Council Debates Funding for UC-Free Branch

If councilmembers approve the proposal, it will be placed on the Spring Quarter election ballot. Gupta aims to create a 501(c)(3) group — an independent, tax-exempt, autonomous organization. This subsection, called A.S. Auxiliary, would be affiliated with the university’s A.S. Council and governed by a majority of the same members, but would not be subject to UCSD’s departmental restrictions, such as the prohibition against building off-campus housing.

“Off-campus housing and building a Greek row are the key pillars of this plan,” Gupta said. “Over a period of 50 years, we can buy La Jolla real estate and build student housing with rates we can control.”

According to VP Finance Peter Benesch, the plan ensures that the council will retain its university funding and services. He also stressed that the A.S. operating budget could not fund Gupta’s proposed subsection.

“We looked at the budget and decided we can’t fund A.S. money into it,” Benesch said. “It will be a separate entity both in that it won’t affect council at all and that it will need to raise its own money.”

Benesch added that the voluntary $5 fee Gupta suggested as a method of funding, modeled after the dues of groups such as the student organization CalPIRG, may be unfeasible.

“With these times and students strapped for cash and so many groups reaching for a cause, people will see this as just another hand extending out for money,” Benesch said.

He said it would be difficult to receive enough donations to fund the organization.

“Some organizations, such as CalPIRG, have 10 percent of the student body donating, but it’s not feasible for us to reach that 10-percent threshold,” Benesch said.

One alternate method of funding the 501(c)(3) would be to ask for voluntary donations from outside sources.

“Interested people could donate to the campus,” Benesch said. “For example, the local community could contribute to this organization, or Greek alumni could donate to the cause of building a Greek row.”

This model of business has previously been implemented on campus. According to Assistant Vice Chancellor of Alumni Affairs Armin Afsahi, there is a university department of Alumni Affairs that has a separate 501(c)(3) organization called the Alumni Association, created in 1974.

“Alumni Affairs is a department which is funded by the university,” Afsahi said. “The Alumni Association is a membership-based organization that has the same goals but is essentially separate from Alumni Affairs.”

Afsahi said that the two organizations work very closely together and are integrated in most of their actions. The association has a separate board of directors, although members from the department usually serve on this board; in fact, Afsahi himself is its executive director.

“The association is a member-based legal vehicle to facilitate tax-exempt donations from alumni,” Afsahi said. “Our annual and life dues, if donated through the association, are tax-deductible.”

In contrast to the fiscal separation of A.S. Council and the proposed A.S. Auxiliary, Afsahi said there is one comprehensive Alumni Affairs revenue to which the Alumni Association contributes.

Director of Associated Students Lauren Weiner said the proposal is in the preliminary stages — a formalized draft has not been presented to the council.

Before a proposal is presented to the A.S. Council, various requirements need to be cleared. Director of Policy Initiatives Mac Zilber requested an advisory opinion from the Internal Revenue Services to decide whether the council’s lobbying efforts will prevent it from creating this auxiliary. One stipulation of the creation of a 501(c)(3) is that the organization must be free from direct political lobbying.

According to Zilber, the A.S. Council participates in two activities that could be labeled as lobbying.

The council currently pays $2.24 per quarter per student to the University of California Student Association, which Zilber calls the “lobbying arm for all of A.S.” In addition, the council has previously arranged external events, such as Fall Quarter’s bus trip to UCLA during the UC Regents meeting on Nov. 19, which could be considered lobbying because of the implied request for students to influence the Regents’ decision.

AVP External Affairs Gracelynne West said she doubts these activities will affect the likelihood of the A.S. Council being able to create a 501(c)(3) organization.

“Our campaigns are not necessarily about telling the students how to vote,” West said. “They’re about issue awareness, not lobbying.”

If this proposal is placed on the Spring Quarter election ballot and passed by student vote, the implementation of the organization and elections for the board of directors would begin in the 2010-11 academic year.

According to Gupta, the board of directors would be fiscally accountable for the actions of A.S. Auxiliary and would review the auxiliary’s fund usage. Appointed members of A.S. Council may be guaranteed a position on the board, although another proposal is to open positions for local community members.

A special committee to discuss the logistics and feasibility of the proposal has been created, and will meet for the first time this weekend.

Readers can contact Angela Chen at [email protected].

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