Prop. 54 campaign challenged

    Reflecting a similar situation being played out at UC Berkeley, UCSD’s A.S. External Affairs Office received notice on Sept. 26 that spending any money on campaigning against Proposition 54, the Racial Privacy Initiative on the upcoming Oct. 7 recall ballot, would be deemed by UCSD officials as going against university regulations.

    UC Berkeley’s ASUC and Graduate Student Assembly had earmarked $35,000 in graduate student funds to campaign against Prop. 54, leading university officials to freeze the ASUC’s funds and ASUC senators to call for the resignation of the ASUC’s external affairs vice president and of the Graduate Assembly’s president.

    According to Harish Nandogopal, UCSD’s A.S. vice president of external affairs, the office of external affairs received a letter from Student Policies and Judicial Affairs Director Nick Aguilar citing two pieces of policy restraining the funding toward the campaign.

    “”I’m perturbed that this has come up so late, after months of planning, and I wish it had been talked about earlier,”” Nandagopal said. “”This is really old, contradictory policy. It’s so inconsistent they can bring out anything they want for any situation.””

    The campaign against Prop. 54 has been visible at UCSD through flyers and posters, and has been led by the office of external affairs in conjunction with a coalition of students and student organizations registered in fall 2002, calling themselves the Coalition Against the Information Ban. According to Nandagopal, the active campaign against Prop. 54, which has thus far been mostly centered on YouthVote, but also involves phonebanking both UCSD students and members of the community, precinct-walking and tabling in front of stores popular with young people. In addition, Nandagopal and A.S. President Jeremy Gallagher went to the San Diego City Chamber of Commerce Meeting on Sept. 25 to speak out against Prop. 54, a stance which the chamber itself later adopted.

    According to Nandagopal, no money has been allocated to the campaign, but if he had allocated it along the way, it would have come from the A.S. Budget’s Outreach, Forums and Rallies line-item. However, for the time being, the campaign will go on being funded by student’s personal funds, and no students will be reimbursed by the office for their expenses.

    “”We’re going full speed ahead right now,”” Nandagopal said. “”We’re pretty positive the proposition is going to fail, but we’re not going to stop working.””

    The policies cited by Aguilar, according to Nandagopal, are sections 83.10 of UC’s policy on student governments and section 15.11.20 of UC’s Policies applying to Campus Activities, Organizations and Students. Section 83.10, which states that “”compulsory student government fees shall not be used to support political, ideological or religious organizations or activities, including, but not limited to, lobbying of public agencies or officials”” was also cited by UC Berkeley officials.

    This policy, however, was superceded by a newer set of guidelines after the UC Riverside’s ASUCR successfully sued the University in 1999. The University of California’s Web site states that this policy is currently under revision, and that these guidelines have been superceded once more by the University of California Guidelines for Funding Registered Campus Organizations and Related Programmatic Activities by Compulsory Student Fees. The new guideline still provide for use of student money in student government lobbying, providing that unhappy students be entitled to a pro-rata refund.

    According to Nandagopal, his office will be instating a refund mechanism by which students who disagree with the use of their fees can fill out a form and get money back.

    Section 15.11.20 of UCSD code states that “”as a State instrumentality, UCSD and the University must remain neutral on religious and political matters. UCSD cannot sponsor or fund political or religious activities…”” However, Nandagopal argued that if this was still true and applied strictly, A.S. members would not be able to partake in the University of California Student Association, a systemwide student lobbying group, nor could they fund the Campus Republicans or the Campus Democrats.

    The External Affairs Office will be meeting with UCSD officials to further discuss legal issues on Sept. 29.

    UCSD officials were not available for comment at press time.

    Further plans for the coalition’s campaign against Prop. 54 include continued phone-banking and a class walkout and rally at 11:15 a.m. on Oct. 1. The rally, which organizers hope will include speakers from the medical community, will take place in Price Center Plaza.

    “”We’re trying to use grassroots strategies,”” Thurgood Marshall junior and coalition member Shareena Turner said. “”If people don’t know what the proposition is about, they’re not going to vote No ó if I was a voter and just read the short description on the ballot, I wouldn’t really understand what it’s about.””

    Both Turner and Nandagopal felt that the campus climate has been unfavorable to the proposition’s passage.

    “”From our phone-banking tallies, we’ve gotten overwhelming No’s […] We’ll be calling them back and reminding them of their commitment before the vote.””

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