Divest A.S.: How ASUCSD wastes its time and money

    Arguing for three hours over the placement of a comma.

    Shawn No/Guardian

    Most people don’t spend that much time on their midterms, let alone on a meaningless statement that will be forgotten in two weeks. But that’s what UCSD’s all-campus student government does. And that’s one of the reasons why much of its job could be done better by an iMac.

    The “”Associated Students of UCSD,”” as it is formally known, usually spends at least 50 man-hours per week thinking about commas, semicolons and capitalization, as council members write “”resolutions,”” which are essentially policy statements. They represent the official position of ASUCSD on issues as varied as San Diego’s minimum wage, solar energy and hate crimes. These resolutions have no binding authority because ASUCSD has no jurisdiction over labor laws or hate crimes, but the council insists that they are important, burning the midnight oil trying to create the perfect sentence.

    This tendency to spend their free time toiling over the intricacies of semicolons is not, in itself, a cause for worry. The entire literature department is devoted to similar pursuits, with no significant ill effects for the rest of us. However, unlike most literature majors, ASUCSD is responsible not only for working through its members’ grammatical differences but also for allocating over $1.3 million in student fees ‹ at least $63 from every student every year.

    The A.S. council spends gobs of time listening to funding requests from student organizations. Every fraternity, cultural group or student-run newspaper (with the exception of the UCSD Guardian) eventually comes to ASUCSD asking for money. The senators pore over budget documents for hours and eventually allocate funds. The funding process is plagued with the problems accompanying the activities of any large group of people with control over money: human error, cronyism and dissimilar treatment of similarly situated organizations requesting funds. Although senators usually try their best to ensure all groups are treated fairly, the rules are inevitably bent to help out a friendly constituent organization. For example, during their Oct. 22 meeting, the A.S. Council suspended rules forbidding them to give student groups money for food, giving $1,000 to the Muslim Student Association’s “”Ramadan Fast-A-Thon”” event.

    These evils that plague the system, all dependent upon human emotions, would simply disappear if the funding process were automated and monies were released based on an iMac’s calculations. For example, right now A.S. Commissioner of Communications Frances Galvon, the person charged with recommending quarterly funding allocations for student publications, employs a less than logical method of determining how much money to give newspapers. The commissioner looks at how much money the paper requested, and then allocates a percentage of that. The newspaper editors recognize this, and often request more money than they need. If the commissioner gives them only a fraction of what they requested, they know to request more than they need so that they’re assured enough money to produce the paper.

    This practice of funding based on the size of the request isn’t limited to newspapers. Requesting $10,000 for an event always gets more money than requesting the $5,000 that may actually be needed. If the council insists on distributing money in this way, an iMac could do the job much quicker. Student organizations could e-mail their requests to the iMac, and a series of algorithms could determine the appropriate amount to dispense. Hook up an ATM to the iMac, and it’s good to go.

    The A.S. Council recently discussed dissolving several so-called “”task forces”” that have never met. One committee was supposed to look at the ASUCSD election bylaws (meaning study more commas) and another was created to decide whether the student government should declare its independence from the UCSD administration. The task forces, which were created last year and still have no members, have not held a single meeting. At its last meeting, the council couldn’t even decide whether to dissolve the non-existent task forces because their own obscure procedural rules forbade them to take action.

    Again, an iMac could replace ASUCSD in this regard. iMacs are perfectly capable of not taking action and holding imaginary meetings of non-existent, memberless task forces.

    ASUCSD spends thousands of dollars every year sending its members on trips to Sacramento, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and other cities to lobby the UC Regents and the federal and state government. The council’s primary focus of the 2002-03 lobbying season was to lower student fees. In fact, many of the candidates that ran for office last year claimed to have worked to fight the fee increases. Fine and dandy. Noble intentions aside, they were unsuccessful. Their trips consisted of less advocacy and more “”networking”” with other student politicos. They accomplished nothing substantial that wouldn’t have already happened. They campaigned against Proposition 54, which was doomed from the start, and lobbied for same-day voter registration, which failed by a 20 percent margin.

    The amount of money spent sending these people on excursions around the country could have been spent on any number of constructive projects to benefit UCSD. It could’ve gone to student organizations, it could’ve gone to charity, or it could’ve gone to spruce up FallFest a bit. It also could’ve gone to a half- dozen iMacs ‹ all of which could be programmed to work around the clock, e-mailing legislators and UC Regents, getting their attention more effectively than any trip to D.C. would.

    At the very least, ASUCSD’s funding ability should be separated from its advocacy. If council members want to sit around and argue about commas, fine. Let them do so on their own time. But as long as they have $1.3 million of our money to spend, they shouldn’t be doing anything else except deciding how best to spend that money.

    The Student Organizations Funding Advisory Board ‹ made up of representatives from student organizations and charged with making expenditure recommendations to the A.S. Council ‹ is a step in the right direction. But ultimately, the senate still oversees the allocations. Both SOFAB and the senate members are only human, and they have other concerns in their lives besides trying to make sure the table tennis club gets enough paddles. They will still make mistakes and decisions based on personal biases.

    An iMac, however, would not.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal