UC Student Association plans year

    The UC Student Association held their first meeting of the quarter at UCSD on Oct. 18 and Oct. 19. The first day of the conference was marked by discussion of student fees and their use in student government lobbying, as well as talk of how to form relationships with the state’s new governor-elect and suggestions of offsetting decreasing campus services by increasing registration fees.

    Student government lobbying received attention on a system-wide level prior to the Oct. 7 recall election when UC Berkeley officials investigated the Berkeley Graduate Student Association’s expenditure of $35,000 in student fees on an anti-Proposition 54 campaign.

    According to Anu Joshi, UC Berkeley’s undergraduate vice president external and UCSA’s vice chair, UC policies on student fee spending that Berkeley officials used in criticizing the spending were old policies that had not been updated on the university’s Web site. The University of California’s policies on student fees is currently under revision, with a new version expected in January.

    “”[The Berkeley situation] was a good thing because it helped us realize we need to be very critical of student policies that are coming out,”” Joshi said. “”We need to make sure that all of the loopholes get closed up and that students’ rights are really protected.””

    Robb Thomson, a representative from the Center for Campus Free Speech, a non-profit organization based in Boston, made a presentation on student fee spending. Thomson pointed to the two purported roles for college student governments.

    “”One is kind of a bank, handing out money to student organizations and such,”” he said. “”The other is being an advocate for the student body, which is the version I like, and I think the situation right now questions your ability as student government leaders to advocate on those important issues that affect students and the communities you live in.””

    UCSA University Affairs Director April Labbe, who has been involved in discussions with the University of California Office of the President regarding the new draft fee policy, spoke on the importance of making the UC administration receptive to student input on the new policy.

    “”The new draft policy is hazy,”” Labbe said. “”The chances of them coming out in our favor is really, really slim.””

    Joshi, who gave the example of a College Republicans’ affirmative action bake sale that had been shut down recently at UC Irvine, said fees shouldn’t become a partisan issue.

    “”It’s really about all students’ free speech,”” she said.

    UCSA members decided every campus would take action in presenting a united front on the issue by submitting op-ed pieces to campus newspapers and informing local legislators on the issue by November.

    A different aspect of student fees was discussed in a report by the Council on Student Fees, which is independent from UCSA but works in coordination with the association. Betty Fong, chair of the CSF, suggested that recommendations should be made to the UC Regents that, if student fees should be raised again, they should consider raising the registration fee. Registration fees for UC students currently total $713, and have not been raised for over a decade. Since the registration fee goes toward supporting student services on campus, Fong said that increasing it would benefit students through services.

    “”They don’t have enough budget to make up for increased costs and last year’s 20 percent budget,”” Fong said.

    Student Regent Matt Murray was also present, and spoke on the importance of preventing governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger from cutting funds to the UC system.

    “”I think our new governor-elect presents an opportunity or a challenge, depending on how you look at it,”” Murray said. “”Until January, our main goal should be to focus on him and see what his budget will be like and try to affect that before it comes out.””

    Murray also said that the regents this year would be talking “”substantially”” about increasing fees again.

    UCSA also discussed action items for the year, which include encouraging spending on education instead of prisons, holding the UC Regents accountable for implementing campus environmental sustainability plans, and working toward permanently funding K-12 outreach funding.

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