Council petitioned to comply with Brown Act

    The College Republicans at UCSD recently started a petition asking the A.S. Council to adhere to California’s Ralph M. Brown Act, which requires legislative bodies to set agendas at least 72 hours before a meeting. The law also requires that notices be sent to constituents one week prior to meetings.

    “”What we’re doing is not malicious,”” College Republicans chair Chris Taylor said. “”Every student has a right to know where their money is going. When the A.S. [Council] doesn’t have agendas written out, it makes it difficult for students to respond to things that are going on.””

    However, according to A.S. Commissioner of Student Advocacy Jeff Boyd, the A.S. Council consulted Student Policies and Judicial Affairs director Nicholas S. Aguilar and was advised that the Brown Act does not apply to ASUCSD.

    “”The A.S. [Council] is not responsible for adhering to the Brown Act,”” Boyd said. “”We as a student government are not necessarily subject to the Brown Act because our authority comes from the chancellor. We are an advisory body and the chancellor can dissolve us at any time.””

    According to Aguilar, meetings of the A.S. [Council] do not have to adhere to the Brown Act.

    “”In my opinion, the Brown Act does not apply to student governments,”” Aguilar said. “”What student governments are bound to are constitutional articles and bylaws which sets how meetings should be conducted and whether they should be public or not.””

    Boyd said agendas for A.S. [Council] meetings are posted on their Web site and are available to everyone by Tuesday afternoons, approximately 24 hours before the council’s Wednesday meetings.

    “”We try to have agendas up on the Web site so that if people have an issue, they can come in and feel free to speak on that,”” Boyd said.

    According to text of the act, which was first enacted in 1988, the Brown Act was established with the philosophy that “”public agencies exist for the purpose of conducting public business, and the public has the right to know how its collaborative decisions are being made.””

    According to an opinion from the California Attorney General’s office in 1992, community college student governments must adhere to the Brown Act. The opinion, however, does not mention UC student governments.

    According to Jeff Boyd, the UC system differs from community colleges because it is governed by the UC Board of Regents, who designate a chancellor for each campus who has the ultimate authority when it comes to student governments.

    “”Community colleges and state schools are generally designed for all applicants from all residents, and so community college [student governments] would probably have to fall under the authority of the Brown Act,”” Boyd said. “”However, the UC schools are selective, and authority is given to the Regents who pass down the authority to [the A.S. Council].””

    Ann Parode from Campus Counsel, which deals with legal issues for the university and reports to the Office of the Chancellor, also said that there are differences between community college and UC student governments.

    “”A community college is a ëlocal district,’ for purposes of the Brown Act, whereas the Regents of the University of California is a ëpublic trust’ created under the California constitution,”” Parode said. “”It is a statewide administrative agency, not a local agency.””

    Taylor said that while there are questions of whether the Brown Act applies to UC student governments, the A.S. Council should still consider following the act.

    “”[The] A.S. [Council] is contesting that they don’t fall under this, and if that’s true, it’s not a lot to ask to support something like this,”” Taylor said. “”I’d be really surprised if they don’t want to do this because it’s basically saying they don’t want any accountability, and they don’t want students to come when they’re giving out their money.””

    According to Boyd, meeting the requirements of the Brown Act would mean a few changes to the way the A.S. Council sets its agenda.

    “”If we did have to be in compliance with the Brown Act, we would have to then make our agendas by Friday, which would change all of our deadlines and would make it difficult for us to get all of our stuff done,”” Boyd said. “”Being a lot more lax in our agenda allows us to deal with new problems that come up during the weekend.””

    The College Republicans’ petition also cited the California Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, which requires state boards and any advisory board or committee to conduct open meetings.

    However, Parode also cites an opinion from the Attorney General’s office in 1983 which states that the open meeting law is inapplicable to “”bodies that advise the Regents of the University of California or that exercise authority delegated to them by the Regents.””

    For some, the issue is that students should be aware of how the A.S. Council appropriates funds.

    “”By having them provide a schedule and agenda ahead of time, it prevents [the] A.S. [Council] from sloppy appropriation of our money,”” College Republicans vice chair internal Adam Richardson said. “”They would have to stick with a certain agenda, and we would know where money is going.””

    [Ed. Note: Chris Taylor is a staff writer for the Guardian.]

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