ASUCI, along with UC Irvine in general, has undergone significant changes to meet the demands of our young and growing campus. One week into the 2008-2009 academic year, ASUCI has already established that it is nothing like past student governments. Welcome Week was a hit and student turnout vastly improved from the past. In fact, over 1,000 students turned out for the concert and the screen on the green.
ASUCI President Megan Braun deemed Welcome Week a success, and most UCI students would undoubtedly agree that the energy level felt at each day’s activities was up from last year.
“We put more money toward school spirit this year, and I think that’s going to be a big priority for us,” Braun said. “I think we just need to be doing more to let students know that UCI is an amazing university.”
It can be concluded that the new administration of ASUCI has thrown open the doors of communication. Students should take this opportunity to work in tandem with their government in order to continue this trend of forward-moving change. In the spirit of continuing to improve communication and cooperation on campus, ASUCI should work to provide students with a more transparent budget. Aside from knowing exactly where our student service dollars are being spent, a transparent budget would help students understand how their student government operates. At a public university like UCI, it does come as a surprise that budget information is not made readily available to students and the broader public.
One challenge that ASUCI does face is its lack of ownership of campus businesses and disposable income in comparison to other UC schools. For instance, the Associated Students of UC Berkeley’s (ASUCB) student government actually fully owns its campus bookstore. ASUCB is able to take the bookstore profits and allocate them only to student clubs, which easily works out to over $1 million.
That’s a far cry from even the total student services budget here at UC Irvine, which tops out at $250,000. This begs the question: Why don’t we own our bookstore? With the rise of our athletics programs, we could turn the bookstore into a major income generator like athletic powerhouse schools such as UCLA.
Paul Harms, the Controller of the Associate Students of UC Davis, strongly advocates student ownership of campus businesses.
“At UCD, you can major in communications, but you can’t major in radio broadcasting. What you can do is manage KUCD, the campus radio station,” Harms said. “Real-world leadership experience, not working just as a floor person or a supervisor, actually managing and working with other students, [it] makes a big difference.”
ASUCI owns the shuttle system, the yearbook, UC Items and runs the vendor fair, which is its only real income generator. The $250,000 budget comes directly from the student services fee that is included in tuition. Here at UCI, the student services fee is $18 per academic quarter for a whopping $54 per year. For the sake of comparison, UCD students pay $41 per academic quarter and $123 per year.
While the amount of funding brought in by the students themselves is a challenge to ASUCI and worth recognizing, it should not be used as an excuse to avoid publicizing budget information. It should be noted that ASUCD’s budget is readily available to the public and students online.
Students can view the entire budget, as well as a diagram and summary, simplifying the budget to a page of information with links to access individual budgets that may be of interest. The $41 student fee is even broken down for the reader, accounting for every cent paid out by ASUCD.
“Financial transparency is really important for any student organization that is receiving student fees,” Harms said. “It’s more than fair that student government tells you how your money is being spent.”
It’s our money being spent and it’s our right to know how our money is being utilized on campus for purposes of accountability and transparency. Before students complain about how their student government isn’t allocating its money properly, students could at least be aware of the financial challenges ASUCI faces with a budget that is easily available for all to see online.
ASUCI members shouldn’t be afraid to make their budget readily available due to a fear of criticism—it’s your job to take it and interpret it constructively. So do the campus and students a favor by making budget transparency a priority for an academic year that has already started out strong.
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