have had association with UCSB for about 30 years overall, how was your experience within AS?
I started at AS in 1990 as it was really more of an office assistant position, trying to help straighten out the main office. We were over in the other part of the building at that time, where the food bank is…the upstairs office is there. It was a 50% time position, but it was a career position and I took that position partly because I’m also a ballet teacher and so I was able to have steady income that was an interesting job. And then go teach ballet everyday and that job grew and I learned and I got a lot of professional development and I went from being down in the main office where you’re really with a lot of students and their government and you’re hearing students talking about the issues and dealing with the legal code and policies and all that. To becoming more of an assistant for this executive director at the time, and then that executive director left. Then and I became more into helping with human resources, so my job really grew and changed over the years, very slowly, but one of the things that’s great about this department is that there’s a lot of professional development. The other thing is, of course though moving in that way, I started off really in there with students all the time and so it was very close to whatever was happening with students and over the years my job shifted, so that I am not as in touch with what’s happening now. I don’t know the students as well, but I’m really impressed with how things continue to grow and how I think the students are on our campus affect student issues a lot and from what I hear, our campus is represented really well at the Regent meetings up in Berkeley or down in wherever they are, people go and they support it. They fight for the issues and all of that for this stuff. So over 30 years, the campus has grown a lot… a lot of different buildings. one time I drove way over by the dance building and over there, when the first the buildings first went up and I went wait a minute, Where am I? I don’t recognize this part of campus because I hadn’t been there yet and so there’s a lot of parking lots that have been turned into buildings now. A lot of buildings and an increase in student population, which sort of comes with its own problems when the growth happens and infrastructure is not always in place. But wow, it’s that, it’s the same and yet there’s a lot of growth and change. Certain governmental issues remain the same, you know, different election kinds of things,watching the elections over the years has been interesting.
“Is there any message that you’d like to just give to UCSB students or any final remarks?”
I think it’s amazing that you witnessed the growth and to see UCSB change. Over the years, what have you had any experienced or what is your experience with like student activism?
I think the students here today yes are that what are the most active governmental groups in the UC system and I’ve only experienced one Regents meeting here at the campus that were I was really aware of what was going on anyway and so that was very interesting… how there were only a few students let into that and how it was controlled. The Regents controlled the environment, which I can understand on one hand, but also it gives you the feeling is that people who are deeply affected by what they’re talking about couldn’t cut out. But our students and all of the boards and committees we have do so much work on that behalf. I mean, yes there’s the Senate, which used to be Legislative Council and representation on UCSA and USSA, those things I think have been really important. Our campuses always supported them, but the work of boards and committees is huge and I think that when you think what Student Lobby has done and training young people for the future and you think that the number of students that have left here and gone to Washington D.C. and worked there and been part of USSA are part of other lobbying efforts, are part of of US politics, the marches that happen every year, things like Take Back the Night that happens every year and there’s those standard things that have been become traditional voices over the years and then there’s new things. In the last presidential election, the marches that happened were really empowering and I think that was really actually one of the first times I personally went to the marches and the protests and listened to what the students… followed along with that and I found it really empowering. I think our students are very they’re in touch with what’s going on, they research things, they speak up and there’s a history of it on this campus and every time that the students make progress here it reflects out to the other campuses and then to our students… go to Washington, it reflects out. I mean I know there’s students from other campuses everywhere, but I’ve just seen a lot. I’m thinking about Bill in 2006, I forget his last name at the moment, but he was really instrumental in passing the students initiative which was the fee that raised Associated Students’ budget so dramatically and it was a coalition of lots of different departments and Boards and Committees on campus and and that was just one example of what he did and how he was just very instrumental in it. He wasn’t the only one of course about building those coalitions and students do that all the time. I know he ended up in Washington. So yes we have a history of activism and I think we have a video on it too. When we hire new staff members: Aaron Jones, who used to be our Assistant Director for Community, he would take people on a tour. It wasn’t just a tour of the campus, it was a little tour about AS spaces and what AS has done and AS activism. When students took over Campbell Hall and why those planters are out there…you could get some many people right in front of them. When you go through North Hall,l the information about the Black Studies and that all of that is visually represented there, so things like that are there. I love that Aaron has such a history himself. He as a student, as an activist, and as a support. I’m sure you’ll interview him at some time if you already haven’t. But yeah, when I first arrived, Mike Stowers was President. I think Aaron was shortly after that, not too many years after. So it was it’s kind of fun to see him too and how he grew from a Student President, student here and left right away for a while, did all sorts of remarkable things, came back got a PhD, and was here back as a staff member supporting students for so long. He’s the director of the EOP, so still doing good work for students, but in a different capacity. He’s just a wealth of information.
From what I understand, I know you essentially created the Associated Students legal code or took a huge part in it?
Making it cohesive, let’s say.
