“Welcome to 2016-2017 ASUCSD: The 5.2 Million Dollar Question, Part 1 of 10 in an Investigative Series”
Nobody likes their dirty laundry out where everyone can see it, but when that dirty laundry is costing students hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, something is very wrong. Let’s start our trek into what the 2016-2017 Associated Students leadership doesn’t want you to know.
Every quarter we as students pay a $67.25 fee to the university marked as a “campus activity fee” that goes to things from SunGod festival to Safe Rides to Triton Dine during finals week. Now add it all up and that’s a lot of money — $5,171,256.00 to be exact. We, the associated students, elect representatives to allocate this money on our behalf. It is the duty and responsibility for these representatives to safeguard our student fees. Now, quite literally, here is the million-dollar question: What do 50 students do with $5.2 million at their disposal?
Let’s focus on a minor subset, representative of a larger endemic issue. An entity some of you may know, the Student Sustainability Collective, has been allocated $225,305.28 for the 2016-2017 academic year through a mandated referendum lock. That money is controlled independently by the SSC and does not have any oversight by any entity or administration. It can, and do, fund anything it wants, including costs that the A.S. funding guide strictly prohibits, such as airfare. Additionally, it do not need approval for it budget from our representatives in the A.S. Senate. This has led to irresponsible usage of our student fees to fund things like airplane tickets and egregious stipends ($120/week) for the members of this collective. Lack of this representative oversight has resulted in a major lapse of organizational and fiscal accountability to the students.
The Student Sustainability Collective currently displays no governing documents nor an executive budget on its web page. There exists no widespread accessibility to the SSC’s information, and therein lies some of the dirty laundry I was talking about: $64,200 — almost a third of the budget — is used for student stipends while only $28,719, roughly 13 percent, is used for student programming. That means that for every dollar of your student fees who get, 13 cents goes to you while 30 cents goes to paying themselves. To give you some perspective, if this model were applied to Walmart, the top executives and board of directors would each make a little over $8 billion a year — that’s $8,000,000,000.00. Tell me that is sustainable.
Now this is not an isolated problem. This happens across the board on the ASUCSD 2016-2017 budget with student stipends and salaries. And what are our leaders doing about this? I’ll tell you. A minority of your representatives working to rectify this situation have been blocked at every corner by an institution that prizes idealism and narcissism over pragmatism and responsibility. Acts to hold student leaders accountable for their actions have been met with hostility and intolerance from the current A.S. President and the cabinet. Implicit and explicit instructions on what to pass and how to vote have been routinely handed down to the senate from the executive — all but silencing the student voice. This should not, and cannot, be the way our mandatory student fees are distributed.
We as students must demand transparency and accountability from organizations that receive our funding, whether we support them or not. Intolerant and hegemonic structures within the Associated Students leadership have silenced our voices and ensure the continuation of this irresponsibility.
I’ll let you answer the five-million-dollar question yourself, but it is safe to say that our student leaders are not telling us everything they do with our money.
Stay tuned for part two. I’m Zack Gianino and Welcome to the 2016-2017 ASUCSD.