Regarding the Guardian’s recent article against the University of California Student Association and the United States Student Association referendum: The Guardian is entitled to its opinion, but I fundamentally disagree with the assumptions that formed that opinion.
If you had called either the A.S. external office or USSA, you would have discovered that the USSA is not an independent lobbying organization, but a democratically run coalition of college and university students, run by and accountable to its all-student membership. Each year, USSA member schools set the organization’s action agenda, elect a president and vice president and an all-student board of directors, which meets every other month to run the organization.
For 53 years, USSA members have worked to expand access to students’ lives. In the past year, the organization won a $450 increase to the maximum amount awarded by the Pell Grant, the largest increase in history, and quintupled funding for campus childcare programs. USSA students are currently working to get the interest that recent graduates pay on their student loans declared a tax credit, which would triple savings for the average student. In addition to making college possible for thousands of low-income people, these successes mean money in students’ pockets and are well worth 90 cents per academic quarter.
The Guardian’s primary reason for supporting a UCSA fee, but not a USSA fee, is that the UC Regents do not officially endorse USSA. I would argue this is actually a point that favors voting yes to USSA membership. Students and regents have different interests, so they should have different organizations working for them.
For example, students have a direct interest in knowing accurate information about violent crimes committed on or near campus. Campus and system administrations, however, may want to suppress this information to maintain a good image. We agree and help each other on issues like increasing federal financial aid, but our separate status only makes it more legitimate when we work together. Large university systems like the University of California pay dues to lobbying groups representing everyone from university presidents to financial aid administrators to admissions officers.
There is one voice that speaks for students. UCSD students should choose to make their voices heard and vote yes on membership in the USSA.
— Eugene Mahmoud
A.S. Vice President External
This letter is in response to the negative endorsement of Amendment One of the A.S. Constitution that students are voting on this week. It scares me that more research was not done on this topic; for instance, by talking to A.S. senators who supported this bill by consensus when it was discussed in the A.S. Senate meeting, or by talking with the author — me — who had explicit reasons for writing this amendment.
The currently defined elegibility requirements of senator positions are not being followed, either by the A.S Council or by the colleges. Why? The standards are vague and undefined.
For instance, senators are supposed to be chosen on the number of completed quarters at a university. But the wording does not indicate how many quarters are considered “”freshman,”” “”sophomore,”” etc. So, a fourth-year senior could run for sophomore senator perfectly legally.
I wrote this amendment to leave it up to the colleges to set their standards for selecting their senators. This is for three reasons: First, it implies that the senators represent the colleges, and in A.S. Judicial Board hearings when a college is trying to impeach a college senator with A.S. opposition, this helps define whose senator it really is. Second, with the colleges setting their own standards of senator classification, it allows for each college to determine the representative nature of their senator. Third, appointments of senators would become standardized: With the implementation of this amendment, colleges would make appointments based on a standard, instead of on ambiguous A.S. constitutional outlines which are not followed in the least.
If this amendment fails, I encourage anyone to run in next year’s election for any senator position. Even if you are told that elgibility depends on your “”class standing with the university,”” that is not what the current A.S. Constitution states, and that’s exactly what I intended to change.
I have previously sent letters to the editor being constructively critical of Guardian reporting, each letter done in fairness, but lazy reporting should be brought to the student body’s attention, especially when the Guardian claims it is providing a “”service”” to the student body by affirmatively or negatively endorsing candidates and amendments.
Thank you, and I challenge you to print this letter and let the students decide for themselves.
— Christina Villegas
Muir College Council and author of Amendment One