When did the legal code begin, or when did you begin working on it?
The legal code began in early early years when the Association was first created and so I mean, you could go back at history… I know we went did some research all the way back to the 30s and then in the 50s when it became an official university campus and so it’s been there in some form, but when I started, it was the first time it was more than a regular typed form, it was actually on a computer for the first time and the typed forms, like I said it was really kind of a just a series of documents. It wasn’t a code, it was a series of documents and students changed it by a similar process to what we had now, but then, in that document it wasn’t changed and a new document was put in. So when I came along, it was then finally ‘Here’s in the Constitution on the computer’ and that hasn’t changed terribly much, although it is has changed a little and then ‘Here’s all the legal code’ and it wasn’t all everything in its own document, in different sections. So one of the first things I did when I was here was to take all of the legislation.. the hundred bills or more they had written and put them into each, make the changes that they had wanted me to make and then I put the whole legal code into one book, so it became one document. So you can reference it. I mean in part of that it’s just the advent of computers so that you could more easily compile things so students create the legal code, but staff really kind of make sure that everything that is changed by students then gets into that document and maintain that document in the integrity of that document, so that it is an accurate picture of what students have wanted every year and I think I have some documents some of the legal codes going back to like 1987.
How did you end up taking up the project of compiling everything in the legal code?
That happened because there were students in the main office and only students. The staff was quite a bit smaller then and so students wrote the legislation that were on Leg council and then left it to students in the main office to try to do something with it and of course students who are working there: schooling is coming first and they are here 10 hours a week maybe. Maybe somebody’s here on Monday for a couple hours and the scheduling… So students have finally decided they did need help with one just even supervising and scheduling and hiring people for the main office… and to shepherd all that and and to keep the lead to maintain the legal code and so I was fortunate enough to get that first job. It was a brand new newly created job to help with that process the first main thing was the legal code and then the students in the main office. So that I happen to be looking for a part-time job at the time because I was a ballet teacher and who would have known that I’d be here for 30 years and become full-time eventually and all of that so yes it was a need that the students identified and went out and hired. I kept that in my job description for many many years until it was finally turned over to a few other people, but every time that we somebody left that was doing the legal code it would find its way back to me. We’d hire someone I’d be training that person, but Holly’s got it down there, she’s really good.
How long did it take to get the legal code to how it is now?
It changes weekly actually, but well I could tell you that when I first started which was the beginning of March and it took me working practically most of my time almost probably fifteen hours a week. It took me till July, that was in 1990, to get it in order and get all those bills in and then there were more being done. Of course I was doing some other things at the time as well, it probably depends on the number of changes that the students make. But I would say weekly, because there’s more to it than just putting the input into the code itself. The student writes a bill and then and it says I want to change this section and then the Senate has to table it and it goes through the internal committee and then the Senate votes on it, so then that person has to make sure they get the right final copy of the bill and it is put into a copy that pasted into a bill form and there’s a log we keep that I started a hundred years ago that they’re still doing, so it’s logged what the bill number was, what the name of it was, who the authors are, it was tabled which date, then passed or not passed, or tabled again and any notes about it, was it amended or was it not, so there’s this log and then you go through the log and you have to pull up each bill and say ok this was passed on this date and it says ‘Changed section four on Student Lobby to these people and you go through and literally make the changes– strike out that person and ideally a bill is written so it just shows strike out, what they want removed, and italics about what they want added, but it’s not always that clear because sometimes they’ll miss something so you do have to look to make sure your language of the bill is matching what’s already in the legal code and then sometimes things happen like in September, Section Ten got amended and that’s been put into the legal code and then come February somebody amends that section again, but they’re using an old version of the legal code. They forget to get the newest version from someone, so then it’s not matching and you have to fare out their intentions or talk to them and make sure that’s what this new bill like, did they mean to take out that section or not or leave out or is it just that they were using the old version? So there’s some detective work there and sometimes it’s not always clear, but it’s getting better and better, especially with technology. They have more things in Google Drive that students can see right in front of them. But it’s not always just that straightforward and then the other thing that the person who’s doing the legal code does is…a student will change a section not realizing that affects another section. Especially there may be something understand in policies and so they not matching and I can’t change the legal code, only the students can. The job of that person is then to say you’ve got this section you’ve just done, but it’s conflicting with this. This part takes precedent or not, so you might want to consider rewriting this or changing this part, so it doesn’t conflict, so then you go through all of that. Because the legal code, here’s the Constitution: like I said there’s not been very many changes to the Constitution over the years because first, it’s a broad document and secondly, the student population votes on it. So if somebody wants to change that document they have to present it to the student body at elections. Then and it’s not meant to be changed frequently, it’s like the Constitution of the United States, you don’t have to change it every week. But the bylaws are and the standard policies, those can be changed frequently. Those are supposed to be a guideline for this board and committee and how they do it and maybe they’re changing how they’re doing things, so they’re updating it but some of the policies that is housed in Associated Students operates. Here are your policies that you’re going to live by and in the financial policies: how you’re gonna spend money, how you’re going to allocate it, who gets to allocate it, what your process is that you have to go through to request money from something, the rules about ‘you’re not gonna spend that money on alcohol’, and because they are student funds right? You have to be good stewards, students might debate more or more and then there’s laws around certain things, you have to be content-neutral. Students cannot say, ‘Oh I’m gonna fund this person, but not this person because I like that person,’ you have to be equitable and neutral and all of that stuff, so there’s a lot that goes into the policy because this policy that has to fit in with campus policy, which has to fit in with free gentle policy, state law, federal law…
Just seeing the legal code, I guess I didn’t think about how much effort and how many people it took to truly develop it how it is now.
Not too many years ago when Jonathan Abboud was President, they redid the whole thing and that’s when this came about. He reorganized it, well him and the Senate at that time and Jonathan is the one that did a pretty that was a pretty big overhaul of legal code, the biggest one that I’d ever seen in many years. I like this particular graphic because it really shows what they were thinking and how the branches of government fit together and how the boards and committees fits in there, the creation of units, and that units were a new thing and of course there are still some holes in the legal code where they took what existed, put it all in units. I was the advisor of the creative media unit, it was a new thing and so at first it was just in there and then you had to write how’s it going to operate and get that in there and now it’s going and now it’s updated, but there’s probably still a few things in the legal code that never got all of their policies and procedures and stuff in there.
At some point, the Living History Project will have to go through this process, once it’s more established.
That’s part of what the internal committee should be doing it also – that’s a huge job, it’s not something that could happen all at once and now that they have Holly, that’s part of what she’ll be doing. As she’s putting things into legal code, she looks at it carefully and she will be the person who has the whole thing with her the most and she’ll be making notes and suggestions to different committees that ‘You might want to update this or…’ and of course the boards and committees, they look at their own parts, but it’s the other policies that somebody has to kind of keep their eye on.
I’m aware AS has numerous BCUs, how were they created or how did they start?
I probably can’t tell you the very first creation of it, although you because you can find some of them like Community Affairs Board with different names if you look in the historical archives at Special Projects, there’s stuff way back there and so they grow out of a need. For example, there was three new ones created last year: the Transfer Student one, there’s a Gaucho Health one and I forget the third one, but there were three new groups, so either a student has an interest in a particular area and starts to have a group and they start to meet and then it grows in interest and the students identify a need, like more support for transfer students and so they decide that they want to create a group and meet and see what how can students help other students who are transferring and how can they be involved in the transfer policies of the campus and then that grows and it becomes formalized and so okay now we know if we want to identify goals and what kind of money is that going to take and then you have to go through the AS budget process and get funds allocated and so after that you’ve got funds so now you can do some of these projects and then this students about to graduate so hopefully they pass on all the information to younger students coming up, those students then come into the leadership roles so committee either grows and blossoms because there is interest and and a need or it fades away because there is no longer an interest and a need or it’s being done by someone else. There are various committees over the years, AS Program Board being a really strong committee that’s been around for a long time, so there is Community Affairs Board… there’s probably 20 committees that have been here since I first started and before and then others that have disappeared and new ones started like Creative Media Unit was a new one as well and so that unit is only probably five years old and I could remember well the first year it had one person that wanted to have these goals and the next year we had three or four people and they were trying to make the guidelines for how it would operate and then pretty soon it had a real committee and real weekly meetings and submitting minutes to the Senate and getting a real budget and producing events and having projects and so now it’s thriving because there was a need and there was an interest and they were able to grow it. Hopefully the Living History Project is similar.
We are in the process of aiming to be a BCU, but still developing a little bit more. Actually this quarter, starting to get outside interest, more student participation.
We had a project at one time, there was a small staff member group there were three or four of us who went to Special Collections and we looked through all the boxes there. When you start to read some of the issues, you got students are still working on that today: tuition hikes and more fees and the cost of trying to get your degree here, but there’s lots of things like that and then there’s lots of other different things that’s just fascinating and you can learn a lot about what was done before. History is, I’ve always found it fascinating myself. I think the activism part of the Living History Project is really good to capture.
As a closing remark, is there any message that you’d like to just give to UCSB students or any final remarks?
I really think just keeping up the work, keeping up the activism, the voice, because it’s very easy to either get discouraged, especially and I’m discouraged right now in this particular political climate we’re in, but it will roll around. Well it’s discouraging sometimes and you’ve got a lot to do and there’s so much, but our voices matter and students are the ones that I really admire because I see students really thoughtful about their voices and it’s important and students make the difference. They do make a difference. That’s how a lot of stuff has come up about on campus so I just would say students don’t give it up. Keep going.